There's a song we've been singing a lot at my church called "No Longer Slaves" by Bethel Music. Its a song about our identity, really- that because of who we are (Children of God), we are no longer slaves to fear.
That is such an interesting concept to me- being a slave to fear. Because fear seems to me so natural, so logical, so humanly normal that it doesn't register as a something that has mastered me- to me fear just seems like an unavoidable part of life. We can't help being afraid sometimes.
But 2 Peter 2:19 says " 'people are slaves to whatever has mastered them'."
Is there a difference between fear that occasionally nags at me and fear that has mastered me?
Fear sneaked into my life in a new way at age 22 in the form of a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes- the kind that kids usually get- the kind where you need insulin injections or a pump for the rest of your life to live.
My doctor quickly got me on an insulin pump which has made my life remarkably easier, and in the last couple of years I started using a device called a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). The CGM is fantastic; just like it's name suggests, it constantly monitors my blood sugar levels and gives me an idea of whether my levels are stable, or how quickly they are rising/dropping.
If I'm sleeping and my levels drop too low, an alarm goes off to let me know. If my pump isn't working for some reason and my levels are rising dramatically, my CGM alerts me once again. If I'm exercising and need to keep a close eye on whether its causing my blood glucose to plummet, my CGM is there to guide.
But fear twisted my CGM. Instead of using it as a tool to help me live better, I started to look at it too much. I started focusing on my glucose levels several times an hour, trying to stay ahead of the very highs and very lows. Fear made me believe that the more I checked my CGM, the more in control I would be- the safer I would feel. Only I didn't feel safer; frankly I felt panicked.
See, when fear masters us, it makes us think that it can save us. We think that acting on our fears gives us more control of our situations. But the more control we give to fear, the more it tries to point out new vulnerabilities, the more it whispers "what ifs" into our hearts- the more it tells us to take matters into our own hands and run away from anything that might hurt us.
Before I knew it, I was eating snacks at illogical times when my blood sugar wasn't even low, because my CGM made it look like I might eventually be low. Maybe. Then my levels would spike up and fear made me stressed out- and did you know that stress can cause high blood sugar? So it did. So my levels stayed high, and I stayed stressed, and the whole time fear told me to never take my eyes off of my CGM because it was keeping me "safe".
God has given me a sobering look recently at a prophecy from the Old Testament:
15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
16 You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
17 A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill.”
I feel like God was telling me, "Listen, you could choose to be at peace- you could choose to simply trust in me. I am so much bigger than any of your fears. But you walked away from that salvation- you listened to fear- I know you have things in your life that are out of your control, but you ran away before anything was wrong. So unless you decide to trust me, it will only get worse. The things you fear will loom so large that you will not realize how ridiculous you are being- as ridiculous as 1000 people being chased by 1. Picture that and try not to laugh."
And I heard Him, but I didn't know how to let go. But He did...in a way that I thought would surely break me. He took away my CGM. He let the darn battery die.
For the last 3 weeks I have been without the thing that I thought was keeping me safe. And somehow I'm still here. I have certainly had moments of panic without it- moments of activity with my kids that made me fear for my safety. Moments where I've just wanted to stay home and play it safe since nothing will beep at me if my sugar levels get dangerous. But I've also had a rather bizarre peace- instead of a paralyzing fear, I've found a sense of rest in what was always true all along- I can't control my diabetes all the time, and God is big enough and aware enough of my situation to take far better care of me than...my CGM. His plan for my ultimate good will not shift with any circumstances.
This morning, as I was praying and beginning to get a little weary that God still hasn't allowed my CGM battery to be replaced, I started asking Him again what He is trying to teach me through all this. And I was prompted to write these questions which summarize much of this blog post: "Do 'safe' things, ironically, build my fear? When I trust in anything other than God, does my dependence actually breed fear?"
I know there are more things in my life that sometimes "master" me, or have the potential to. Things like money, health or life insurance, my home, my vehicle, the internet.
How do we let go of those things? How do we stop the cycle of fear and false control and return to God where "in quietness and trust is your strength"? I think the actual process to letting go is often forged in the most painful and vulnerable places in our lives. I think the loss of fear begins when we come to grips with the fact that God's perfect love for us will always give us the best- even in physical death. But it is a slow process- a very daily one.
In the meantime, these verses remind me how very silly worry really is, and I pray God keeps speaking this into my life and to yours. Because imagine how very powerful it would be if we stopped giving fear the ability to cripple us and keep us from living?
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.