“Both fear and faith may sail into your harbor, but only allow faith to drop anchor.” Bear Gryllis
Worry. It’s been said that worry and faith are actually the same thing, only going in opposite directions. Finances, marriage or relationship issues, looming work or school deadlines and your kiddo’s well being….these are just a few of the things that can and will stir up worry and fear in each of us. How easily we can get wrapped up in the “what if’s” of an unknown future. “What if we can’t get through this?” “What if our daughter doesn’t get into that prestigious Ivy League school?” “What if we have to file bankruptcy? It will destroy our marriage!” “What if I give my tithe but then don’t have enough to buy groceries next week?” On and on, these worries of tomorrow can paralyze us as they flood our consciousness.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians he reminds the reader, “Do not be anxious about ANYTHING….” (Phil. 4:6)
Anything? You might be thinking to yourself, “Now Paul, that looks all good and holy on paper but really? How can I really implement that in my life? It’s just not realistic.” Let’s unpack this a little bit….
The U.S. Navy SEAL’s (of whom my father-in law was one) have a saying when they’re going through BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School), which is the most brutal physical and mental training one could ever dream of subjecting themselves to….”Take it one evolution at a time.”
That’s their secret.
They take what comes at them moment by moment….often times minute by minute and second by second. They stay completely focused on accomplishing the “task at hand.” In his book, “Navy Seals Training Guide: Mental Toughness”, author Lars Draeger writes about how successful SEAL candidates will have the long term goal of getting through the program but don’t spend much time there. They end up making micro-goals made up of things such as finishing the set of push-ups they’re currently doing or getting “wet and sandy.” That’s it. They don’t let their mind drift into what’s coming next week or tomorrow or in an hour…. Task. At. Hand.
Jesus said to his disciples: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:31-34
Even here, we’re reminded by the words and wisdom of Christ to stay present and focused on what we need to do today, in this present moment. A few verses prior Jesus asks, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to his life?” (Matt. 6:27)
So what must we do, in a practical sense, to deal with our worries and fears?
I believe we can start by putting a positive spin on it. Our worries and fears are actually an opportunity to “work out” our faith. Ultimately we can gain strength through this adversity. The key to faith however, is that the power behind that faith is only as strong as who or what we place our faith in. For example, secular humanists (a fancy name for atheists) put their faith in their own intellect and abilities, which means that the true power behind their faith is only as strong as they are as individuals. A “religious” person’s faith might be focused on the outward adornments, idols or traditions of their particular religion…. “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak, they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” Jeremiah 10:5
Those that have put their faith in Jesus….they can walk on water.
Picture the scene. The disciples are deathly afraid, cowered down on a boat being tossed by the stormy sea and Jesus appears out of the darkness: “‘Take courage it is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” I wonder how often our own fears are nothing more than promptings to get out of the boat, where we can pray, “I know you are with me, Lord! You’ve promised never to abandon or forsake me (see Joshua 1:9) and I trust You. I don’t know what to say or do but I need Your help! Be my strength, I want to honor You. Thank you for Your faithfulness and Your blessings! Please be with me right now and in all of this let not my will but Your will be done!”
Can you see the difference between trusting in ourselves or a religious idol and trusting in the one true and living God? When we are redeemed by Jesus we are in an actual, practical, loving relationship with Him. In fact, Jesus calls us “friends” (see John 15:13-15). Let yourself marinate in that thought for awhile…you are friends with the One who set the earth on it’s axis and engineered your DNA….and He’s got your back. This doesn’t mean that everything will be easy because it won’t be. Remember how I had mentioned in a previous post that we are living in a world at war and we have a very real spiritual enemy. What this does mean is that He will supply you with what you need, through His grace and strength.
Let’s go back to the verse that we started earlier: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
These are our instructions. This is our focus and our “task at hand.” Think of it as a spiritual “stop, drop and roll.” When those unsettling thoughts begin to wash over you like the waves of the sea, call out to Jesus. When he says “Come!” then it will be your turn to get out of the boat.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“I set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8