This is the perfect word for how people who wrestle with fear and anxiety feel, consumed. Over the years, while not all the time, in those moments I have felt totally consumed by fear and anxiety. Consumed to the point where you forget what joy ever felt like. Consumed to the point where you feel thin, and I'm not talking weight, but the kind of thin that feels like you could be torn in half like tissue paper. Consumed to where all you can think about is the potential for disaster when there is sun and chirping birds (Yes, my mood and word pictures are driven by weather, for right now). Consumed to the point where you feel much older than you are. Consumed to the point were you feel like you have little to offer anybody . . except the church, and this is when it gets dangerous.
Why, because your family can become collateral damage. As a church leader you are told to put on a bold and brave front and keep the troops high because people are coming to you for help in their times of need, so you exhaust yourself in being strong for others, and then have little to give to your family. Its not their (your family) fault, they need you just as much, if not more. We assume that if we're doing God's work, God will take care of your family. Wrong! God will take care of his bride (church). Its your job to take care your bride and family. If you allow yourself to be consumed, they will be consumed with you. (I'll share more about this in the next post).
Pastors try to be lone rangers in our attempts to be brave, and we read scripture that encourages us not to fear, so we say "I'm not going to be afraid", but sometimes that just doesn't seem to work. Why does God tell us not to be afraid? Because we are! God is not surprised that we're going to be afraid. God is not shocked that we deal with anxiety because he says "Don't be anxious". But his call not to be afraid and anxious is not a call to intestinal fortitude, but placed in the light of His presence in our life. God's remedy for fear and anxiety is presence. His presence bring us peace. His presence in our life is in the form of his Holy Spirit, His Word, and his church. But the presence of the church doesn't work unless we become transparent with our fears, especially as pastors. The sin is not being afraid and anxious. The sin is allowing that fear and anxiety to keep you from surrendering yourself to God and others. There are times when we do need to be carried by others. As Ortberg says, the church is the fellowship of the mat (Mark 2). We need to carry each other.
I could give your so many resources about this, but I am only going to give you two right now. First, you need to focus on God's promises. Here is one that seems to be working in many of my friends lives right now and in mine.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.” (Isaiah 43:1-2)
Second is "Be not Afraid" by Dave Ivaska. This is a wonderful companion study guide to scripture that shows us where God calls his people not to be afraid, and how God comes along side them in their fear and anxiety.
Here is my prayer for you (and me today).
Your word, Your Holy Spirit, and your church are wonderful gifts to us. Help us to lean into those gifts. Consume us with your peace. Consume our fear and anxiety with your grace and peace. Forgive us when we allow our fears and anxiety to paralyze us. Forgive for us when we try to shoulder this alone. Bring to remembrance the blessings in our life. Shut out the fear of what has yet to happen, and replace it with thanksgiving and gratitude for what is. Give us strength and courage to push forward this day. Thank you for being a God who understands and knows fear personally. Thank you for being a God with whom we can draw near in our times of need.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Posted by George Atkins at 4:26 AM