Fear can express itself in a number of ways. For me, it most often does so in the form of anxiety. I tend to be the most anxious about things in which I have the least control. My anxiety often sneaks up on me, coming seemingly from nowhere. But when I’m in the thick of it, as I pray and meditate, I often (but not always) am able to trace it back to some sort of concern or realization where I lack control of something in my life.
There’s a bizarre story in the bible where Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples walks on the water in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. This story may lend some understanding.
The disciples are on a boat on the sea in the middle of a big storm when they see a human figure walking on the water towards them. Naturally, they begin to freak out, but Jesus calls out to them, “Don’t worry, it’s me”. Peter wants verification in the form of Jesus’ invitation to join him in this miraculous form of surfing without a board. So Jesus calls to Peter and he steps out, focused on Jesus and walking on the water.
But then something happens. Peter “sees the wind” and begins to sink. Jesus reaches out saying, “O you of little faith. Why did you doubt?”
Peter doubted because he was afraid. Yet it wasn’t his fear that Jesus questioned. It was his doubt. What was it that he doubted that allowed his fear to overcome him and cause him to lose sight of this amazing moment and the person he was with in it?
He didn’t doubt Jesus’ ability. Jesus was walking on the water, and hours before had just fed thousands of people with a kid’s sack lunch. Jesus had pretty much shown that he was capable of some amazing stuff.
He didn’t doubt Jesus’ willingness. It was Jesus that was coming towards them. It was Jesus that invited Peter to come to him on the water. It was Jesus that reassured the disciples of who he was, and that they need not fear as a result. They weren’t pursuing him, he was pursuing them.
Peter doubted that Jesus was good. Even if just for a moment, Peter doubted that Jesus had Peter’s good in mind and here’s how I know: Peter saw the wind, and realized he had no control over the situation.
When I’m in a fit of anxiety and I can whittle it down to its source, I often discover that my anxiety begins where my control ends. In those moments I realize that all the control rests in God’s hands and I come face to face with my doubt that he is good.
Have you ever been in that moment before, where you’re not completely sure that God has the best intentions for you? Where you realize that what you’d like him to do with you, and what he intends to do with you may not match up, and you lack the right amount of trust in him that his plans are better, because he is good? Man, I have. I find myself there often, as I more and more see my own control as an illusion, and my belief that this is a good thing has to catch up.
The question is, when I know in my head that God is good, why do I doubt? Why do I wonder if he wants his best for me? Why do I not believe that he knows what he’s doing.
The next time your anxiety, or fear, or doubt is raging, these are some good questions to ask yourself. Only, as you do, ask God to massage your mind and heart towards the answers, as he gently leads you closer to him. And as he does, perhaps you can take some small steps away from doubt and towards a firm understanding that He is good.