Anxiety, Depression, Fear, School, Work, Worry

Anna’s Story: Fearing the Future and Finding Meaning

I have always struggled with fear, particularly fear of the future and the unknown. When making important decisions, I am often troubled by the fact that I cannot see what lies ahead or control what happens. I have spent a lot of time overthinking, second-guessing myself, and procrastinating because I am too afraid to commit to a decision without being able to know the outcome.

This fear hit me hardest several years ago when, after studying for two years at community college following high school, I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, or even what my next academic step should be. I decided to take time off from school, telling myself I would use the time to save up money, evaluate my options, and brainstorm my next steps. But, I was really just stalling. I ended up ignoring the problem—working two jobs, keeping myself busy and distracted. But, of course, ignoring problems doesn’t make them disappear.

When things eventually slowed down, I found myself with a lot of free time with which to reflect on my life. All the fears I had been suppressing descended on me again. I realized that I was unhappy with my life, but I didn’t know how to change it. I was stuck, paralyzed by the fear that whatever choice I made about my future would be the wrong one, that my own failing would just make me more miserable in the end.

The more I floundered, the deeper I fell into a depression that marks one of the lowest points in my life. I began to feel worthless, thinking that my life had no purpose or meaning. I began to dread catching up with friends and family members who wanted updates about my life; I was embarrassed and angry with myself that I still couldn’t figure out what to do. I isolated myself, and in my isolation a new fear took hold of my heart: the fear that I would never make anything of my life and die with nothing to show for my time spent on earth.

Lord of the future

I have to remember that God is in control (Psalm 139). He created me and knows everything about me. His knowledge is infinite, as is His love for me, and there is nothing that can happen to me outside of His design. I can make plans and decisions, but it is God who controls the outcome, as said in Proverbs 16:9: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

My future is in God’s hands (Jeremiah 29:11), and that is the best place that it can be. No matter what my circumstances are, I can trust that He is loving and good, and will never leave me alone in my fears and struggles. I am reminded of Deuteronomy 31:8, which says, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Looking inward for answers

In my sin, I allowed my fear to control me and take the place of God in my heart, attempting to use work, hobbies, and even sleep as escapes, rather than bringing my fears before the Lord and trusting Him with my future. I placed my sense of purpose in my future career; therefore, my indecision and hesitancy regarding my career left me feeling empty. I needed to “set [my] mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

My pride caused me to look inward for answers, neglect the Bible, and fail to seek counsel or support from others. In idolizing my career, I assumed that something I could do would give my life meaning. But, relying on myself only made me aware of how weak and incapable I was, and I felt hopeless and lost. I wasn’t abiding in God, and apart from him I can do nothing (John 15:5).

When I was praying about my problems, I asked God for direction; but what I really wanted was an epiphany—for Him to just show me explicitly what my future would hold and tell me specifically what to do. But even then, I knew that this is not how God answers prayer. So, when I asked God for help, I was asking without actually believing that He would help me (James 1:5-8).

A future secured in Christ

Even in the midst of my sin, unbelief, and faithlessness, Jesus never left me or never stopped loving me. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). Jesus gave His life for me even though I didn’t deserve it, and He never neglected me even when I neglected Him (Romans 5:8).

My future is secure in Christ (Ephesians 1:11-13). I do not have to accomplish anything in order for God to see me as worthy. In fact, there is nothing I can do to achieve worthiness in His eyes. But, I have already been made worthy to enter God’s presence by the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-10). I may not be able to see what lies ahead next on my road, but because of Christ’s work on the cross, I know exactly what awaits me at the end of it.

Faith in the future

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I don’t have to face my fears alone. God wants me to bring my cares and anxiety before Him, and offers me peace when I put my faith and trust in Him (1 Peter 5:6-7).

If I ask God for wisdom with a believing heart, He generously offers it, providing me with guidance to make decisions that will honor Him (James 1:5-6).

Even though I can’t see the future, I can rest assured that God’s purpose will be fulfilled in all things. Even if I make a mistake, or my decisions don’t turn out the way I want them to, God can redeem any situation and, in His goodness, often uses my trials to draw me closer to Him.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

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