As part of a client’s therapy, I always ask him/her, “What do you hope to accomplish with our time together?” Kudos to the recent client who answered, “I want to stop feeling so afraid all the time,” Wouldn’t we all? We may couch it in softer terms and say we’re worried, anxious, restless, or stressed, but at the core it says the same thing: “We’re afraid.”
When my 20-year marriage fell apart, I felt overwhelmed with anxiety. Where would I live? How would I support myself? What else could go wrong? I was sure that if I found answers to my questions I’d stop fearing that any minute the sky would fall.
· Why did this happen to me?
· Who is to blame?
· What went wrong?
· When will I feel better again?
We try to fix our pain with certainty, as if relief is just one right answer away. We think, if we only knew the answers, then we could get our life together and move on. Like a song stuck on auto-repeat our minds go over and over the never never-ending loop.
· People who binge eat want to know: “Why is it I can succeed in every area of my life but still not be able to control my weight?”
· Clients getting divorced ask: “Why do I have to go through this when it seems so unfair?”
· New retirees, wonder in disgust: “Why haven’t I figured this out by now?”
What we really want is to stop feeling afraid of life’s difficulties. We want to feel comforted when we’re sad and hopeful about good things to come. We want to enjoy the company of those who embrace us and to live the purpose God designed us for. We want to love and be loved. And we want to get unstuck so we can experience this!
Underneath our demand to know why our life is the way it is, lurks the faulty belief: We should be better than this. Life should be better than this. The problem is: It's not. We're not. So we stay stuck. Until we start there, we might as well chase the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Once we accept: It is what it is; I am who I am, we begin to ask the questions that can lead us forward.
In John chapter 14, after telling his disciples about his upcoming death, Jesus anticipates their fears and says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Control is not the answer. What we need is Peace. Shalom: The absence of fear and anxiety. Peace changes everything. By trusting that God is good and still in control, no matter what life brings, we can ask completely different questions.
· What if I didn’t have to figure this out but only had to trust and obey?
- What if I only had to do the next right thing?
· What if everything really IS working together for my good?
- How does that change my interpretation?
· What if God wants to use me for a new purpose?
- How can I step out in faith to find out?
Do you feel the difference? Seeking answers to these questions starts us on a new adventure to a bigger, more spacious life than the one we’d been living. The questions that get us unstuck are the ones that lead us to letting go of our fearful grasping for control and direct us to discover what God may be inviting us to.
I don’t know any other way to get there apart from trusting God. I know that doesn’t sound very “counselorish”, but it’s the only therapy that works. When we trust, allow, even delight in, the loving presence of God in our lives, anxieties cease. The inner storm is calmed. We can finally relax enough to move forward.
It begins by trusting that God’s plan is better than our own. Our lives are in his hands. He cannot fail us. We progress by LIVING THE NEW QUESTIONS in anticipation of what God can do with a life surrendered to him. We step out in faith not because we know the answers, but because we hear God's prompt: "Go ahead. I've got this covered."