By Nora Hardy
Pioneer Valley Church of Christ
“I don’t have what it takes to do what I need to do today.”
“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
“Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Although I may not always want to admit it, fear and anxiety are very real struggles in my life. They are words that I do not like because, for me, they connote weakness or incompetence. I do not want to be weak. I want to be able to do things well. I want to be competent. In other words, I do not want to appear to be incapable or limited. I want to think that fear and anxiety are not as real as they actually are for me; however, I daily experience undeniable reminders of their reality in my life.
My greatest fear is that, at my present age of 66 years, I am not equipped to function and survive in this world. I fear that I cannot manage successfully all of the responsibilities that I have in balancing home, family and ministry. Retirement from a responsible social service position of 32 years in which I was competent, and in which I was viewed as competent, contributes to my fear. I feel that I have relinquished the one area of my life in which I had demonstrated the ability to function well. The pandemic has greatly intensified my anxiety about being ill-equipped to live in this world in that it highlights and necessitates the need for technological skills that I lack, that I fail to enjoy, and that are challenging for me to learn. I frequently feel extremely overwhelmed by technology. It invades so many aspects of life, rendering my participation in the activities of life and ministry increasingly difficult for me. Even volunteering for Hope, in an attempt to do something meaningful to help others, has become for me a technical challenge. This challenge has created anxiety and therefore has diminished the joy of volunteering and helping others.
Through His word and through recollection of past positive experiences when God has worked in my life, God assures me and reminds me that He will give me the strength that I need to live in this world. Philippians 4:13 tells me that “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:6 further instructs me. “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 your minds in Christ Jesus.” 1 Peter 5:7 urges me to “cast all (my) anxiety on Him because he cares for (me).” Romans 8:28 assures me that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who
have been called according to his purpose.” In Mark 9:23, Jesus says “Everything is possible for one who believes.” The father in this same passage exclaims “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, talks about the thorn in his flesh and the fact that his weakness provided opportunity for God’s power to be manifest in his life. When Paul pleaded with God to take the thorn away from him, God said to him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul responds, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” James 2:17 and 24 highlight the need for faith and deeds. “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead…You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” Finally, Matthew 6:25-33 states “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
God’s promise that He will give me strength, and the various scriptures cited that support this promise are truths that encourage me to face my anxiety about living in this world. My specific and unique situation is such that my waking moments each day are intensely fearful and anxiety-ridden, at times to the extent of panic. I barely open my eyes, and thoughts of the day at hand, particularly challenging situations, flood my brain. The thoughts entail household chores that need to be done, meals that need to be prepared, various small group issues, Bible studies, the needs of individuals in my ministry, family needs, challenging situations that exist, challenging conversations that are pending, daily activities, etc. All of this occurs when I am barely awake, when I am weak and vulnerable by virtue of not being fully oriented to wakefulness. The thoughts are realistic and accurate. In and of themselves, they are not exaggerated; however, the intensity of so many thoughts coalescing in my brain at one time is overwhelming and renders me feeling panicked, unable to face life or the day at hand, and certainly not desirous of facing the day. In terror, at times I feel that I want to run away and escape this life. Like Paul, I have asked God to take this thorn away, but he has not done so. This weakness, this “thorn” forces me to rely on God and his strength when I lack the strength, and, at times, the desire to get up and put my feet on the floor. As I slowly face the fear and anxiety, I think of God. I remember Paul. I try to cast this anxiety onto God, remembering that he cares for me. I turn my individual worries into prayer. I set my heart on seeking first the kingdom. Like the father in Mark 9, I pray to overcome any unbelief that I may experience. I remember that faith requires deeds, action, the most basic of which is to take that first step to get out of bed, to begin the day, to put one foot in front of the other. The challenge to get up and the action of doing so is the most difficult step to take when my mind is invaded by these thoughts, but, at the same time, it is the most helpful step. As I do so, as I face the anxiety, the thoughts begin to fall into place, to dissipate, and God enables me to face this life that I feel so unequipped to live. In the midst of the internal onslaught of thoughts, I must remind myself that God has been my strength and has enabled me to face the previous days, remembering that this day is not a new or novel experience for me. I also recognize, gratefully, the fact that God meets my needs. He has provided me with a husband who sympathizes with me in my anxiety and who provides technical support to me when I am overwhelmed with technology.
This is not simply an autobiographical account. It is intended to be used for a quiet time. My hope is that my personal expression of my fears and the ways in which I address these fears will help you to cope with your particular situation. Our experiences are unique, but fear is an emotion that we all feel to varying degrees. I have detailed my anxiety and God’s strength being manifested through my weakness. Do you experience fear and/or anxiety? What are the symptoms of your fear and anxiety? How can the specific scriptures cited help you to address your weakness and rely on God’s strength? Take some time to reflect on the scriptures that I have presented to help you to allow God’s grace and power to work in your weakness.
MEMORY VERSE: 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Anxiety and fear are very real emotions that we all experience in various ways. I thank you that your word addresses these emotions so specifically and so practically. I thank you that you have given us biblical examples from which we can learn and that we can imitate. I pray that we can rely on you in moments of fear, that your strength would be evident in our weakness and enable us to live this life, and that you would be glorified as a result. I pray that we can find comfort in you, your word, and your power in our lives. Amen