I love hearing stories of people taking bold next steps even when they’re scared out of their mind because of uncertainty. Without any guarantees they planted their right foot in front of their left. They made the move, started the business, pursued the relationship, decided to stay/go/jump/sink/swim! There wasn’t enough money, people, or resources, but they took the next step because they knew that pit of anxiety in their stomach would turn into regret if they just allowed it to grow.
Have you ever been there? I have. Actually, as a leader with an entrepreneurial bent, I feel like I live there most of the time. And every time I’m there, I turn to what I find to be the most comforting words from Jesus in dealing with the anxiety of indecision. These words keep me grounded in the times when I know I have to walk through doors – even when there’s only a tiny crack to squeeze through:
7 The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. 8 “I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:7,8 ESV)
What does it mean that these are “words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David?” Two things:
- Jesus is trustworthy. He will never give you bad advice. He is not erroneous and his counsel is always good.
- Jesus has total authority over your life – every open door is from him, every closed door is from him.
If the door for an opportunity has been shut, there’s no use banging on doors. Put your battering ram away. One of the best ways to overcome anxiety about the future is to completely close the door of the past. Accepting close doors puts you in a better mindset to pursue the doors that are actually open instead.
There was a season when I was racked with anxiety because I decided to move our family from Detroit to Dallas to pursue a mentorship opportunity. Linda and I quit our jobs, packed our boxes, and put our house up for sale with the hopes of me taking a part-time position at a church to sit under the mentorship of well seasoned leaders. This was all going down in the Summer of 2009 right in the middle of America’s worst recession. There was no way our house was selling at market value in a Detroit economy. I was so embarassed that we quit our jobs, put our house up for sale, and told everyone we were going to Dallas. The house was on the market for 6 months with no offer. I was one anxious and unemployed good for nothing father and husband. At least that’s what I thought to myself. Anxiety has a funny way of telling us lies.
In an effort to clear our minds, Linda and I decided to take our boys to visit my sister’s family in Wisconsin and on the way back we decided to randomly drop into a Sunday worship service in Chicago. The pastor, who since then has become my friend, preached on Revelation 3:7-8 and it was like I became a Christian for the first time. Here are just some of the treasures that dropped into my soul that morning. Here’s a page from my notes:
And then came the big ouch question that I constantly ask myself:
I had to test myself again with this question just three years later. I was feeling anxiety the years before moving to Toronto. Panic attacks. (Fear of smurfs! A story for another day.) I was so ansty to get on to the “next thing”, but the “next thing” just wouldn’t come. My problem wasn’t that I didn’t have options – I had too many. Instead of coming to Toronto to plant a church I was asked to remain in Dallas to either plant a second campus or to eventually help lead the church I was on staff at. The challenge that came to me was, “Why not stay and stand on the shoulders of other great leaders and help pastor this great church?” A few weeks later as I was agonizing over my indecision the Holy Spirit spoke to me through a friend, “Are you present? Are you agonizing about the future at the sake of the present gifts I’ve given you? It’s only by fully embracing today that you will fully be present in the future. Learn this before you move on.”
And I did. And when the time came. I chose. Even though the anxiety didn’t disappear – I chose. In order to trust and obey God – you don’t need anxiety to disappear.
SO MAKE A DECISION! Don’t be crippled in fear of making the wrong decision. If you’re all prayed up and it’s time to decide, draw a conclusion and make a decision. The Psalmist says to call on God because God will act! If you do your part, God is going to do His part. Don’t wait for a bus that’s never going to come. Listen to this quote by AW Tozer:
“The man or woman who is wholly or joyously surrendered to Christ can’t make a wrong choice–any choice will be the right one.”
And for all you IKEA fans, here’s some practical wisdom from it’s founder Ingvar Kamprad:
“Only those who are asleep make no mistakes.”
Now, for those of us whose anxiety is so crippling that we have physical symptoms, listen to this Proverb not as condemnation, but as an invitation:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV)
Stop worrying yourself sick. Pray this to yourself, “I don’t know what the outcome is going to be – but no matter what, I will follow you. Withhold from me or give to me, what you will and when you will it. My responsibility is to say, I am completely yielded to you.”