by David Y.
Note: The following blog was originally posted on my MySpace page (Friday, October 5th, 2007)
In mid 2007 some events transpired in my life that brought another little shaking to my world. These events were nothing cataclysmic in terms of what most would probably normally consider as such (like a sudden death in the family or some major kind of travesty like that), but they were significant enough to me at the moment and served as the tool for God to help me focus on some things underlying in my heart.
Often when unexpected events happen (as all of you know happen all the time in life), I have a tendency to get a bit stressed out and anxious. When money is short and things don’t seem to be falling into place, it’s sometimes all I can do to hold it together. Most people don’t realize the kind of turmoil I have struggled with in these areas because I try to keep myself “together” on the surface and, to most folks, I appear pretty laid back. I almost never show evidence of a serious temper and I’m usually a pretty cheerful guy… However, when some unique circumstances came about this year, I found myself having a hard time sleeping and suddenly I was sitting up in my bed, out of breath, having a panic attack!
It was at that moment I realized (because of head knowledge) that, despite my feeling of helplessness and anxiety, the Lord was still close. Though I “knew” that, I still wasn’t feeling that and all that frustration came to the surface and engaged an all out battle between what I know, what I believe, and what’s absolutely real. My stomach sick and my body sweating from anxiety, I prayed at that moment, “Lord, why is it so hard to trust you right now? I know You’re here, I know you don’t want me to worry, I know I’m supposed to have peace, I know, I know, I know… But I’m sick of never hearing an audible voice or seeing You, or having some kind of tangible proof you are listening… Yet somehow I am compelled to call out to You and my heart is desperate to find a closer expression of You than I’ve known before. I talk about how much I trust You and believe You and what it means to live freely and yet here I am a total mess tonight! I have this website Lord and people write to me (often 20-60 e-mails a day), asking for my opinion or advice or wanting to argue about something or sometimes even thinking I’m some kind of pastor or counselor or that I have some kind of ministry organization… It seems that maybe I’ve created the perception that I have figured most everything out (and I’m certainly bold enough to let everyone know what I think), and yet if some of those individuals saw me here now, in total fear of my circumstances (a total physical wreck) they would see how little of a qualified example I am and that I don’t always practice what I preach, for here anxiety is staring me in the face and I am shriveling up. Help me God! Help me get a grip on this thing. I know so much and yet understand so little. I need You to do something… ANYTHING!!! I can’t stop worrying! I can’t kill this stress! I feel like I’m going to throw up or my veins suddenly pop! HELP ME!!!”
I wish I could adequately express to you how intense this struggle felt to me. I was literally sweating and tears running down my cheeks. My heart was screaming out for an answer! But even in this desperate prayer I heard nothing. No light shined into my room… No music started to play… No angels appeared and God did not speak in an audible voice. I just sat there, still sweating and shaking and completely overwhelmed with stress.
After a long time passed and I tossed and turned and was fighting this overwhelming sense of depression and worry… and all kinds of crap, I suddenly realized (with my heart this time) the futility of all this worry. It may not have been a physical light from heaven but it was just as significant in my heart. I will never understand the reasons why we can spend our whole lives in these bodies and yet understand them so little; let alone the God that we claim to have walked with for so long. Though I had just expressed such desperation to hear some kind of “word” from God, I realized there was nothing He needed to say and that’s when a little light started to peer through my little world of insecurity. I knew in that moment that He was right there with me and suddenly this “knowing” moved closer into the realm of “experience”. This is something I find hard to explain because it came as revelation (the difference between knowing something and experiencing its truth).
For lack of a better way to say it, I think the main point of this event was to challenge: where does my full security lie? Will I be content with Jesus’ words to stop worrying about tomorrow (do I really believe that) or will I just erase those words from the page and instead hold on to my own concerns – all the activities and turmoil of this busy life? I decided, somehow, to lay everything down and really trust God and then, somehow, I fell asleep. It was one of the most peaceful rests I remember having.
Ever since that moment I’ve noticed that my surroundings still invite stress, but I remain virtually stress free. Some days are more challenging than others but something has clearly changed in my heart. Things happen that would normally invoke fear in my heart and no fear exists. Circumstances that used to cause me to get incredibly anxious, now cause me to wonder how things will simply work out. Money has been short but the needed amount seems to come in. The car breaks down, but a co-worker loans me her extra car so I don’t have to hop the bus everywhere. My brother-in-law sends me $300 cash out of the blue to help out with things (though I never shared my problems). Some other friends load me up with food from their garden. I also find that money is less difficult to hold on to or worry about (in terms of selfish concerns or the anxiety to make sure I am always frugal – which, by-the-way, I am not and thus generally adds to my stress as well… I am encouraged to know that even the early Church Fathers were of the opinion that frugality was NOT necessarily a virtue, but rather tends toward selfish concern).
