Tuesday, September 8, 2009
This post is in response to a request by a sister in our community. She asked me to look for articles about fear and mistrust. What I found instead is about trust, although it does tackle the topic of mistrust as well.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight [or direct your paths]." - Proverbs 3:5-6
A Daily Encounter reader asks, "Will you please write a daily on trust?"
Lack of trust is caused by fear. And fear comes in many shapes and sizes. Some fears are healthy. Others are crippling. We rightly fear driving through a red traffic light or driving down the freeway—the wrong way. Major fears and seemingly unfounded ones almost always have their roots in a past fearful experience.
I used to be terrified of public speaking and this, according to what I have read, is a common fear. I was scared to death that when I got up to speak, I'd run out of things to say and make a fool of myself. This was heightened because of my insecurity. In younger days it took me several years to get up enough courage to ask for a date because I was afraid of rejection—another common fear.
An even bigger fear for me was being afraid to love. "How could this be?" you ask. "How could anyone be afraid of the very thing we all need the most?"
The love I was afraid of was not that of friends, but the love between a man and a woman. I was usually attracted to gals who weren't interested in me (romantically that is). This kept me safe. And as long as I was just a good friend with the woman who is now my wife, I was fine and felt safe. But once Joy started loving me, I freaked out—big time! I panicked a blue streak and wanted to run for my life.
Fortunately I knew it was my problem. But had I not thought so highly of Joy, I would have run from love—again. I also knew that if I didn't get help to overcome my fear, I could spend the rest of my life running from love. It took me a long time to see this.
My fear of love and inability to trust had deep roots in early childhood. I grew up in a very dysfunctional home. I had an absentee father (emotionally speaking) and never felt that he loved me. My mother set me up to be the "little husband" in the family and I felt over-leaned on and smothered. And I also had an aunt that killed her own baby and apparently attempted to kill, or at least hurt, me when I was a baby. (She committed suicide.) I also lost a little sister to whom I was very much attached. She died when I was only five. So in my childish mind I had come to believe that if you love me, you will leave me, reject me, smother me, or you may even try to kill me.
This deeply buried fear I brought unconsciously into my adult life and spent most of my life running from love. It was this fear that got triggered when Joy started loving me. (By way of interest, some years ago a psychological test showed that I had a buried terror. At the time, I had no idea what it was.)
Many adults who were abused, abandoned, neglected, or felt rejected in childhood also struggle with similar or related debilitating fears.
So you ask, "How did I overcome? How did I learn to trust?"
Yesterday we talked about fears that cause us to lack trust. Today I want to share how I faced and overcame my deeply buried fear (terror) and learned to trust and love again. (To read yesterday's Daily Encounter, go to www.actsweb.org and click on Encounter Archives in the left column). Today we want to discuss how to overcome fear/s and learn how to trust.
First, I acknowledged the fact that my fear was my problem. Had I blamed anyone else for it, I would have lost the greatest human love I've ever known.
Second, I was determined that, with God's help, I wouldn't allow my fear to control me. And, by the way, if we don't acknowledge our fear and "own" it, it will control us one way or another—usually unconsciously, such as being very angry and defensive when we are afraid, setting ourselves up to fail, looking for love in the wrong places, and avoiding many good opportunities, etc., etc.
Third, I asked God to help me get to the root cause/s of my fear and lead me to the help I needed to overcome it. Every day I committed and trusted my life and way to God, and I often quoted the psalm of David who, when King Saul was hunting him down to kill him, said, "The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
Fourth, I shared my struggles with my closest friends whom I knew wouldn't tell me to just "get over it" or tell me that I wasn't trusting God or offer various other bits of over-simplistic, insensitive and useless, unsolicited advice.
Fifth, I got into two years of very intensive counseling with in-depth therapy. It wasn't easy (in fact it was very challenging), but with God's help, the professional counseling, and the loving support of understanding friends, I made it just fine.
Because I never learned to trust as a child, I had to learn it as an adult. As I stepped out of my comfort zone, admitted my problem to God, to supporting friends, and a helpful counselor, and found that they loved and accepted me anyhow, little by little I learned to trust and love.
Fears are real. I know. The apostle Paul did too, otherwise why would God have sent an angel to him when he was in prison to tell him to "fear not?" He knew he wasn't going to get out alive and was undoubtedly scared to death even though he was also trusting God.
According to one Bible scholar, there are 350 "fear nots" in the Bible—one for every day of the year. Obviously God understands our struggle with fear and lack of trust.
I think it was General George Washington who said to his soldiers when they had to cross the Potomac River with their rifles and battle gear in hand, "Trust God but keep your powder dry!" In other words, acknowledge and own your fears. Trust God and accept responsibility and seek the help you need to overcome them. The only people that God or anyone else can help are those who admit and say, "I have a problem. I need help."