[This is the last installment of our Friday posts on fear.]
Whenever people are asked what they’re afraid of, somewhere in the list of snakes, storms, and cancer, will appear a fear of job loss or economic downturn. That’s natural. Our most basic needs include food and shelter, and that takes money. The thought of a future job loss or other loss of income can be frightening. Equally frightening is the fact some losses happen without us realizing it. Recent statistics show that Americans have lost 39% of their net worth in the last 4 years, much of it in the value of their homes. Other losses happen when our money is devalued by the Federal Reserve arbitrarily printing money which makes our money worth less. So you can suddenly wake up to find that your economic situation, that had no reason to change, has changed.
The patriarch Job, who had more things happen to him than anyone, apparently thought earlier that things had been going too well. Consequently when calamity struck he wasn’t that shocked: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil” (Job 3:25-26 NIV). He admitted what many of us don’t. We often live in fear of the future rather than trust of the Father. Then when the unimaginable happens, rather than leaning on God, we waste time and energy arguing with Him or demanding answers to our “why?” questions.
Years ago I interviewed Edith Flowers Kilgo, who had been a successful editor in Atlanta. Because of her childhood in poverty, she knew how frightening tomorrow can be. “Middle-class families have resources to fall back on,” she said, “while those who live paycheck to paycheck are always one disaster away from total ruin. When a person has been that poor, the greatest fear as an adult is not having enough for one’s old age.”
Like the Proverbs 31 woman who could “laugh at the days to come” (v. 25), Edith learned to conquer her own fear of the future. While in her forties she decided to leave her high-stress job and simplify her life (she then produced a monthly newsletter called Creative Downscaling). “I think that walking away from my job and its secure retirement package was the biggest commitment I ever made to confronting fear,” she said. “It wasn’t so much about letting go of ‘success’ as it was about letting go of all the childhood attitudes and fears. Fears are the big bullies. Once you face the worst thing that could possibly happen and deal with it, what’s left to worry about? I’ve had people tell me that they feared losing their jobs to the extent they were ruining their health with the fear. Then they lost the jobs and learned from it that they were stronger than they thought.”
My husband and I in our careers have had a total of seven job losses, so economic fears have been an integral part of my life. Coming through those periods of job loss showed me, as Edith said, that I was stronger than I thought. But more importantly, it proved to me that God was more faithful than I had imagined. During those times I learned to trust Him more as I went back to His promises. One I repeated often was: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread (Ps. 37:25 NIV).
When we live in fear of what might happen to us—much of which probably won’t—we give fear free rein to run away with us. In Mt. 6:25-34 Jesus reminded us that God clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air. He urged us to take a lesson from nature and trust Him as much as the smallest creatures do, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (v. 34).
It’s the only way to face the future without fear.
© 2012 by Vicki Huffman
Vicki Huffman is the author of two Christian non-fiction books and a Christian-based novel which are available in various forms through the author (email Mentoring Moments) or amazon.com. To read the first chapter of her novel A Secret Hope at no cost, follow here.