I have a phobia of standing in front of people for long periods of time. It’s a different version of the public speaking phobia. In fact, I am less nervous about speaking in front of people than I am about standing there with no particular task to do. So when my friend John Creger asked me to be a groomsman in his wedding, this fear was the first thing that crossed my mind. The idea of me passing out in front of a crowd of strangers replayed in my mind and made me consider lame excuses to turn down the opportunity. I agreed to be a groomsman, but I endured pre-wedding anxiety that most grooms would endure. We took the “wedding pictures” before the ceremony to make the transition to the reception quicker, which resulted in some visual evidence that I was nervous by my forced smiles. Those forced smile photos are nowhere to be found(good), but below is my best pre-wedding smile and me seating John's mother with my wedding face.
The good news is I was a part of that wedding in front of 250 people in the middle of the field of the mountains, and before I knew it the pastor was saying, “You may now kiss the bride.” I did not pass out or have to find an escape route. In fact, I actually felt pretty strong and could have stood there for another 10 minutes. The calm and strength I had were no accident. Prayer to God helped me through this. The bridesmaid whom I was paired with was equally nervous as I (she also had to sing), and as we walked back down the aisle she leaned towards me and said “I didn’t throw up!”
Nervousness and imagining the worst can really rule your mind. As one friend said to me “Worry is a thief and a liar.” I know I’m not the only one who deals with these thoughts, especially in relation to weddings. But I’ve wondered about cures for worry and also the phobias/fears that all of us rarely speak of. I found a note in my planner from a few months back with the question: “Does God heal phobias?” I believe the answer to this question is “Yes, and He is eager to help.”
The Bible commands that the Christian not worry. Did you know that? Within Christian culture today we have a mental list of sins that we are to avoid, but worry is often neglected for some reason. I’ve begun to think that the consequence of worry is a life characterized by fear or uneasiness. Thankfully the Bible has a game-plan for overcoming worry.
One verse that helped me deal with being nervous about the wedding was this one: “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” (Philippians 4:6). In saying that we should not be anxious about anything, we are told to bring everything worrisome to God in prayer. To overcome worry we need to have an open line of communication with God about our worries. The night before the wedding, I had this tight feeling in my stomach. I began to ask God to give me a clear mind the following day and to get a good night’s rest. In a sense, praying helps understand the reality of God’s intervention in our lives, as if we are reminding ourselves that this is a reality. To some this might sound like a lot of mental work, but it is no more mental headwork than having your mind imagine potential (silly and real) tragedies. As Christians we do not ignore fear and worry, rather we make a habit of prayer.
In the scope of world problems and the serious things of life, fear of passing out at a wedding is tiny. If it happened, it would probably be funny. However, I use this story as an example of how God answering my small prayers builds my faith for weighty matters. Submitting our worries is an opportunity for us to trust in God. I did not pass out during this wedding, which was my primary prayer. But even better, I had a great time at the reception, in which I was totally at ease. I even danced to two or three songs. I stopped dancing because there was one middle aged professional looking man who was sitting at a table by himself, who looked like he thought my improvised dance moves were weak.
I think the final part of this process is the peace of God. The next verse in Philippians 4 says “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Through Christ Jesus, the peace of God will guard our minds and our hearts. This seems to be the place that God wants us to be, trusting Him and experiencing peace.
When I think of the peaceful life, I imagine myself moving somewhere in the Western part of the state, buying a mountain house, and kayaking on Nantahala Lake. This is my definition of refreshing myself through time in the outdoors. I am sure many Americans would describe a similar experience of escaping worry and gaining peace.
However, it seems to me that peace of God that we read about in Philippians, that God provides supernaturally, is much more powerful and lasting than something we seek from a vacation. I will always go hiking in the woods, always. I hope to have a mountain house one day. But it seems to me that the cure for the mental pressures and complexities that we battle with is not more vacation time (although that would do us good), but a prayer life that lets God know about the details of life. Rather than providing with a kind of escapism, prayer helps us deal with things head on.