Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The wrong kind of fear is such a drain

Consider this quote carefully:
"God incarnate is the end of fear, and the heart that realizes that He is in the midst will be quiet in the middle of alarm"--F. B. Meyer

Have you ever worn yourself out worrying about something? Worry is the gas in fear's tank. If you are worried, you are afraid of something. The wrong kind of fear can be so draining.

One of the best things that happened to us was my husband's job loss in March of 2011. I was out in Santa Clara, CA guest-teaching at Golden State Baptist College. My Norman woke up that morning in MN and went to work like every other day for the past 21 years at the same company. This day would be different. He was called into a special meeting. Since he knew the meeting was coming, he had time to text me to pray for him:

"Special meeting today. Pray."

When I saw this message in my phone, I sat down right where I was and prayed. Then I went and taught my class. Of course, my mind started the fear game right away. "What if he gets his pink slip? What will we do? How will we manage without his job?" Fearful Francie went into full-tilt worrying. Now I had another reason to hate text-messaging; you could get bad news in advance!

In my fretful mind, I had already forgotten the precepts, principles and promises from God's Word. I was now firmly planted in my own boat, out on the stormy sea of my fearful imagination. I was well qualified to hear the same words the disciples heard when they were on a ship in the midst of the stormy sea: "...Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?" (Mark 4:40)

It was time for some faith-muscle-building, and we were being shoved into the spiritual gym of life for a hard workout. We had gotten comfortable and spiritually a bit flabby, and it was time to shape us up. Blessings often come disguised as trials, adversity or affliction. This was a good thing wrapped in a bad-looking package!

After flying home the next day, I could immediately tell that I was going to have to process my fear in private. A man who has been let go after 21 years of loyal service has his own fish to fry, and doesn't need his wife having a meltdown at that moment. So I determined to keep my chin up around my Norman, and then I'd let my chin down around the Lord. God would understand, and it wouldn't even bother Him if I had a lot of questions, as long as I was willing to wait for the answers.

First, I had to have a good girl cry. Whoever wrote the song, "Big Girls Don't Cry" was on strong cold medicine or something. Yes we do cry, and sometimes, those tears are like one woman called it: "God's washing machine for the heart." So, I took a long drive the long way to Aldi for groceries, and then I got myself settled down before going back home to sit down with my beloved and ask him, "Honey, what are we going to do?" As I looked into his eyes, I could tell that while he was disappointed at the job loss, he wasn't afraid at all. No fear.

I decided from that moment on, I'd copy Norman. He was "steadfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord." In other words, my Norman was a godly example of "no fear." We were still serving full-throttle in the ministry. We still tithed, gave love offerings and other gifts. There was food on the table, clothing on our backs and a roof over our heads. This was being done off a shrinking bank account (the estimate that you need six months of emergency funds in savings is a bit on the low side), but Norman said we would march on by faith and keep things as normal as possible. He was right.

Not one bill was paid late. In fact, we paid some things off during that time (out of good fear)! When your money is low, you have two choices; make debt or cut spending. Making debt is fearful and faithless. Debt says, "I don't trust my God that much." Cutting back in areas where we didn't realize we could cut allowed us to keep the situation from becoming worse.

I could make a full-page list of all the fears that I had that never came to pass. Not one of them. So why did I default to the fear mode? Because I'm just like those human disciples in the boat: I had forgotten how mighty my God is, even though I walk with Him every day of my life. "And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." (Mark 4:39)

We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of that job loss. Norman has a job, but not in his former field. We may do a lot of things differently from now on because of that job loss, but what we learned from it will benefit us for the rest of our lives. Things like how to save money, how to cut the grocery bill (kick out the big eaters--just kidding), the value of living on a budget, and of course, the importance of keeping up on the tithes, offerings and other giving.

We learned that and so much more. In fact, there would be times when it felt like God was sending us love letters just to remind us of his ability to supply. Case in point: A couple of weeks after I returned home from teaching a ladies' conference,I received a letter in the mail like this: "We came in under our budget for our ladies' conference, so we are sending the difference to you. God bless you!" A check tumbled out of that letter for $200. ONLY God can special-order blessings like that!

Things are different now. We will have to refigure and figure again before this is all over. And in this economy, it may never be over, but God used the loss to teach us to trust Him more. Trust conquers fear like food conquers hunger. Have you been fearful lately? Face those fears and give them all to the Lord in prayer. Let God teach you to trust Him more.

Fear is such a drain, unless it's the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord gives us wisdom; the fear of life's circumstances robs us of joy and valuable energy.

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes." Psa. 119:71

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