A few months ago I had a week full of fear related to my work. I felt overwhelmed, andthe thoughts running through my head looked something like this:
“I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“This is too much.”
“I need to just find another job.”
“I’m not going to be able to fulfill everyone’s expectations.”
You may recognize this pattern of negative self-talk. Rapid-fire statements rooted in a place of fear. Each one you listen to and believe hits you a little harder and if you’re not careful, you will one day find yourself leveled by your own thoughts, flattened by your own fears.
I think our reaction when we feel afraid about something happening in our lives is to look for courage. We listen to familiar messages about inner strength and digging deep down to find it. Fighting through and being stronger than you think.
But what about those times when you do dig deep down searching for inner strength and courage within yourself and you come up empty handed? What do you do then when your knees are still shaking, what’s in front of you remains daunting and you determine that your inner strength must be so inner at this point that is un-findable?
I am beginning to wonder if courage is the appropriate response to fear.
One morning as I sat on my couch allowing the negative and fearful thoughts to play in my head I noticed a quality of these thoughts I hadn’t seen before: They were ungrateful. Not only were they negative, untrue and made me afraid, but they lacked gratitude.
Which got me thinking, what if I combated this season of fear by being grateful, rather than courageous?
So I tried it out and began to argue fear with thankfulness.
For example, I was worried about an upcoming conference call. It was with people in my field who were much more seasoned and smarter than I and I was afraid I would say something stupid or they would be able to see how ill-equipped I felt.
But before the call, as soon as I caught myself feeling afraid, I stopped and said thank you. “Thank you, God, for the opportunity to speak with people who are more knowledgeable than I am. Thank you for this chance to learn and grow. Thank you that I even get to do this as my job every day.”
The gratitude didn’t say I was courageous. The gratitude didn’t say I was stronger than I thought I was or more capable than I knew. No, gratitude simply put me in my place as a human and put God in his place as God.
When we are grateful in the midst of difficulty or fear, we are forced to take a posture of humility before our God. Nothing like saying thank you can do this to us.
When our fear comes from a place of insecurity in ourselves or uncertainty about the future, courage may not be the answer for us, but gratitude shifts things into perspective. The blur of scary and fearful focuses into a more accurate picture in which God is big and we are small and this is exactly how it’s supposed to be.