I received this email from someone named “TB.” I very much related to his/her struggle, and I think you might, too:
First off, thanks for your blog. In a world like this, as a Christian, it’s easy to wonder if there are any real allies out there. If I can believe anyone. If there is truth anywhere. Reading your stuff gives me a glimmer of hope. There are people out there who care. Who get it. So thank you.
I have come to realize over the past few months that I have deep-seated fear. Some of it is founded and logical. Most of it is delusional and irrational. All of it stems from a failure to trust God. And I’m not sure what to do about that.
People say to “trust God.” It’s in the Bible. It’s obvious that I should. He has pulled me through so much, why should I not think He will continue to do so? But I can’t seem to wrap my mind around what real trust in God is like. Can you sympathize with this feeling?
I’ve turned off the TV. I don’t have satellite, digital cable, regular cable, anything. I don’t watch the news. But it doesn’t seem to help. I listen to state and world news on Christian radio. I see links to news articles on Facebook. I visit my family and they are constantly playing Fox News. I seem to be constantly reminded that evil is afoot.
I shouldn’t worry about this. For the most part, there is nothing I can do about it. I can’t bear thinking about the state of the world. ISIS. Progressivism. Communism. Facism. Hatred for Christianity. Islam. Guns, political indoctrination, cults, riots, mobs, totalitarianism, robbery, jobs, toxins, synthetics, poison in water, food, air, whatever.
I try to divorce myself from fear-mongering, sensationalism, zeitgeist. But I can’t get away from it. Ever since I was young it seemed like the world was a huge, terrifying beast. I still think that way. And while I am glad to know where I am going when I die, I still constantly worry about what will happen while I’m here. Do I even want to have children in this place?
I don’t need counseling. I don’t have mental issues. I haven’t had any major traumatic events in my life. I’m probably not even as panicked as I seem to be in this letter. But when I hear one little thing… my blood pressure goes up, and I start to think in this long chain of “what-if” thoughts. Why? I don’t want to be this way. I actually sometimes wish I was like everyone else. Not caring. Lethargic, apathetic, getting from day to day in a simple shell. But I’m not. I actually think about where things are and where they are going. And it terrifies me.
I’m not really asking you a specific question here. I’m not even really trying to tell you anything. I guess the purpose of my sending this email is to make a simple request of you. I would very much like to see you write about this. How can I trust God? How can I stop living in fear? How can I discard my irrational fears and possible delusions? Have you ever felt the same way?
Thank you for getting through this long email. I thank God for you and I am glad you are willing to be such a truth-seeker and unashamedly stand for Christ. Amen.
Thank you for your message and for your kind words. I don’t deserve them, honestly, but it’s nice to read.
I want you to know that you are not alone. I could have written this myself, minus the part about not having a TV and not watching the news (though I envy you on both counts). I often feel exactly as you do, and perhaps that makes me qualified to answer your questions, or perhaps it makes me especially unqualified to answer them. I suspect the latter. We have this bizarre idea in our society that we can only give advice to someone who is struggling as long as we are also in the throes of that same struggle. I think the opposite is often true. After all, when we are drowning we should wish for a lifeguard to save us, not for someone else to come along and drown beside us.
On that note, I confess that I am a coward. I read your email and I thought you brought up an interesting subject that would make for a good blog post, but my first instinct was to reject that idea. I knew that it might be helpful to a lot of people if I published your words, but I initially resolved not to do so.
Why? Because I don’t have any kind of brilliant insights to offer here. Whatever I say will be insufficient and incomplete, easily critiqued and torn apart. I’ve trained myself to predict what my critics will say before they say it, and so everything I write is long and thorough because I want to head them off at the pass and dismantle every criticism before its uttered. This is often a fine strategy, but the problem is that sometimes I am tempted to tackle subjects where I believe I might have something constructive to offer, even though I know that whatever I offer won’t necessarily be bullet proof and all-encompassing.
Usually, that’s enough to get me to abandon ship.
But not this time.
So here goes.
You asked some very penetrating questions, and the only one I can answer with certainty is this: “Have you ever felt the same way?”
Answer: yes, often.
Your other questions, though, are a little tougher to handle. How can I trust God? How can I stop living in fear?
Now, I can say confidently that the first step in defeating fear and trusting God is prayer. I know that sounds like the cop out answer, and it is to a certain extent, because it’s really easy to say. It’s the Christian equivalent to the encouragement a teenager is given after he breaks up with his girlfriend — “there are other fish in the sea.” Both are offered reflexively, and often not for sincerity but for lack of anything more profound to say.
Yet, in the end, both are also true. There are plenty of other girls in the world and the kid will get over his heartbreak and meet someone else, just as prayer is the best way to trust God and fight fear. Our battle plan is futile if it does not include vigorous and frequent prayer. I know this for sure.
This might be a dumb question, but have you asked God for help in trusting Him? Have you asked Him to help you fight the fear?
Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. I know that I’m frequently shocked when I realize that I’ve been struggling with some demon for years and yet I’ve somehow forgotten to ever specifically ask God about it.
Beyond that, all I can say is that maybe you and I should begin by asking not how we can trust God, but what we should trust God about. And not how can we stop living in fear, but what are we afraid of, specifically?
Yes, we should trust God about everything, but “everything” doesn’t quite clarify the matter.
So let me tell you the thought that comforts and motivates me, and I think it addresses both the trust and the fear:
I must trust God that He put us here, in this place, in this country, at this time for a reason.
Sometimes, in my weaker moments, I’m tempted to look at all of the things you listed — the hatred, the death, the evil, the lies, the ignorance — and think that God drew up the blueprints for the human race back before the beginning of time, evenly distributed a healthy dose of just, virtuous, and righteous souls throughout every period of history, and then got to our civilization and realized that He did His math wrong and used up all of the good and intelligent people on the previous eras. Then He didn’t feel like going back and reworking everything so He just figured that He’d pack all of the weak, selfish, imbeciles into our spot on the timeline.
You know, it’s sort of like when you have a big bag of mixed nuts and you eat all of the good stuff — walnuts, almonds, cashews — in the first couple of days, until there’s nothing but peanuts left.
We are the cosmic equivalent of a picked-over bag of nuts. We are the peanuts. Or, in another snack analogy, the purple Jolly Ranchers. The rejects.
At least, that’s what I think when I’m feeling especially sorry for myself.
However, the truth couldn’t be further from this.
The truth is that God knew what challenges we would face before we faced them. He knew where our society would be before we were born into it. He knew of the despair, violence, and misery before we felt it.
He knew that our time would call for warriors, and so He sent us.
He sent us — you and me and everyone. He sent us here, now, today, because we have work to do. We have a mission to complete, a purpose to fulfill.
I know you wish you were like those people who don’t seem to care or notice while the whole world burns around them — sometimes I desire the same for myself — but we can’t wish for coma when we are so awake. We can’t wish for blindness when we can see. These oblivious people need our help, and our first job now is to grab them by the shoulders and shake them until they open their eyes.
I think this is the answer to our fear as well. We can only be afraid of this world if we think we were born into it by accident; if we look at the challenges of our vocation like a man who forged his resume in order to get a job as a heart surgeon, and is now staring at an open chest cavity without the slightest notion of how to discern a left ventricle from a pulmonary vein (those are both in the heart, I think, or maybe they’re parts of a car engine).
The point is that we belong here. God selected us back before the Earth, the Sun, the stars, before everything, and earmarked us for this time, this reality, this battle.
Do you ever think about that? I do. I imagine God whispering to me when I was still in the womb and saying, “Matt, I brought you here to save the world.” And that isn’t to say that I believe myself to be a prophet. In fact, I recognize that I am one of the weaker and dumber men walking on the planet today. But I believe that God whispers those words to everyone. (This is, it should be mentioned, one of the many reasons why abortion is such a terrible, ungodly atrocity.)
Only Jesus can save, of course, but He has delegated an enormous amount of power and responsibility to us. We have the capacity to spread truth and bring souls to Him. We are armed with abilities beyond our comprehension, and our actions, our words, or thoughts, will reverberate through the cosmos in ways that we cannot possibly understand. A distant star in a remote galaxy could explode tomorrow, destroy a hundred planets and alter the fate of a thousand solar systems, and still that would not be as significant or devastating as one sinful choice that we make.
But, on the same token, a star could form and burn so bright that it brings daylight to a hundred planets and sends a beam of light across 400 trillion miles of emptiness right into our eyeballs here on Earth, and still that would not be as beautiful, impactful, and illuminating as one virtuous or righteous choice of ours.
I think that fear always stems from hopelessness. But what reason do we have to be hopeless when we were made to serve such a magnificent purpose, and designed to live finally, once our time is done here, in the Promised Land?
I know you question whether you ought to bring children into this world, but I hope that doesn’t stop you. This culture wants us to become so beaten and broken that we abandon the loving, sacrificial, and procreative facets of our humanity. Don’t let them do that to you. Have kids and raise them with hope and equip them with the armor of truth. They will suffer, just as you have, but they will also live, and love, and win many battles for Christ.
Sometimes I look at my own kids and with dread I think to myself, “you have no idea what this world will do to you.” But then I realize that I should be looking at the world and with joy saying to it, “you have no idea what my children will do for you.”
And so I haven’t answered your question, it would seem. I’ve only offered a paltry response to a question that you didn’t ask.
Still, I hope you find some value in it. And I hope that it gives you at least a faint bit of encouragement in the middle of all the chaos that seems to only get worse with each passing day.
If in your journey you ever figure out a better answer, please write to me immediately and let me know.
Thanks for reading,