I don’t know about you, but when I don’t know something, I’ll often try my best to find out the answer, or work out what’s going on. To put it bluntly, I don’t like not knowing. Even worse, is feeling out of control.
It can feel almost like a spiral. As if there’s one thing that I don’t know, and that’ll spark another question, and if they don’t get answered, then the anxiety starts to mount. Sometimes, it’s a quick fix: as simple as asking a couple of questions, and my mind is put to rest. But sometimes, it’s not that simple.
I’ve mentioned before, that I’ve got a heart for mission, and this is something I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to explore in the past, such as the trip to Tanzania in 2016. (If you’re interested in find out more about this, I’ve written a couple of posts, here and here).
However, what I haven’t mentioned, is that no matter how much I enjoyed and treasured the experience, beforehand I was a wreck of nerves. I’d gone to youth group, and we’d had a really chilled evening of eating together, and finished with playing a board game. Before the end, we stopped and prayed together – and I sat there with tears streaming down my face.
I’m not a crier, but at times like these, sometimes, it just doesn’t stop.
To me, sitting there, as I was faced with just under three weeks in a strange country, not knowing what we’d be doing, it all got a bit too much. It was good to let it out – but at the time, I went home with a high sense of fear, and more than a little bit emotional.
I now know (given the gift that is hindsight), that I was absolutely fine, and had such an experience when I was there. Sure, there were challenges, and it wasn’t all a breeze – but the overall experience was positive.
Now, you’d think, that from that, I’d have learnt. But, that’s not quite the case.
A couple of weeks ago, I was hit with a similar situation. I’m very blessed that the situation and circumstances have allowed me to go on another mission trip, which is coming up very soon. Hopefully I’ll be able to share more about this afterwards, but for now, all that’s important is that I’m going abroad for just over a week.
This time though, it hit a few weeks before hand, when reality set in.
Have you ever chosen to (either consciously, or not) not think about something, in an attempt to not realise it’s happening?
For me, this was exactly what had happened. For so long, this trip had been ‘way off in the distance’ – and I hadn’t seen it coming round. Yet, all of a sudden, I’m three weeks away from leaving, and I was hit with how little I knew about the whole trip – and was overwhelmed by it all.
I’ve said it before – I like to be in control. But this time, I can’t. At least, not fully.
There are things I still don’t know – and probably won’t know until I’m there, and living the experience. I’ve done my best to calm the anxiety – by writing lists, asking questions, and spending time in prayer.
Because ultimately, I shouldn’t be in control anyway. God is.
And although in human terms, that’s incredibly hard to get your head round, if I think about it – it’s far better. That the God who is more powerful than we can ever understand or imagine, is working ALL things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) – I don’t need to be afraid.
So that poses the question – and in many ways a challenge. Am I willing to surrender control, and learn to trust fully – even when I don’t understand, or know what’s going on; when internally my brain is screaming at me – can I lay that all down in the care of the one who does know?
I’m not trying to write this off as a simple, quick-fix solution. I know just how hard it is – and how many times I have to make that decision. It’s a constant journey, but I’m holding fast to the truth that anything in my own strength wouldn’t get me very far.
‘If God is for us, who can ever be against us?’ – Romans 8:31
Even as I’m writing this post, I’m having a day where this is a real struggle. The unknowns feel overwhelming, and I’m being pushed far beyond my comfort zones. That said, I don’t want to let anxiety win.
I’ve been out and about this afternoon, in amongst writing this post, and this came to mind.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – Deuteronomy 31:8
That verse, and the song Guardian.
And I guess when it comes down to it, this is what I need to remember.
Even if I don’t know what’s going on, God does.
Even if I’m feeling overwhelmed, God’s got a plan.
Even if I’m feeling alone, God’s always there.
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
It’s not all sorted with a quick fix. There are days when it’s far more challenging than others. But, in a few weeks, I’ll hopefully be looking back on this saying “What on earth were you worried about?”… Because often that’s the way it works.
For now though, and during this week in the lead up to leaving, this is my aim. In dealing with the unknown, the anxiety, and the build-up, this is what I’m looking to.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
Because, this is true. That peace (which we can’t understand) is real. Really real. And prayer works. So, even if I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’m going to call out to the one who made me – because He knows what’s going on.
I know this is a long one – but some of this is just part of real life, at least for me. And if any of these truths can help or encourage others, then I’m just glad to be able to share them. Finally, if any of you are the praying kind: I’d really appreciate your prayers over the next few weeks as I step out of what I know, and step in-to what God’s called me to do.