Sometimes God works things to our good in a very unexpected way; He even uses things like fear. In preparing for my trip to Ethiopia, a couple of fears have attacked me. In the process of working through them, God taught me an incredible lesson; I don’t need to understand everything I’m going to deal with in this life.
This lesson had a hard time working it’s way into my heart because I have a strong tendency towards self-reliance. When trouble strikes or danger feels like it’s around the corner, my understanding seems like the best defense. The simple problem with this approach is that it’s wrong.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
My understanding is far from perfect and sometimes very bad; it’s not something I should trust to defend me. Even though I’ve seen my understanding lead me into all kinds of problems, like addictions to porn and codependency, my first instinct is still to lean on it. This instinct is so strong that it took the fears of this trip to start the process of breaking it.
My first fear about this trip came from the uncertain nature of our world today. Everyday seems to bring more news of instability or chaos in our world and this started to impact me about a month ago. While I trust the people in charge of the trip, the fear of facing danger abroad started to creep into the back of my head.
This fear grew to the point of bothering me on a daily basis. I started talking about it with a few friends and one of them hit me with some great truth. He pointed out how God doesn’t want to rip me off and He wants the best for me.
While that doesn’t guarantee I’ll live to 95, it does mean I can trust God to work everything to my good. This was an important truth to hear because what I think is best for me and what God knows don’t always match up. Looking back on my life though, I can see how God’s best beats out my best every time.
That little history lesson gave me a powerful reminder of why I should lean on God’s understanding and not mine.
The next fear came from a worry about performance. Over the course of our extensive training, I started to worry that I wouldn’t cut it in the field. This worry ranged from little things like not packing the right way to fumbling my opportunities to share the Gospel. This may sound unimportant, but this fear brought more anxiety, worry, and doubt than the first one.
For the last few weeks, the possibility of dropping the ball in one way or another has plagued my thinking and haunted my steps. I’ve thought out how I’m going to pack at least a hundred times. The prospect of saying the wrong thing to an Ethiopian terrifies me and I don’t even think about that; I think I just channel that stress back into worrying about how to pack.
When I take a bird’s eye view on this, it becomes a little comical. I’ve packed for international trips before and I went to Ethiopia two years ago to visit a good friend of mine. I also know that only the Holy Spirit can touch people’s hearts and save them; I’m just a mouthpiece and the eloquence of my speech will not decide a person’s eternal destination.
It’s very difficult to get head knowledge into the heart though and that’s where my fears lie.
In the past, I’ve tried to think about something until I understood it enough to work it into my heart. That approach has had mixed results and failed in respect to the fears about my trip. I can’t know every angle and therefore I can’t gain a solid understanding of what’s going to happen.
To get the head knowledge into my heart, I need trust.
It will take trust to accept the fact that I can’t anticipate every possibly danger or difficulty. It will take trust to accept the truth of God’s power working through me. It will take trust to accept that my fears could fade as I step off the plane.
Relationships aren’t worth much without trust and each of these opportunities will give me a chance to deepen my relationship with Christ. Proverbs 3:5-6 is an invitation to greater intimacy with the one who loves me more than I can imagine. If I must face fears to take the invitation, then I’m confident it will be more than worth it.
I’m not going to understand everything that will happen in my life and that’s okay. If I could predict every problem and solve it before it hits, then I wouldn’t need any trust in my God. A relationship lacking in trust looks more like a legal contract than something meaningful.
Even when it’s scary, I prefer the relationship.
Is your first instinct to lean on your own understanding? Do you have a fear that you can ask God to help you work through? What would it look like if you trusted God in the smallest of ways today?
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