Yesterday, my husband Brett’s drama team performed their first full performance for the year and everyone on the team was incredibly nervous. One girl paced back and forth before the program began, unsure and fearful about a new part she had just learned to fill in for someone who couldn’t make it.
It reminded me of a time when I was in my early 30’s and lived in Kodiak, Alaska. The church was small and the pastor gone every other week to another church. The church members took turns presenting a sermon on the weeks the pastor was away. Though I usually played the piano for church I agreed to take a week to speak. It was not an occasion I was looking forward to. Occasionally I would have a panic attack while playing the piano and the music would suddenly seem as if I had never seen it before even though I had played it 100’s of times during the week. I always picked music I would be able to sight read should this happen. I also just wanted to hide under the piano bench. A little unrealistic maybe, but I certainly was willing to give it a try.
I am an introvert and as a child painfully shy. If you dug a hole to the bottom of a volcano you might begin to scratch the surface of my ‘painful shyness’. Before being asked to speak for church I had recently taken a college speech class and felt comfortable speaking in front of others. I was even approached by class mates and asked how I managed to look like I was having fun up there. But the experiences of my childhood over rode the realities of adult hood and about midweek before I was to speak for church I began to get anxious. I knew this feeling well as I would frequently get it before the weekends I played piano for church. It would start at the beginning of the week and build through out the week. I considered calling someone else and asking them to take my turn as I couldn’t do it. But, I hated to wash out on my commitment so I hoped for the best.
The big day arrived and I got up early. I went over my sermon notes…..as if I didn’t already know what they said. I was beyond anxious, I feared I would stand up front and open my mouth and no words would come out. Not being able to speak due to fear was an actual experience I had as a child going door to door for a school sales project. I knocked on the door and when the person answered I opened my mouth and not a word came out. The person was very kind and helpful and asked questions, but I was unable to answer. I didn’t quit though, I continued on and knocked on more doors and was able to speak after that.
Since I preferred success to failure, I decided to pray. I asked God to take away my fear. Nothing happened. I asked again. Still nothing. As a side note you should also know that not only was I painfully shy as a child I’m sure my parents considered me painfully stubborn as well. So not to be deterred by lack of an answer I thought maybe I just needed to change my approach. I thought of Elisha asking for twice the Spirit of God as Elijah had possessed and figured that since I am probably a little more fearful about public speaking than the average person that I would ask for twice the fear removal power of God than he usually gave other people. That didn’t work either. So I asked for three times as much. Still nothing! Five times as much. Still nothing. As I said before I’m not one to give up so I said, “Ok God, I realize that I am more fearful about public speaking than the average person, so what ever you do for other people to remove fear please 10x it or 20x it or whatever amount more than you do for other people, please do that for me.” It worked! The fear was gone. When I spoke that morning I’ve never had an experience before or since where I felt so “right” about what I was doing.
Do you think God isn’t answering your prayers? Keep on praying!
Do you think you can’t do what God is asking you to do because some personal problem is holding you back? If God is asking you to do something, He is not the one creating the fear that is holding you back.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13