Everything in my essence is naturally fearful.
I worry, I stress, I get anxious over every little thing.
I want more than anything to radically abandon fear and follow Jesus and yet, my worries overtake me.
My relationship with fear was particularly challenged when I felt called to Africa last summer.
There, God called me far beyond my comfort zone.
I will never forget the day I printed the State Department packet. The government has a packet of information they recommend that you read specifically for each country before you travel there.
So, like any good student, I printed off my packet and got to reading.
Sharks, disease, car accidents, plane crashes, fatalities, muggings. It's all there.
Every statistic that makes you cringe.
None of those got me though.
Like any strong, independent woman, I had solutions, perfectly thought out explanations, for anyone who might suggest that traveling alone here might be dangerous. I just won't swim, I thought. I'll be walking everywhere, I won't carry money and if I'm confronted, I'll give them whatever I have.
Solutions, I thought, it's all under my control.
I flipped along through the pages with a joy that would have made you think I was naive. Until it happened, my biggest fear was written on the page right in front of me. “Johannesburg is often considered the rape capital. A woman is attacked approximately every 4 seconds according to statistics.” In a country where the HIV/AIDS crisis still runs rampant, more than 70 percent of women have been sexually assaulted.
It was the statistic that kept me up an extra hour researching, wondering, and questioning the call of God.
If you know anything about the journey God has brought me through, you'll understand. If not, suffice it to say this stat hit way too close to home.
I ripped the back page off of the packet before handing it to my mother the next day, per her request, to read through. It wasn't until later that she found the page I had been hiding.
It was this statistic that had my parents on their knees and forced them and me to trust God a little more than we had ever expected.
For every fear, I'd had a precaution, a solution. This was the only fear that made me feel vulnerable, exposed as a fraud, as someone who was never truly in control and had no real solutions.
There was no denying it. I am a woman through and through. More than that, I'd be a white, foreign woman with a southern accent that lingered through the air heavy as a boulder.
It was a few weeks later that I first began to openly express this fear to some of the people closest to me. Each of them reassured me, comforted me with scripture, and reminded me without a doubt that God would keep me safe. What got me, however, is that, without exception, all of them encouraged me with some essence of “that would never happen to you” or “God will protect you from things like that.” They all encouraged me to have faith by denying the possibility of the thing that I feared.
Preliminarily, this offered me a great deal of comfort. Surely, I thought, God wouldn't call me to the other side of the world for something awful to happen. The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you. It was something I quoted to myself a hundred times during those months leading up to my trip.
Something inside of me never could get settled though. It wasn't until the weeks right before my trip that I realized I was not exercising faith at all.
Faith is not the absence of fear.
When there is no real and present fear, no faith is required.
Faith looks fear right in the eyes and says you have no power here.
Our faith is one that can handle the hard, messy things. Faith doesn't deny them, it looks death in the eyes and says where is your sting?
Faith does not say that will never happen.
Faith says even if. Even if the waters come, you are still God and you are still good.
Even if every last fear is realized, even then, I will run to You.
I will cry, I will collapse, but even when I can't run, I will fall on You God.
If You can get Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego through a fiery furnace without even smelling like the fire, then I trust that You can turn the bad for good in my life.
Because You are either all good all the time or You are not good at all.
And oh God, I know You are good. You have proven faithful.
That's what faith says. Faith doesn't say God will protect me and mean He will never let the bad things happen. Faith doesn't say God I trust you in all things and pray Keep me from all of the bad things.
Faith prays God, whatever Your will is. Even when it looks like hurt, even when it looks like pain, even if it looks like the one thing I fear the most, let it be God, let it be. Because I trust You.
I trust that You are God in the good and God in the bad.
I trust that You are the God of broken things and messy places, because You are a God that restores.
I trust that when You are done with the brokenness, the product of redemption will look even more beautiful than the one never touched by hurt in the first place.
You are a God that makes broken things beautiful.
But you don't stop there, you make our brokenness both beautiful and useful.
Never once did you heal someone for the simple sake of them basking in freedom and healing. Your command to every broken life restored is the same as to the man in John 5- get up and walk, for you have been made well. You make us well to walk out lives of freedom and restoration and to help others find healing.
I trust that even when the bad comes, you will make it both beautiful and useful God and I pray I would have the heart that not only allows you to, but begs you to.
I trust that you are unchanging and faithful and always, always good.
Even when my vision is too small to see or understand, may I always believe that You are good.
These days, I still pray a lot of times for things to go the way I want over the way God wants, but I'm learning to add these pivotal words to the end of my requests And if not, He is still good....