Since this work the Lord began in my heart, when I see a friend in need and I have the ability to help out, I am quicker to see it and respond accordingly. Things just seem to work out. I find I am engaging my heart more than my head and it’s wonderful.
There are still debts present and plenty of things I could freak out over, but there is something greater; the freedom to trust God and not get anxious about anything more than today. I am convinced that we are not put on this earth to spend it being ruled by our circumstances and always slaving to advance up some kind of corporate ladder of success, worrying about money all time, worrying about circumstancing working out, always planning, always busy, always anxious about everything under the sun. Just pick whatever it is that causes you stress each day and insert it into that mix. We are so preoccupied with STUFF! We are uptight about things that just aren’t that important either in the eternal scope of things… Sometimes it’s easy to get so busy with life that we forget to live. We miss so much that is all around us – including God who longs to demonstrate what it means to walk with Him as our friend.
Most of us who have been in church world and religion for any length of time know all about God. We think we understand a lot of things. I know that I have even prided myself at times on what I thought I understood. We have also attributed all kinds of concepts that are based in knowledge but are really meaningless in terms of actual relationship with a living God. We’ve got the “Christian-ese” down (we know how to talk… heck, we even make groovy little websites like “truthforfree” about all the stuff we believe) but at the same time we often spend a significant portion of our days judging others or worrying about how we measure up to God; are we crossing our t’s and dotting our i’s right? Even in our quest to leave behind legalism we sometimes end up thriving on it. The point is that our brain is trying to manage our relationship with God and it ends up being one of the principle distractions from it. There’s no way He can be our Lord or even our friend so long as so much remains in our control and our anxiety to attempt to control.
We sometimes think we know a lot about faith and so all of these things we have learned are viewed by us as tools to accomplish tasks, but they often remain void of any ability to make us realize our connection with Christ and what that really involves. Even those of us who have left religious systems long ago sometimes don’t realize (or want to realize) that we are still plugged full of religious garbage. Our life centers around so many other things besides simple trust in God. When I had that panic attack (or whatever it was), I realized that even though I talk all the time about the importance of Christ being at the center (which I still, of course, believe with all my heart), I still was trying to cram other things in that center. The stress sneaks in there and builds and builds until suddenly there is that “panic attack” leaving me to wonder what happened to security of Christ that was supposed to be central. I guess I’m just trying to put this into words to encourage some of you, not preach at you, but share how as much as I believe in what I share, I am working these things out too. I am thankful for knowledge, but I long to keep moving beyond mere knowledge to experiencing truth in full function. These things can’t really be taught so that someone just automatically “gets it” all the time. You can’t really say: Follow steps 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C and you’ve got it. That’s religion. They can only be viewed as testimonial..someone sharing from personal example) or Scriptural reference, but it must be the Lord Himself, through a personal relationship, that brings real enlightenment unto truth and then ultimate freedom to live that truth.
Lately, since my crazy little event, I have experienced less worry about things and am enjoying life more. I’ve been noticing the incredible sunsets we have here in my home town. Other times I just watch and listen to the rain and it sounds like a symphony. I think about the friends God has given me, the health I enjoy, the freedom I know, the country I live in, and even the very breath I take into my lungs every moment. I guess you call that counting your blessings, but it’s more than that… it’s part of this desire to try and see beyond the cares of this life that choke us and enjoy life itself and not get hung up with worry and religion. If Jesus said not to worry about your life and to let tomorrow take care of itself, then I want to believe that and live like that. Wait! I don’t “want” to believe that, I DO BELIEVE THAT! I don’t want to find myself on a death bed one day, remorsing over the years I wasted in anxious concern. I want to enjoy each moment as it comes because as soon as they come, they go, and you don’t get them back.
I don’t know if any this will encourage anyone and it might be a little all over the place. It probably sounds pretty basic and certainly not profound. Sometimes I think I should just keep to myself about the stuff I sometimes go through because it’s hard to try and put it altogether so neatly. It doesn’t go together neatly all the time in real life. There remains plenty I am confused about and insecure about, but (at the risk of sounding cliché) I continue to make myself determined to not worry about it and just trust my friend Jesus. Aah, feels nice actually…
The following is the entire passage of Scripture where Jesus talks about worry. I read it again after writing this and it’s so good. Do yourself a favor and read this again too, though you’ve probably read it so many times before. This is really good!!!
Luke 12:15-34 (NKJV) – And Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.