When Fear Threatens to Overcome You, Try This…

Confession: I fear the stomach flu the way other people (rational people) fear tornadoes and terrorist attacks.

The moment one of my kids says they have a stomach ache, my mind immediately shifts into high gear.  My heart rate speeds up.  My palms sweat.  I forge a worst case scenario strategy (Where are the buckets? Are there any major plans that will need to be cancelled?  Do we have crackers?  Ginger-ale?  How will we manage if we all go down at once?).

Photo by: Garrett Carroll

Photo by: Garrett Carroll

We’ve had more than our fair share of the stomach flu this year.  You’d think I’d be over this anxiety by now. 

I’m not.

A few weeks ago I began reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts.  It tells of her journey of opening her eyes to the gifts around her and what she discovered about God, herself, and living a life of faith in the process.  There was much that struck me in those pages, and I’m still ruminating over many of the ideas.

Her words about thanksgiving and fear spoke to me.  She suggests that a life filled with thanksgiving has no room for fear.  Giving thanks crowds out fear.

When my two year old began throwing up last week, I felt the familiar anxieties begin to flood me.  But Ann Voskamp’s words rung in my ears.  There’s no room for fear when we’re busy giving thanks.

I sat holding my babe, stroking his back, and looking for things to be thankful for:

Grandparents who love our kids. 

Little girl giggles. 

Watching our six year old learn to fish with her Grampa.  

I began saying thanks to God, almost frantically:

An entry way filled with little shoes. 

A medical system that provides nurses to call when I’m not sure what to do. 

The songs on Bubble Guppies and the way my kids move to the music. 

Snuggles on the couch with my wee ones.  

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
— God (Isaiah 43:1c-2)

That night as I was getting ready for bed (after making sure everyone had a bucket accessible and that the library books, toys, and laundry were safely removed from the danger zone) my husband looked at me inquisitively.  “You’re handling this surprisingly well,” he said.  Yes.  I was.  I had spent the day giving thanks instead of letting anxiety take over.

What if I lived the rest of my life this way?  

There are, of course, things far more grizzly and ugly and scary than the stomach flu.  Sometimes, in the middle of the night, those things chase each other through my head.  For a few moments, I understand how truly fragile this life is, how everything could change in a moment.  I don’t need to list those fears for you--you have your own list of things that keep you up at night.  

A life lived in fear is fenced in, small, limited.  It refuses to trust God's promises.

A life lived giving thanks is open, joyful, giving.

Can I trust enough to give thanks for the blessings I already have, rather than become entangled in the fears of what might happen in the future?

Can I start this discipline this morning?

Hot coffee.  Friends over for dinner.  Raspberries picked from our garden.  Packing for a camping trip.  Dark chocolate with sea salt.

What are you giving thanks for today?

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