Categories
Christian Living

The upside of fear

Stupid spreadsheet.

Typically, I’m a pretty positive– upbeat — and self-confident person. I’m told I’m overly optimistic by my friends. But the past few weeks have brought about unfamiliar emotions. Negativity, melancholy, and anxiety. 

And since these are unfamiliar emotions I haven’t quite known how to respond. In situations where I’m typically chipper I’ve been quiet. In moments I typically shrug off bad news and instantly turn it into a positive I’ve been silent. I’ve been asked for ideas on things and just not had solutions where I normally have been so dependable.

It’s not that I don’t have stuff to say its that I think its time to be quiet and listen– I don’t want the wrong words to come out because of my emotional state so I just bit my tongue.

It all goes back to the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet brought out fear I’d never had before. And, like all fear, it’s illogical and stupid.

The Spreadsheet

As a small business owner my income and expenses are all captured on a master spreadsheet. This gives me a month-by-month look at my business, where my money is coming from and where it is going. (Very similar to a personal budget.) Heading into the summer my balance sheet was very strong for the rest of 2012… this summer we had some record breaking months and some projects coming this fall which could double, even triple what we made in the same months of 2011.

Then over the last few weeks I’ve had to revise some of some numbers down. At the same time I had to make these revisions we ran into a normal business cycle where I pay a lot of money out while I’m waiting for a lot of income to come in. (I call this cash poor, invoice rich.) When larger businesses hit these business cycles they take out short-term loans. But we’re small enough where we just float through these times with our savings.

But it was those normal revisions and that normal business cycle which brought out all of that funky emotional junk.

Factually speaking, the numbers aren’t even that bad. We will still make more than we need. We are totally fine. But the act of making those changes and seeing all that cash go out planted a seed of doubt in me which grew into fear. “What if the cash doesn’t come back?” “What if it gets worse?” “Why don’t I have ____ in savings for when this happens?” “Why don’t I have a line of credit at the bank in case to cover this better?” On and on and on.

This is what I know about fear: Fear will make you dumb. Fear whispers lies in your ears. Fear makes you say no to things you should say yes to and visa versa.

And all of that was true of me in August. Our last camping trip came at a perfect time. Just when I was thinking, “What am I going to do?” We went and looked at the stars and took hikes and laughed and giggled until bed time.

Those 4 days gave me the perspective I so desperately needed: We are totally fine. 

Sitting by the fire helped calm my nerves. It helped lower my anxiety. It reminded me that everything would be OK.

The Upside of Fear

Sitting in church the other day I think it all started to wash over me. Not all fear is bad. I’m afraid of what a spreadsheet says might happen in 3-4 months? Really? How could I be so stupid? Talk about a lack of perspective in light of all that I know about Our God! Talk about allowing emotions to rule over facts! Talk about putting your faith and trust in something really, really small!

Here’s my observation: The only good kind of fear is the kind which leads you to taking positive action. 

Photo credit: James Stark via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Categories
Christian Living

I choose hope

Recession? Here's the NASDAQ Index July 2, 2009 -July 2, 2011

Our culture loves despair. We ignore the facts and choose lamentation.

Listen to an hour of the news and you’ll hear how dangerous our country is. (Crime is down significantly over the past 30 years) You’ll hear how horrible the economy is. (The image above shows the NASDAQ Index the past two years.) Public school stink. (In fact, most major metropolitan school systems have seen test scores steadily increase over the past decade.)

Find a slow news and the media just goes back to the wheel of despair news stories that you love. Teen pregnancy, homelessness, violence in schools, date rape, sexting… you know the list. They go back to that wheel of despair because YOU LOVE THAT NEWS! Our culture is sick,  twisted, and upside down.

We love to point to examples of bad news and apply them to our entire culture. Gang violence up 2% in Chicago? People in Arizona will go buy a handgun, just in case it spreads. A school in the district is struggling? Pull financial support, start a private school, all the kids with means will go there.

We’re all going to hell in a handbasket and there’s nothing you can do about it. Armageddon is on the horizon, cope and deal baby!

That’s our culture of despair.

I reject despair for a posture of hope

I refuse to be defined, to think of myself, or to allow myself to be manipulated by an evil system which loves despair. Jesus did not die so I could live a life of despair. He subjected himself, even to death, so that I could live life to full. (John 10:10)

  • My project is faced with impossible odds? I like my odds of winning.
  • Life biggest challenges afoot? I smile at the opportunity.
  • Less than 5% of our neighborhood attends a church? Let’s get to work loving our neighbors.
  • One of my students lives in ruin because of bad decisions? Today can be the next chapter in an amazing story of redemption.
  • 1.5 million people left homeless after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince? Well, let’s feed this 5,000. It’s a start.
  • The church cut the budget, staff let go, initiatives put on ice? Time for some soft innovation.
  • Everything that could have gone wrong today did? Tomorrow is a new day. Let’s learn from this and move forward.

I choose to fear God alone and allow Him to have dominion over what He’s asked me to do. He’s not surprised by my circumstance. He’s never let me down. And He takes great pleasure when I put my faith and trust in Him despite the odds.

The only story Americans like more than despair? A comeback. Your comeback can begin right here and right now. But you have to put on hope. You have to wear it like a jacket. You have to allow hope to define you.

Hope goes beyond and attitude and a forced smile.

It is a posture I choose to carry in all areas.

If you don’t like hope. You won’t like me.

Join me. Reject despair.

Assume a posture of hope.