The Tricky Thing about Worry

10:36 AMHeather

Confession time.  About ten days ago, I had a major meltdown. I mean, complete freak out.  My heart began to race, my palms felt sweaty and I was working myself into an emotional frenzy. My poor husband and children, unfortunately, had a front row seat to my crazy.

It's a gift. I come by it naturally.

Anyone else relate? Anyone else get a text or a call or an email or have an epiphany and suddenly you go from zero to sixty in 2 seconds flat.  And you just know. I mean, you are now convinced that the world is coming to an end. And no one and nothing can talk you off the ledge. The worry and the stress take over. I mean, big time. The storm clouds gather and swirl about you and without a doubt, all is coming to ruin.

Life is coming to an end as we know it.

Are you feeling me?

Turns out nothing really is new under the sun. Because the Israelites--those people who God called his very own--they are just like us. 

Funny thing that three days after my latest freak out, I HAPPENED to be reading Numbers 13 and 14. It was like holding a mirror up to my face.  It's a good news/bad news scenario.  Good news--I'm not alone. Bad news--I see myself for what I am. And I gleaned some important insights on the tricky things about worry.

So let me set the scene. In Numbers 13:21, Moses had sent the 12 leaders of the 12 tribes to go scope out the Promised Land that God had clearly stated he was giving these people.  You know--the people he has just miraculously freed from slavery in Egypt through the masterful use of ten plagues and that little thing of parting the Red Sea.  Next on the agenda...take the land God said was theirs for the taking.

These obedient twelve spies indeed went into the land for forty days. They brought back the enormous fruit and reported how amazing the land really was--that it really did flow with milk and honey.


...and this was a big "but."  There was a problem. The people there were powerful and the cities were fortified and the descendents of all their enemies lived there.

And this is my verse 29...the spies report that the Canaanites live in Canaan.

Can you even believe?

Just call them Captain Obvious. 

One man spoke up at this point.  Just as the wailing and gnashing of teeth is set to begin. Caleb said, "We should GO and possess the land. For certainly we can do it."

Not so fast, Caleb. Because ten of the twelve spies suddenly have a freak out moment. They melt down in grand fashion. They begin to lament how they cannot attack the people because the people are stronger than they are.

Which leds me to three key insights into how worry and fear and anxiety begin to creep in. It's pretty universal, I think. How the enemy fires his arrows of doubt and worry within us, stirring us to meltdowns.

1. Where we begin to stumble and become defeated is when we compare ourselves to the opposition or situation, instead of the all powerful God we serve. We see the giant. And forget God is bigger. We turn our eyes from the Lord to our doubts. And we then begin to feed our fear and starve our faith. It can be the point of no return.

2. We forget God's promises. Plain and simple. We forget what God's Word says. We don't take him at his Word. We don't believe that what he says, he will do. Again, starving our faith and feeding our fears. The thing is that God had audibly spoken to these people and TOLD them he was giving them this exact land. There were no questions marks or clauses in that promise.

3. And we forget what God has already done. These fearful men suffer from spiritual amnesia, JUST LIKE WE DO. They seem to have completely forgotten the locusts and frogs and bloody water and the Passover and the angel of death and the sudden freedom from 400 years of slavery where their captors actually gave these former slaves plunder. These people had walked out of generations of captivity, arms full of plunder, and found the ultimate freedom when they walked across dry land with a sea piled up on either side of them. 

But they forgot. Completely. They saw only the obstacles ahead, forgetting the victories from before.

Aren't we the same way? We get so twisted up in our tunnel vision with our perceived obstacles that we totally forget the past victories. 

And this is precisely why we should keep record of said victories. When we are struggling and melting down, we should sit with a piece of paper and ask the Lord to bring to mind all the ways he has shown up in the past. It's a great way to feed our FAITH and starve our fear.  If we would only not forget to remember.

The next few verses in this Numbers passage reveal some more startling truths about worry. The tricky things about it--the very things that allow it to take us over.

You see, these fearful and forgetful men began to spread a bad report (Numbers 13:32). The fear mongering went viral. Because the truth is that fear is a wildfire of epic proportions. And it spreads so fast that it burns up all of our faith, if left unattended.

When we allow fear and worry to shrink us, when we begin to cower and be dwarfed by our feelings...then the circumstances grow bigger than they really are and we assume everyone sees us as inadequate. We certainly see ourselves as inadequate. Like these Israelites who say that the people in the Promised Land were of great size and that they themselves seem like grasshoppers in their own eyes and they looked the same to the opposition.

I wonder. How big were these people, really?  I mean, historically--do we have prove that everyone that lived in the Promised Land were some sort of amazon gigantic people? And did those people really even SEE these twelve men? Because I thought they were the spies on a covert operation. So, was there really some widespread observation and declaration among these enemies that those pesky Israelites are like grasshoppers?

