As a counselor, I often work with people who are fearful. Anxiety is prevalent in our culture.We live in difficult and scary times. Mass shootings, cancer in everyone from children to adults, crime. Even in our day-to-day lives, we struggle with fear. Fear of rejection, fear of financial insecurity, fear of being “not good enough,” fear of being hurt by those we love. Fear of not having the perfect home or children, or being judged by others.
It is easy to say (somewhat callously) to others, “well, just don’t worry about it. God’s got this.” There have been many times in my life where I’ve been anxious or scared, and just kept praying fearfully, “God, help me to stop being anxious. I know You’ve got this.” I often found that after praying, I didn’t feel better. I would immediately start thinking, “But what if He doesn’t have this? What if He doesn’t provide? What if I’ve sinned too much?”
I’ve realized over the past few years that this type of fearful, doubting prayer wasn’t healthy. We often talk about “substitute addiction” in counseling. It is the idea that some people will effectively “swap” addictions or unhealthy behaviors. They give up alcohol, but replace it with another, equally unhealthy behavior (excessive exercise, excessive spending, prescription drug abuse). I noticed that I had simply replaced my unhealthy anxiety about money and the future with an unhealthy, anxious view of God! I spent just as much time worrying that God wouldn’t help me or follow through as I had spent worrying about my everyday fears.
Over the last few years, I’ve learned that instead of swapping anxieties, you have to instead substitute a healthy behavior for an unhealthy one. The opposite of anxiety is not frantic, anxious praying! Instead, it is a strong, unshakable confidence in God’s love and provision. It is not simply “stop being scared,” but instead, it is telling myself that I don’t need to be scared because God’s love involves it all: grace, forgiveness, strength and provision. There have been great verses to get me through fearful moments, and I hope these are comforting to those of you who are scared.
Philippians 4:19 (ESV) says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus himself told the disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?...Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:25-27, 31-32 ESV)
In spite of these comforting verses, I used to speak them from a place of fear. After reading Philippians 4:19, I would worry endlessly: what if God doesn’t provide for me? Am I too sinful for His blessings? I felt like the little boy from Oliver Twist, coming up to the big scary cook asking, “Please sir, I want some more,” fearful and trembling the whole time.
However, as I think of God’s work in my life, and the lives of those around me, I realize that I shouldn’t come to Him in fear. Instead, I need to come confidently to Him and trust Him with everything. My life verse over the past two years has been Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua was given a large, daunting task and I’m sure he was scared. I love that God didn’t simply say, “Hey, calm down, chill out, stop worrying, get over it.”
Instead, He commands Joshua to be strong and courageous before He tells Joshua to not be frightened. We need to stop seeking God from a place of fear. Instead, we need to seek Him and allow Him to help strengthen us. Isaiah 41:10 (ESV) says, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
We need to pray and live courageously, knowing that we come to our Father as warriors, as strong women, as the children of God, and that He will strengthen and help us because He loves us! It is more than Him simply telling me to stop being dismayed. God doesn’t want us to just stop being scared, He also wants to strengthen and uphold us. He doesn't want us just to shush our fears, and hope they stop bothering us. Instead, we can be strong, confident and overcome our fears.
Over the years, I’ve seen Christians who embody this. Christians going through intense trials and difficulties courageously. They aren’t fearful because they are confident in God’s plan for their lives. They inspire me, and in those moments, where I feel myself praying with fear, I remind myself that God doesn’t want me to feel scared. He wants me to be strong and courageous, even when I’m unsure how He will remedy the situation.
If you are fearful, seek His promises through His Word, and come to Him in confidence. Come to Him knowing that He will provide and He will strengthen you because He loves you enough to want you to live without fear. You are a child of God. Be courageous, my friends. ~Hilary
You can find Hilary and her blog at www.blessedbyhislove.com. She also has a great FB page here! Please take a moment to check it out! Hilary Cobb is a born-and-raised California-girl who now lives in beautiful Idaho. She lives with her amazing husband and their two young children. Hilary works as a therapist part-time, doing counseling with children, adults and couples. She is also the Family Ministries Director for her church and speaks at events and schools. When she has some downtime, she loves coffee, running and crochet! Her life verse is Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” and she is grateful that God has allowed her to serve Him throughout her life. Thank you sister for letting me help share your thoughts! ~B