As a child, my mother did not let me learn to swim, skate, or ride a bicycle. She would say that it was too dangerous. I never caught on that my older sister was allowed to learn all of these things, and she was just fine. But, because I believed my mother, I could be found somewhere with a book to read, a very safe endeavor. So I learned to worry early in life, and to ask, “What if somethings goes bad?” in regards to everything. It meant that I never took a risk at all. Spring forward to adulthood, and if you think the fears and worries of childhood will leave without effort on our part, then you would be wrong, like I was.
I decided when I was in my early 30s to learn to drive. Let me say from the outset that it did not go well. After about three or four lessons, the instructor decided that I was ready to learn how to get on and off the interstate. I ended up on I-285 in Atlanta, driving at about 60 miles per hour, with a very impatient tractor-trailer driver behind me who was blowing his horn and flicking his high beams, when I started to hyperventilate. I was so scared and nervous that I was just barely holding on to consciousness. Mama was right! Taking a risk can get you killed! I told the instructor that he could drive now, because I did not want to learn to drive after all.
He started screaming at me to “put your foot down on the pedal and get us out of here!” To say he was terrified is an understatement! But yelling at me made it worse, and I lost consciousness while driving! When I regained consciousness, we were parked near a gas station, and he was on the phone telling his wife how much he loved her and how he thought he would never see her again. When he came back to the car, he said to me, “Some people were not meant to be drivers, and you are one of them!” So for twenty or more years, I never tried again to drive.
When I married, my then-husband would say, “Gina, you are too nervous to drive.” So, every time someone would ask me why I did not drive, I would say that I was too nervous, too scared, or what if I kill somebody. Then, I went through a divorce, and for the first time in my adult life I lived alone, having endured much physical and emotional abuse because I was afraid of everything. Alone in my home, I worried about everything possible, from burglars to burst pipes, and from losing my job to losing my life. Then one night as I read Matthew 6, God opened my eyes, and I realized that if I truly had faith in God that I could overcome my tendency to worry.
In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus addresses the issue of worry with his disciples. He told them that they should not worry about everyday life like unbelievers do, such as whether you will have food or clothes, for God knew their needs. He said to them in verses 31-34, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
As I read these words, I realized that my worrying was not making my life better, and that I was missing out on many wonderful life experiences because I was too scared to drive or even go out at night. My faith in God grew as I read Scriptures and believed that truly the promises of God made to others pertained to me, too. In Joshua 1:9, God assured Joshua, “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” And in Philippians 4:6, Paul states, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
For my 50th birthday, my gift to myself was driving lessons! I put my faith to the test, because either you believe God’s words or you don’t, and if you do, then your actions should demonstrate faith. When I got my driving license, I was ecstatic! I bought myself a brand-new, red, sexy, Kia Rio! I went everywhere, and I stayed as long as I wanted! What freedom! My children were happy, too, for they did not have to schedule their lives around my need for transportation. When people wondered how I overcame my fears, I told them in one phrase: Faith in God.
Today, I drive myself to work, the gym, church, and everywhere else. I find myself talking to God in my car, and saying, “Who would have thought that I would learn to drive! Nobody but you, Lord! Thank you for the ability to drive! I know that your angels are driving with me and for me.” It was not easy to learn to let go and trust God, and, yes, I tend to still worry when I first encounter a problem. But, then I remember to give it to Jesus, for 1 Peter 5:7 states, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
I am a reformed worrier! I have learned the truth of Matthew 6:27, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Instead, worry takes away from our lives. I have suffered from panic attacks and anxiety for much of my life, so I can testify that worry will damage your health and reduce your faith in God. It renders God small, and He is not small by any measure! Don’t let your life be less than God planned it to be because of the worries of this life. Pray about the problem, let God know you trust Him to handle it, and then do your best to wait patiently for His answer, in whatever form it comes, for it may not be the answer you expect. But take it from this old worrywart, God loves you and me! He will not forsake or abandon you or me! That hope keeps me free to enjoy life to the fullest.
It was not easy, but I finally heard You, and I was able to let go and put my trust in You. I could not have my job today and I would never have seen so much of the world, if I had not come to trust you. I am not perfect at this, as You very well know. I still worry, until You touch my heart to remember what you have already done for me. Then, I am fine. Lord, I pray for all the people who are suffering the aftermath of the natural disasters of the last few weeks. Please, provide shelter, food, water, and all other needs for them. Touch the hearts of Your people to give so others may experience Your love and care. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayers. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.