But this is what happens with worry. When fear is spread, when our inadequacies take precedence over God's promises--we forget the places he's rescued us from. And we lose sight of the places He's taking us to. We have spiritual amnesia about His faithfulness. Suddenly, the plagues and Passover and parted seas fall completely off our radar. They are overshadowed by fear, current circumstances and our own inabilities. And we begin to believe the worst things about ourselves and our situation.

Fear is contagious. It is indeed a wildfire that spreads so fast after even the tiniest spark that it burns up our faith.

As a result, we see in Numbers 14 that all the people raised their voices. Not in praise, but in despair.

All the people weep aloud, instead of shouts of battle cries.

All the people grumble against the very leaders who have rescued them and led them out of captivity.

And here's the trick--the dirty, low down trick--that worry tries to play on us.

These people were freaking out.

AND NOTHING BAD HAD HAPPENED. Nothing had actually changed. 

It's all borrowed trouble, accepting defeat fed by fear--before there's even a weapon drawn.

The result of the freaking out is that all these people were then quickly carried by fear to a wish to have died in captivity or have perished in the desert. A death wish settles in rather than face... well, face something that hasn't even happened?

While they are still drawing breaths and being fed and safe from harm in the situation that was actually the exact same before the wildfire of fear blew through.

Fear clouded their perspective and it skewed their vision so that all the promises of God were forgotten. All the possibilities for new things were abandoned. And instead of looking forward or up--they are looking back.  Looking back to a disaster that didn't happen and a doom that hasn't happened.

And the truth is that nothing has actually changed but their perspective. 

Then, they do what we all tend to do when worry creeps in and settles hard on us. They blame God. They pin it all on God, as if they are being punished. When the only thing that has actually changed is their perspective.

Because they let fear burn up their faith.

Because they let the pessimism of the ten people blind them to the revealed and spoken promise of the Only One. 

Because they let the fear of ten men evoke spiritual amnesia. And they blame God now. Suddenly. Because of the opinion and unbelief of ten men. 

Ten men who were actually NEVER asked to be decision makers. They were never asked to offer their opinion on whether or not they could take the land. They were only asked to explore the land.

And this is how the enemy traps us in the grip of fear and worry.

He plants a seed of doubt. He gently blows on the little spark of fear to cause a wildfire of fear to rage. And we are suddenly caged in a vision for the fear alone.  And the fear paints a deceitful picture of what has happened and what will happen.

And these deceitful pictures replace the masterpieces of what God has done and what he promises to do.

And the only thing, typically, that has changed is our perspective.

In a camp of what we presume to be millions, these ten men fan a flame of fear.  And suddenly, the entire camp is convinced of their impending doom. They say they will fall by the sword...when not a weapon has been drawn. They say that their wives and children will be taken as plunder...when there is no enemy in sight. They listen to the frenzied voice of fear when the promise from God had been audibly spoken to them. They stirred up certainties that had yet to happen instead of remembering the miracles that had actually happened.

These people chose to listen to the fear filled voices of ten men who believed that the enemies they saw were stronger then they were. Instead of remembering the God who was stronger than anyone. And he had proved that in front of their very eyes by breaking the chains of a powerful Egyptian pharoah.

Just like us, these people become downtrodden as if the worst has already happened. So they want to run to the familiar captivity and bondage rather than jump off the cliff of taking God at his word.

And their solution is to choose a leader who will take them back to Egypt. 

What they are seeking is validation of their misplaced fears. And a choice to return to captivity rather than dare to experience freedom.

Don't we do the same? Some new piece of information comes our way and we forget. We forget God's goodness and his faithfulness and his character and his promises. We lose sight of the actual situation because we are fixing our eyes on the possible outcomes. 

And before we know it, our minds have spun into a place of feeding the wildfire of fear. Starving our faith. Feeding our fears. We look to the opinions of others to validate our fear. Our imaginations run wild while our belief becomes stifled.

Listen, bloggy friends, the truth is that the Promised Land is just ahead. The truth is that God has shown up before and he will show up again. The truth is that maybe--if we just take a step backward--we can see that actually nothing has changed but our perspective. We might see that we are listening to the wrong voice.

We've allowed our worst-case-scenario mentality to evoke spiritual amnesia. We make assumptions that we are but a grasshopper when we are actually children of the Almighty Father who knows all the stars by name and spun the planets in motion.  

We forget that we aren't asked to be the decision makers. God has a plan. We are only asked to explore. And trust. We are asked to take him at his word.

Oh, that we might see ourselves in the mirror of Numbers 13 and 14. That we might see that we actually can choose to be the Caleb and Joshua who believed in the God they had seen perform miracles and who had promised more for them.

That the next time we feel the wildfire of fear burning up our faith, we could stop and pray. We could ask God to help us be Caleb and not be the crowd when worry kicks in. That we could ask God to help us starve the fear and feed the faith.  We could ask for eyes to see what has REALLY changed that has brought us to our meltdown.

And believe that no giant can stand against the smallest stones in the feeble hands of a faith filled little shepherd boy. Because those stones are launched by a faith in the Big God who is on our side.

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