Say to those with fearful hearts

At the amusement park, after we’ve parked  the minivan and handed over our passes to be scanned and our bags to be checked, we head for the measuring station .

Only one of my kids still needs to be measured.  My girls have long since passed the point where they can ride anything in the park because of their height.

My son, though, is still tracking his growth progress through wrist band colors.  Each color tells him what he can ride based on how tall he is.

Somehow between the start of summer to the early fall, he shot up through three different colors on the ride chart.   That means technically he can ride his first big roller coaster.

This is thrilling to him.  He announces to each member of the family what color he’s on now.

But when I ask him if he really wants to ride any of the bigger rides—any of them at all—-he says, “I’ll do that when I’m 7.”

He’s taller than he is brave.

I remind him that the colors don’t really matter if we’re not going to ride any of the higher, faster rides, but he’s thrilled just the same.  He celebrates physical growth and that’s enough for him.

Not all of my kids have been like this, but most of them have (three out of the four).  We are timid about these things,  more likely to enjoy the small swings,  the bumper cars and the kiddie roller coaster long after others have moved on to bigger thrills.

We’re not born brave.  We’re  not naturally bold.  Courage isn’t part of our DNA.

(I’m still not a thrill-seeker.  At almost 40 years old, I’d rather not ride any rides at all . Even the spinning teacups aren’t my favorite.)

I can have fun at an amusement park without the speed and the rush and the drops that I hate so much.

But in life, fear can be so  much more crippling than this:  stealing joy, stealing peace, stealing boldness for the gospel and courage for Christ, stealing sleep.   It’s not about preference—rides or no rides.  It’s about fear holding me back from obeying Christ or keeping me from fully entrusting myself, my family, my kids to God.

Sometimes, all the anxiety over taking a next step can be utterly paralyzing.  What I really need to  do is just do  it.  Just take the step.   Just have  the conversation.  Just sign up or just step down.  Whatever God is asking me to  do, I need to do in obedience.   Faith over fear.  Trust over timidity.

Still I waiver so often.

Still I feel that paralysis of indecision and anxiety.

Still I try so hard to keep control over the many things I cannot control.

In the Everyday with Jesus Bible, Selwyn Hughes reminds me of what fear does and why it’s our enemy:

Fear sinks us:  When Peter stepped out of the boat, he “saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord,  save me!'” (Matthew 14:30 CSB).

Fear knocks us down:  When the disciples saw the glory of the Lord at the Mount  of Transfiguration, their fear sent them to their knees.  But, “Jesus came up, touched them, and said, ‘Get up; don’t be afraid.'” (Matthes 17:7 CSB).

Fear hides our treasures and gifts:  The man with one talent in the parable said, “I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground.”  His talent was wasted, buried in the earth and shoved into a hole in the ground because of fear.(Matthew 25:25 CSB).

Fear puts us behind closed doors:  After Jesus’s resurrection, the disciples gathered in secret, “with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.”” (John 20:19 CSB). 

“Fear drives us underground:” Joseph of Arimathea was “a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews” (John 19:38 CSB).

I wonder how often I let fears from my past hold me back in the here and now.  Maybe I’ve grown. Maybe I’ve gone up a few colors on the growth chart, and yet I’m still sticking to the same-old same-old, the easiest and the most comfortable things before me instead of moving on.

Isaiah the prophet said:

Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

Maybe these are words we can speak to fearful hearts around us.

Or  maybe this is the reminder our own fearful heart needs:  “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming….”

It’s because of his presence, His strength, His might, His mercy that we fearful ones can take the next courageous step.

 

The one thing I need to hear when I’m waiting

psalm 27

I was five minutes early and already nervous.

A friend and I were meeting up so we could drive together to an event.

The plan was simple.  Meet in the parking lot at 5:00.

At 4:55, I started worrying.

Did we say 5:00 or 5:30?  Did I have the time right?  What if we had miscommunicated?  What if I told her the wrong day?  The wrong place?  The wrong time?

This could be a disaster.

By 4:57, I pulled out my phone to double-check our messages.

Okay, I’m safe.  This was the right day and time and place.

But what if she couldn’t see my car where I was parked?  What if she pulls in the other side of the parking lot and misses me completely?

I crane my neck around, glancing from side to side.  Then I actually drive through the parking lot to make sure she wasn’t already there waiting for me and I’m just being ridiculous.

It’s 4:59 now, and yes, I am absolutely being ridiculous, but it’s taken on a humongous snowball life of its own and I feel powerless to stop it.

I am worrying about being late and about traffic and maybe we should have said we should meet earlier.

I am worrying about miscommunication and how I should have called her that day to verify the details one last time.

Then I start worrying about my friend.  What if she is hurt and in a car accident somewhere and she can’t call to tell me because she’s in an ambulance on the way to the hospital?

And then, just as I’ve worked myself up into frantic worry….my friend pulls in.

It’s 5:01.

She’s fine.  I’m fine.  We’re completely on time.

I really am ridiculous.

Every single day, I tell my two-year-old son to ‘be patient’ about 20 times.  Maybe 50 times.

He wants juice.  He wants snack.  He wants Bob the Builder on the TV.  He wants his shoes on.  He wants his shoes off.  He needs help with a toy.  He wants me to read a book.

What do I say?

Okay, in just a moment.  Be patient.

And, I act like he should just accept that.  I act like it’s a perfectly reasonable request for a two-year-old to have patience.

But today, I’m recognizing that it’s hard.

I should teach him patience, of course.  I still need to keep asking him to wait sometimes.  This doesn’t mean I need to snap-to-it and answer his every whim and will immediately.

No, I teach him to ‘be patient,’ but I do it with some understanding that what I’m asking him to do takes oh such a long time to learn.

Some days he’ll get it just right.

And some days he’ll fall to pieces just like his crazy mom does when she’s waiting for a friend in a parking lot at 4:55 p.m. and they’re supposed to meet at 5:00.

There’s something more, too: All these years, I’ve recognized how waiting takes patience (and who likes learning about patience?) and it takes trust (and who finds trusting without controlling easy?).

But it also takes courage.

David wrote:

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14 ESV).

and again:

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord! (Psalm 31:24 ESV).

I’ve missed it a million times.  I’ve read those Psalms and sang them and written them in my journal over and over again, but today it hits me in a new way.

God says that in the waiting, I need to take heart.

I need to be courageous.

I need to be strong.

And, that’s exactly what I need to hear in seasons of waiting because when I’m waiting, I’m full of doubt and questions and worry.

I think maybe I heard God wrong.  Maybe this is going to take forever and He’s never going to bring me through this situation.  Maybe the deliverance won’t come after all.  Maybe I’m in the wrong place.  Maybe there was miscommunication.  Maybe I missed God and He was already here and gone and now I’m outside of His will!  Maybe God is done with me and now He’s just left me here in this place.

I’m being ridiculous, I know it.

Yet, it’s in the moments of waiting that I feel most abandoned and most afraid.

And it’s in the moments of waiting that God says exactly what I need to hear the most:

Don’t believe the lies.  Don’t fret over the future.  Don’t question the calling.  Don’t doubt God’s ability or willingness to care for you.  Don’t think you’re alone.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage.