I was sitting on the conveyor belt in the baggage claim area of the airport in Jackson, Miss., when the tornadoes came through last fall. The airport staff had directed us to take shelter there until the storms passed. I had already heard of the casualties in Arkansas, children who lost parents, parents who lost babies.
My own mother, meanwhile, was on the road somewhere in the storm trying to get home. As I sat there in the darkness, the familiar emotions of fear and worry gripped me. Immediately, though, I also felt God’s presence and his reassurance that “I am with you and will never leave you. I love you and the people you love, and I have a perfect plan for each of your lives.”
This was not the first time these emotions have swept over me. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even the thousandth time. Amid times of anxiety, God’s sweet voice of reassurance is a tune I have come to know and claim as truth in my life. I struggled with fear and worry some as a child, much like other kids my age. I was scared of the house catching fire or snakes being in my bed.
However, it was not until I became a mother myself that I experienced unchained anxiety.
Once I saw the positive pregnancy test, I instantly felt responsible for a life other than my own. After our first daughter was born, fear would overwhelm me as I was giving her a bath or rocking her in my arms. Some days I knew that most of my fears were irrational.
However, other days I allowed myself to fully take in a diet of worry. On those days, my joy was lost. My thoughts of what “could” happen tumbled out of control if I was not careful. The Lord blessed us with more children, and with each one the feeling of fear and anxiety continued like old, worn jeans that you know you should throw out but keep around for comfort’s sake.
“What if I wasn’t paying attention and something happened to them?”
“What if I didn’t feed them the right things?”
“What if I didn’t do the right things to protect them?”
“What if we didn’t have the right toys/equipment/safety devices for them?”
At various points in time, all of these questions haunted me. However, I began to realize that they had one common focus—me.
The more I focused on myself and my abilities, the more I saw my shortcomings and faults. However, when I took my eyes off myself and placed them on an almighty, powerful God, I began to see how the God who tends to the lilies can be trusted with all of my concerns. As my children grew, the Lord began to teach me magnificent truths that took me from a diet of anxiety and led me to the true Bread of Life where I can feast on his goodness.
God used 2 Timothy 1:7 many times to speak truth into my heart: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” It is not God’s plan for us to consider ourselves crazy because we have irrational thoughts of worry. He has given us a sound mind. That means I can trust him as he leads me to make the right decisions throughout the day.
If I am in a close walk with him, he will guide my path and give me a sound mind, leading to a deeper understanding and appreciation of his sovereignty.
For example, I cannot keep my children safe 100 percent of the time, but I know God loves them even more than I do and whatever he chooses to allow in their lives is for the purpose of his glory. In the same manner, I trust God for clarity of mind so that I can make the best possible decisions related to my family. I forget things. I accidentally overlook things, but by the grace of God, his sovereignty more than makes up for my faults.
I praise God that he has taught me to recognize fear, worry and anxiety in my life not as mental issues but as trust issues. The more I trust in the precious sovereignty of God, the more I am at peace with whatever he brings my way.
—Melanie Lenow and her husband Evan, an ethics professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, are parents to four children. This column first appeared at BiblicalWoman.com, a blog of Southwestern Seminary.