An excerpt from Ed Welch’s book Running Scared. I didn’t realize how long this was until I typed it out. So if you only have time to read a little, start with the last 2 paragraphs. But I really encourage you to read all of it…actually, reading the whole book is preferred! 🙂
“You can’t blame fear for wanting a place of peace and rest, and wanting it fast. The odd thing is that fear and anxiety are running away from something, but they don’t know what to run to. They know danger, but they don’t know where to find peace and rest. If fear slows down for a minute, it realizes that peace and rest can only reside in someone rather than something, in people rather than pills. A fearful child wants to sleep with her parents. On a walk through dark woods, our fears ebb in the presence of a companion–in a pinch, we will even settle for a small dog. Over the short run, anything alive will do, but we prefer an actual person who is big and strong. If the threat is to our bank account, we prefer someone rich. If our sense of well-being is at risk, we want someone who loves and affirms. Fear calls out for a person bigger than ourselves.
Then, just as fear and anxiety are about to embrace another human being who almost fits the bill, they remember that people are unreliable. Fear quickly hits the default switch and opts for independence, control, and self-protection. The problem is that our worries and fears remind us of our own smallness, so to rely on ourselves takes us back to where we started. But what else can we do?
At this apparent cul-de-sac we find God. If you are jaded because you feel as though God has been unreliable, look at it this way: There are no other choices. Other people can’t quite be trusted, and we are not in control. That limits the field to God himself. Not gods, only God. A pantheon of gods will not do, because none of them may have jurisdiction over your particular dilemma. The greatest possibility for rest and comfort lies in the knowledge of the true God. And who can resist the One whose self-given name is Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Deliverer, Lord of Hosts, Rock of Ages, Faithful One, and Good Shepherd? Don’t forget, fear’s interpretations are not always to be trusted. You might feel abandoned so you believe you are abandoned. But you don’t know the entire story.
So here is the proposal: let fear point us to the knowledge of God, and let the Spirit of God, by way of Scripture, teach us the knowledge of God. When fear is the problem, our typical approach is to follow action steps. If we are on our spiritual game, we can pray with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6), we can cast our cares on him (1 Peter 5:7), or we can heed his command to not be afraid. These are good things, but they are responses to our growing knowledge of God. The knowledge of God comes first. Apart from this personal knowledge, Scriptural advice is no different from the thought stoppage or imaginary vacations that secular treatments offer.
If fear is a personal matter, we must set off to know a person” (63-64).