One of the joys of living in eastern Tennessee is the view of the Smoky Mountains in the distance. But living so close to the mountains means the terrain here is rather hilly. When we were house-hunting, some homes were ruled out because the driveways were so steeply sloped I would never be able to walk down them and I would even be a little unnerved about driving down them, especially in icy weather.
Roads are also affected by the slope of the land. Several roads here have no shoulders and a steep drop-off — just a few inches in some cases but several feet in others. When I notice that drop-off, I get nervous about the possibility of slipping off the side of the road. But as I look at the edge of the road and the drop-off next to it, an odd thing happens: though I want to avoid that drop-off, I find myself gravitating exactly toward it. It’s only when I get my eyes back on the road and the lines that mark my lane that I’m safe from going over the edge.
I wrestle with fears in other areas of my life as well, some of which affect my health, which then is a source of more fear and anxiety. The more I focus on those issues, the more anxiety they cause and the more distracted I am by them and the more they pull me in, until I am nearly consumed by them. Even praying in that condition is not much help because my focus is still on the possibilities of what might happen. But when I turn from all of those “What ifs” and put my focus back where it belongs, on the God who I know is omniscient, all-powerful, who loves me, has said He knows all my needs and has promised meet them and take care of me — then I am secure in the path He has me on.
We do need to face our fears: if we hide from them, they’ll find us, and if we try to ignore them, they’ll fester. But facing them is one thing: it’s quite another thing to focus on them to the point of distraction, to the point where they actually lead us astray. We need to be aware of the dangers beside the path, but rather than feeding our anxiety, those dangers should only heighten our alertness to keep our eyes on the path ahead.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Hebrews 12:2a.
What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. Psalm 56:3.
For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength. Isaiah 30:15a.