Walking our Faith: When you’re struggling with a fear of failure
January 4, 2019
When I went to Florida for Christmas, there was a beautiful pine cone wreath with a red plaid bow on Mom's front door. But when I entered her apartment there was not a Christmas decoration in sight nor did we exchange Christmas gifts on Christmas morning. Instead we shared something priceless, seven days of conversation and time together. Some of our conversation was the usual stuff between mothers and daughters, but in between were moments when we shared deep conversations that will carry me forward in years to come.
I like to say that my mother is a spiritual warrior. At the age of 92 she still spends hours fasting and praying. I believe she has a connection to God that I do not yet even fathom the depths of. But that connection was hard won over decades of joy and sadness, glory and tragedy, more hours spent in tears than in giving thanks.
So, I can talk to my mother about spiritual matters and she will provide wisdom. During one of our conversations I confessed that I struggle with fear: fear of the future, fear that I will not succeed, fear that I will not be able to take care of myself as I grow old. My fear can be paralyzing, causing me to lose sleep, preoccupying my thoughts when I should be focused on the work that will measure my success.
What Mom pointed out is that fear and trust are closely linked, you can't have one if you have the other. If you are fearful or full of fear, you can't be trustful or full of trust. Mom pointed out that we're not trusting ourselves or someone else, our trust must be in God. If I want to be fearless I must be trust-full.
But what is not my choice is God’s love for me. It is the constant current beneath the surface, my choice of trust or fear won’t change it one bit. ... Our choice is whether we trust in God’s love or whether we live in fear. It’s a choice we will make each day, but especially on those days when everything feels uncertain. Will we choose trust or fear today?
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When I returned home to Breckenridge, I was doing my morning devotions and reading from Psalm 27. As is the case when I am focused on something, I begin to see it everywhere. As I read the psalm the two words that jumped out were trust and fear.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life whom shall I dread?
"Though an army encamp against me my heart would not fear. Though war break out against me even then would I trust."
I underlined those two verses and focused on the connection between the Psalmist's confident expression that because of God he had nothing to fear, even in the midst of great trial, still he would trust in God.
The next passage in my devotional was from Deuteronomy 7:6-8. It says: "You are a people holy to the Lord your God, the Lord your God has chosen you … It was because the Lord loved you and because of his fidelity … Know then that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps his covenant mercy to the thousandth generation toward those who love him and keep his commandments."
I was stopped in my tracks. In my fragile faith I can wrestle with my fear and strengthen my trust in God. But what I don't have to struggle with is understanding I can trust God because he loves me. Whether I am full of fear or trusting in God is my choice. But there is nothing I can do to change God's love for me. Whether I succeed or fail doesn't change the infinite depths of God's love for me.
Each day I will work with focused effort toward my goals. But will I work with confident trust that no matter the outcome, all will be well, as Julian of Norwich reminds us? Or will I see every setback as confirmation of my need to be afraid, and every success as unmerited luck? The attitude I hold each day is my choice. Will I choose trust or fear?
But what is not my choice is God's love for me. It is the constant current beneath the surface, my choice of trust or fear won't change it one bit. God's love for me, you, each of us, is unchangeable. Our choice is whether we trust in God's love or whether we live in fear. It's a choice we will make each day, but especially on those days when everything feels uncertain. Will we choose trust or fear today?
Many of us have made promises to read our way through the Bible this year and I hope that what we find as we do is this ribbon of love that is woven through the entire Bible. God's love for us is unbreakable, he wants us to know how dearly we are loved and when we accept that, in whatever circumstances we face, we can become full of trust and fearless.
Suzanne lives in Breckenridge and her books are available at Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco.
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