It was a snowy February day when I took a break from work to eat some lunch. After a few bites, I knew something was wrong. The result was that two days later I had an emergency tooth extraction—-just 24 hours before we had to leave for a ministry trip. Before I go any further, I need to clarify: This was the easiest, most pain-free dental procedure I’ve ever had. God was extremely faithful and allowed there to be no swelling, I never got black and blue, and I honestly never had any pain. Unfortunately, what I did take away from this experience was a bucket load of fear. Even though looking back I can see that God gave me tremendous grace, I have to admit that in the days following the surgery I became very, very afraid of God. Maybe it was because it was all so unexpected. Perhaps it was because the procedure took place while I was already struggling with another physical issue. I’m not sure why. All I know is that in the days that followed I found myself struggling with an overwhelming fear that questioned, “If God let this happen, what is He going to let happen next?” Day after day I’d awake to the voice of fear and an overwhelming sense of sadness. Whenever I tried to pray about it, I felt myself keeping God at arms length—-not sure that I could trust Him. Meanwhile, I was cranky, sad, and basically an emotional wreck as I was worrying about everything—-every little physical issue, financial issues, and all of the “what if’s” of life. The truth was that even though the actual dental procedure was no big deal, the enemy used this trauma to assault a major spiritual attack. Rather than fighting back, I was letting him win. Until enough became enough. It was about ten days after the surgery when I once again woke up crying. Being extremely patient, my brother listened to me share all of my fears, but he didn’t entertain them. Instead, he spoke the truth I needed to hear. It was time for me to make a choice: I could continue being angry with God, listening to the lies of fear and letting them control my life or I could choose to once again talk to God and hash this thing out. That afternoon, I made the choice I’d made so many times before: I chose to talk to God and forgive Him for letting me experience something that I didn’t want to go through. My prayer went something like: “Heavenly Father, You and I both know that I don’t like that You let this happen. We both know that it’s left me feeling fragile…breakable….and reminded me that anything can happen at anytime. We both know that I’m afraid of what You’ll let happen next…. And yet today, I’m making a choice. I’m choosing that I want to love You no matter what. I’m choosing that I want to serve you no matter what.
I’m choosing that I want to trust You even though you allowed this to happen. I’m choosing that I want You to control my life instead of fear. I’m choosing to maintain our relationship even though I’m afraid. Even though I don’t seem to be able to avoid feeling fear, I’m making the choice that I’m not going to follow my feelings. Instead, I am following You. Please help me to overcome my fears and get on with my life.” You know, it’s a funny thing—-this is not the first time I’ve prayed a prayer like this. No, I’ve had to pray similar prayers many times throughout my life as I’ve faced far larger obstacles than oral surgery. When I came home after college, and couldn’t find a ministry position…. ….when my Dad was spiraling out of control and my Mom and I were faced with abuse…. ….through countless genuine physical issues that couldn’t be resolved with a small procedure… ….when my Mom passed away and through broken hearts we had to start life over again…. ….when we had no idea how we would survive financially…. Through more times than I can list, I’ve found myself once again choosing to enter the on-ramp of surrender and saying, “No matter what, I want to love You, I want Your will for my life, and I want to follow You and serve You.” Through this dental experience, I was once again reminded that trusting God is about choices. Even if we struggle to choose how we feel, but we can choose to follow God instead of our feelings.
In the days just following my tooth extraction, I FELT like I couldn’t trust God. I FELT like I just pull away from God. I FELT like everything was too overwhelming. The CHOICE I had to make was to reject my FEELINGS and CHOOSE a different path. I CHOSE to trust. I CHOSE to draw closer and share my heart with God. I CHOSE to follow God even through the fear. Every day this is a CHOICE that I CHOOSE to make. Honestly, I believe that this CHOICE is one of the essential keys to finding our passion, our place and our purpose. Because here’s a hard truth: life isn’t always going to go the way we plan. From minor disappointments to major heartbreaks, life is filled with unexpected detours and painful reroutes. And yet, on each road we are given a choice. Will we follow the voice of fear and heartache that wants to lead us away from God and His will for our lives or will we choose to continually reenter the road of surrender and say, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back?” Today I don’t know what heartache you are facing. You may be reading this and thinking, “Way to overreact to a little issue, ‘Des, I have a real problem.” I understand, I’ve been there, too. And yet, through the hardest times in my life, I know that choosing to stay close to Jesus, to trust Him, and to continue following Him has made ALL the difference. Perhaps that’s why I know it is the only road I want to be on and the choice I want to make through this and every trial of life. Today, no matter what you are going through I want to encourage you to CHOOSE to trust God. CHOOSE to stay close to Jesus when fear tells you to “Run!”. CHOOSE to follow the truth in God’s Word rather than the fear that is attacking your mind. Be honest with God. Tell Him exactly how you feel. But in the end, CHOOSE to follow Him rather than your feelings. Remember that no matter what lies your feelings are telling you that GOD LOVES YOU. He is there for you. He will always be there no matter what. Don’t allow your fears or your feelings to pull you away from Him, but rather CHOOSE to run to Him with both. I’ve done it before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. Every time it is the best choice we can make.