Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What Are You Afraid Of?

Last year at this time I was in Africa. AFRICA! It was an amazing trip I will be forever grateful for, but it's taken me a long time to understand why I had to go. It didn't spur a huge desire in me to do mission work. It didn't seem to fit with the other things God asks me to do. I didn't feel like what I did there was significant. It was wonderful and such a privilege, yet I came back feeling like I offered very little. I even felt guilty thinking I learned and gained way more than I gave. And so I've spent the last year asking God, "What was that about?"

My confusion heightened when shortly after I came home my little world started eroding. Life kicked me in the pants and my high after conquering Africa of "I can do anything with God" quickly evaporated to "God, where are You? Are You hearing me at all?" I knew it wasn't right, but I couldn't shake it. I kept praying, reading my Bible, all the things you're supposed to do, but disappointment lingered. My spirit sagged, my resolve weakened.

I realize now God was taking me on another journey this past year, a soul-searching journey for what I really believe about Him. The lessons led to one question.

What are you afraid of?

What am I afraid of? Are you kidding me?! I'm afraid I won't have enough money to put my kids through college. I'm afraid I won't live up to God's call on my life. I'm afraid of my kids struggling. I'm afraid of losing people, both to death and disagreement. What would I do if I lost my husband? How would I support my family? I'm afraid of financial instability. I'm afraid people won't respect me. I'm afraid of myself and my convoluted motives. I'm afraid of pain.

I could go on, of course, especially if it were 3:AM, but you know what? I'm tired. I've had enough. I don't want to live in fear or a constant state of stress. That doesn't sound or feel like the "abundant life" Jesus promises us in John 10:10. There must be a better way.

What are you afraid of?

I think about the hard things I've experienced, things I've been afraid of in the past which are behind me now, things I wouldn't want to live through again--years of raising a family of six on one modest income, my biggest fear being realized when my parents divorced, a childhood epilepsy diagnosis in both of my sons, a mountain of medical bills I thought insurmountable the year Drama Queen was born and Drummer Boy began having seizures, a van purchased from a crooked car dealer, the threat of our home being claimed by the city through eminent domain. God got us through every single one.

And I think about Africa. As a teenager I nearly turned my back on God's offer of eternal life because I feared He'd send me to Africa for Jesus. I've been afraid of Africa my whole life and yet I did it. How?!

I was afraid. At first. But there were too many coincidences, convincing me it was God's plan. I knew with every fiber in me I was supposed to go. So when things didn't make sense or looked a little scary I figured God would take care of it. If He wanted me to do it, He'd help me. I followed the path laid out for me and He did the rest. Africa was something I knew I couldn't do myself. God would have to.

Why do I not view life the same way?

And there it is--the big lesson of Africa. I'm supposed to approach each day the same way I did with my trip. Life is going to be hard and I'll be pushed out of my comfort zone. It's gonna kick me in the pants again and I'll be tempted to doubt God's love, for no one lives without pain and grief and uncertainty. But if I can be convinced that anything that happens is part of His plan it doesn't have to be scary. If I can look at it and say, like I did with a crazy trip to Africa, "Okay, God. This is beyond me. You're gonna have to take care of it," I might find relief.

It's easier said than done, of course, but I've lived the other way, the way that won't allow my brain to shut off and robs my sleep and feels like it's only a matter of time until disappointment hits. And I don't like it. It's aging me and causing me to miss out on the beautiful world God's provided. I have to ask myself, which is more work--to worry my life away or accept what I cannot see? It's a toss up in my eyes, so I'm choosing the one that brings peace.

What are you afraid of?

What keeps you awake at night, friend, and steals your joy? What makes you short with your kids and churns in your stomach? What makes your heart race and tears brim? Is it so precious you can't give it up? Is it so impossible to believe God might handle it? Are you doing such an amazing job with it yourself?

Which is more work--worrying your life away or accepting God will take care of you?

One of my favorite passages in Scripture refers to Abraham believing God will do the impossible in providing him a son in his old age.

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:20-22

Abraham did not waver through unbelief. He was fully persuaded God was powerful. And I bet he slept good at night too! When I read this passage I feel like God's saying, "I dare you to believe the impossible, Tami. I dare you to believe I can handle it." I want to, I really do. And I'm shifting my energy to pursue that end. He will help me, no doubt, the same way He helped me do Africa. For God's grace and power and strength are available for more than one trip. If He can get this shy homebody to Africa and back, He can probably handle today. And tomorrow. And whatever scary thing may be ahead. Living in faith is not easy or pain free, but it's got to be better. Already I'm feeling more confident, more hopeful. Will you join me?

What are you afraid of?

I dare you to believe God can handle it.

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