by Timothy Schaser / May 2016
The times I worry the most are late at night. I suppose that makes sense, since all you can do while lying in bed trying to sleep is think. 100% brain focus can be a dangerous thing sometimes. Some nights, it feels like I can physically feel the worry and stress creep into my head.
It can start as innocently as thinking about something you have coming up soon, like final exams. It could lead to calculating the precious free time available for studying. That thought leads to how upset you are that work scheduled you the same amount of hours during finals week even though you asked for less, which then goes to wondering how you’ll cover gas, rent, and food. That thought possibly goes back to how little time to yourself you have left, which could take a big leap and get into wondering how you’re expected to keep all of the moving pieces of your life together, how are you expected to graduate, find a career, find love, all within the next two years without you completely losing it? Suddenly, that innocent thought has you wide awake, wiping all current brain activity. It’s clear that sleep isn’t happening anytime soon.
I so often find myself going through life, even through the good times, believing that I’m doing fine on my own and that “believing in myself” and “trusting in my own strengths” are what’s getting me by.
Every human deals with stress and worry. You might say that it’s in our nature. I would add to that and say that it’s in our sinful nature. The unmatched design of the brain by God has been tarnished by sin ever since the Fall (Genesis 3). As I lie in bed those nights with the outlandish, worrisome thoughts swarming in my head, it’s easy to feel trapped. Who wouldn’t? The thoughts, however imaginative and ridiculous, become reality in your brain. Just when it seems I’m about to drown, suffocated by my own worry, I feel realization hit me like a wave of guilt.
In all my self-worry and self-doubt, I have forgotten about my Savior.
Never once did I think to pray, never once did the wonderful words of Christ: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b) even cross my mind. I was too caught up in my own sinful human reason. This is where human pride finds its fall. I so often find myself going through life, even through the good times, believing that I’m doing fine on my own and that “believing in myself” and “trusting in my own strengths” are what’s getting me by.
This is why I find the biblical account of where Jesus walked on the water very relatable (Matthew 14:22-32). You can read those verses and see very clearly why I feel a lot like the disciple, Peter. In the middle of a raging storm on the sea, the disciples see Jesus walking on water out to their boat. Needing proof, Peter says “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water”. Miraculously, at Jesus’s command: “Come”, Peter is able to step out of the boat and walk out on the water towards Jesus. However, like any other human with a sinfully reasoning brain, the realization of what he’s actually doing sets in. He sees the wind and waves, he probably looks down and notes that if he weren’t on top of the water he would be in bad shape. He begins to doubt. Can you say you’d do any different? Feeling the crash of the waves around you and hearing the howl of the storm, wouldn’t you be afraid, too? Even though Jesus is out there with you on the water, wouldn’t you still doubt? Peter did. I did. We both started to sink. Only in my most dire moment did I think “Lord, save me!”.
Our lives are a constant struggle between faith and doubt.
It’s with much regret that I say that this isn’t a one-time experience. In my best times, in my worst times, and all in between I forget about God. I forget to pray, I put my physical life before my spiritual life. In my times of doubt, it’s like I can almost hear the voice of Jesus in my head as he said to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
I’m sure many of you have gone through something similar and have seen it happen to other people around you. Our lives are a constant struggle between faith and doubt. Stress, anxiety, depression, and worry affect us all. In the worst cases, sadly, many think their only escape is taking their own lives. In the constant search for a “stress relief”, everything falls short.
This is why faith is so important. We who believe in God don’t have to put our trust in ourselves or things on earth. In Psalm 50:15, we hear “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15). There is nothing worldly that can make that kind of promise. My sinful mind will continue to doubt, I will still have earthly troubles like anyone else, but my faith is in God. When I feel alone, when I think that no one can understand what I’m going through, God’s Words remind me “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:60). Again, there is no other earthly comparison to these words.
It begs the question though: Why me? Why does God care so much about me when there are billions of other people in the world, some who are much worse off? I’ll let the words of Christ, our Redeemer, answer that: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) There’s nothing I’ve done to deserve God’s love as a lost sinner, but His promises remain always. That’s grace (undeserved love). When we realize all that has been done for us by God, it seems so silly that we ever worried in the first place.
I am so thankful that we have an amazing God who not only forgives us when we doubt, but lifts us up and promises “..behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). Don’t waste your time looking for something physical to remedy your stress. Everything here on earth is temporary, sinful, and will not last. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Truly amazing words.
Don’t wait until your most desperate moment to think of your Savior. Live your life in Christ. Remember his promises. Go to church, study His Word, and pray continually. Also, encourage those who are struggling. Give more than just peace of mind, tell them the words and promises of our Savior. Be a Witness. “Walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7)