My daughter is terrified of spiders, especially black widows. She’s only seen one black widow in her life (in a cave in Moab, UT) but the fear of black widows rules her outdoor experiences. She is pretty sure that spider webs hurt her as well, so avoids them at all costs. And most of her nightmares revolve around spiders somehow.
The interesting thing is that she has never been bit by a spider and my husband has taught her repeatedly that spiders are good because they eat the bugs that would demolish our garden and backyard. She always says she understands, but the reality proves that the rational part of her doesn’t triumph over the emotional part of her.
I want to teach her not to be afraid of spiders, but I also understand the power of fear. How many things am I afraid of that I really have no knowledge of or I know all the right things to tell myself but still live in fear?
And as adults, the fears can be seemingly insurmountable. What if I lose my job? What if this big dream turns out to be a flop? What if my spouse cheats on me? What if my kids reject me? What if that friend betrays me? What if I have an accident and can’t walk anymore? We are surrounded by the possibility of so much fear!
The rational part of ourselves might try to dictate that these fears are not helpful to focus on, but that doesn’t necessarily help us when we get swallowed up by the anxiety. We love to go into all the “what-if” scenarios in our heads, thinking that if we prepare ourselves then they will be less impacting if they become reality. I have never yet met a person, though, who felt that they had gone to the worst-case scenarios enough to be prepared when something terrible did happen.
So, what do we do to stop living out of fear? How do we dethrone the anxiety? I do believe it starts with learning to trust God, even when things seem out of control. Circumstances might be out of my control (aren’t they always, really?) but they are never out of His. So, if He loves us, He has a plan and He is directing my life to bring me to the ultimate goal of knowing him, I can trust Him.
And if I trust Him, I can cast all my cares on Him because He cares for me. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” I do believe that “casting” is a willful throwing to Him, and it is dependent on humbling ourselves and looking to Him. If we aren’t willing to humble ourselves, we are going to continue to try to make it up to us, to maintain control (which is an illusion but we do it anyway) and to rationalize all the ways we are going to “handle” life.
When we finally give that up with whatever scenario is pressing us, we must admit our lack of strength, lack of control and inability to “handle” this circumstance. It seems that this would increase our anxiety, and it would if there was no one we were directing our casting on. As we humble ourselves and admit we don’t have it sorted out, we roll our anxieties onto Him and He carries them. And He cares for us in that!
Jesus doesn’t act as if we are idiots for being anxious, but He cares for us in the anxiety and takes it to carry for us. Often with my daughter and her fear of spiders, I want to grow impatient and say “just get over it already.” But that’s not how Jesus is with me. He sees my fear, understands it and offers to carry it. He walks with me in it.
So, when the fear threatens to derail me and I am obsessing on it, I turn to Jesus in my heart and ask Him to take the cares that are weighing me down. I must do this multiple times in an hour sometimes because I am so quick to forget. But I keep coming back and relinquishing the fear, putting my eyes instead on His tender, compassionate face. He cares for you. Fear and anxiety don’t get to control your life.