“God, I don’t have the credentials for…
“I am haunted by the guilt of past greed, sexual sin, envy, hatred, selfishness and self-righteousness…so much sin. I am a wretched man. Would you like me to remind you? Here is my long list.”
“I am haunted by shame. I’m haunted by how people have judged me in the past. The wounds of those who judged me are still tender. If I follow your call, the potential for greater shame is too much to risk. I would rather fly under the radar and not make myself a target for more judgement. My pride and reputation is at stake. I’ve had my fill of rejection.”
“I am haunted by my inadequacy. I have no right to lead others. If they knew about me what I know, they wouldn’t listen to me. Besides that, I am socially awkward. I am sure that there are others far more qualified.”
“No God, not me. I have to get my act together before I can follow your call!”
I believe, help my unbelief
No matter how many times God calls me to take steps of faith, anxiety inevitably surfaces. I argue the above excuses to get myself out of any call God puts on my life.
I attempt to persuade him he has got the wrong person. God’s call hits my pride at its core. I come face to face with my fears and inadequacies. But saddest of all, my anxiety reveals my deep distrust of God and my stubborn will to maintain control.
I don’t think Jesus belittles the weight of my anxiety. He too experienced it and knows it’s legit. The enemies of the gospel advance are real. The human heart is resistant and often violently opposed to to God and his mission.
Yet in the garden of Gethsemane I witness Jesus press through his anxiety and surrender to God’s call. He didn’t consider his anxiety an excuse for him to abandon God’s call. If anyone had an excuse to give into anxiety, it was him.
The truth is, I don’t have what it takes. People will judge me. I have no power to convince people of the gospel. Being active in mission does put a target on me.
Although my anxieties are real, they do not excuse me from doing what God has called me to do. I am not called to live out of my anxieties, considering myself exempt from God’s call. I cannot give into anxiety or allow it to render me immobilized. Instead, God calls me to step through my anxiety and trust Him.
Together with the father of the demon possessed boy in Mark 9:24 I say, “God I believe, help my unbelief!”
My story: God’s call, my anxiety
In my first year of university I felt anxious and defeated. My struggle with sin was overwhelming. Guilt plagued my conscience. I had little hope that God would even accept or love me. I thought it was too good to be true when a staff invited me to live a life of faith in evangelism, discipleship and leadership. I felt disqualified for such a holy calling. If that wasn’t enough to excuse me, I was socially terrified. My internal guilt created a deep self-hatred. I had also experienced years of rejection by my peers creating in me an intense social anxiety.
I reasoned that the verdict was in. I was disqualified and excused from God’s call to live by faith, unable to enjoy the abundant life he promised.
Even when Power to Change staff and friends explained the “Spirit Filled Life” repeatedly, I thought it was too simple and God not powerful enough to resuce me out of my mess. But God was seeking me… and I was attracted to something I saw in those Christians who cared for me and demonstrated a life of faith. I was curious enough to stick around.
Anxiety about God’s call to evangelism
At no time did my anxiety rise more than when I was first asked to join someone in sharing the gospel on campus. It was like no other anxiety I had experienced. It was my first experience of this variety of spiritual warfare. Front line battle for another soul.
Although I had known the gospel and the command to share it, I was mostly motivated by guilt to tell others. Pragmatically I didn’t even know what to say. No one had ever modelled it for me to see. Besides that, I wasn’t socially strong enough to do it by myself. At the moment prior to going out I was shaking. It was as if I had entered into a live battlefield for the first time and real bullets were flying.
To my shock, the guy was open. I was able to join the conversation and it was enjoyable. Amazingly I had several opportunities to share with Matthew (whom I met in that first conversation) during my 5 years of school.
Anxiety about God’s call to discipleship and missions
My anxiety came to the forefront again when it came time to ask people to give money for my first missions trip to Brazil. I had never asked people to give money before. It provoked an anxiety that I didn’t know was there. I never knew I had such a fear of asking people for money. I didn’t like feeling inadequate and weak. I felt ashamed to ask for money in a culture of self-sufficiency. Despite all my anxiety I experienced God’s provision. God has sustained my family for 18 years of fundraising. It doesn’t make it effortless, but I have a long history to remind me of God’s faithfulness and provision.
When I arrived in Brazil our team met Rudson, a young man who showed a lot of interest in our mission there. Our P2C staff asked who would like to meet with him and potentially disciple him. All inside me expressed reluctance, but outwardly I said I would do it. In my weakness I put aside the anxiety and began to learn the call and work of discipleship. God has given me rich relationships through discipleship and I am blessed to see many who walk with God in mission today as a result of God’s work through me.
Anxiety about God’s call to leadership
Anxiety reared its ugly head again when I was asked to lead evangelism on a national project. I freaked out at the thought of being responsible for leading people in evangelism in a Canadian city. My stomach turned, my hands were sweating but cold, my mind racing. I thought of all the other student leaders more qualified. It was the project role that I was most scared of. God gave me enough belief to overcome my anxiety and I learned how to lead others in evangelism.
God has called me to multiple leadership roles over eighteen years on staff. I find myself still struggling to change and adapt. Yet I am reminded of the many leadership roles he has called me to and how God sustained me.
The truth is, my anxiety doesn’t go away. I struggle to accept that anxiety is here to stay with me in this life. My recent clinical diagnosis of anxiety further testifies to its tenacious hold on me. I think God keeps it there so that I put my confidence in him and not myself. He keeps me in this vulnerable place to displace my pride. Anxiety doesn’t excuse me from God’s call, it keeps me humble and trusting God as I follow his call through it.