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What inspires you? Who inspires you?
For me, I’m most influenced by women who take risks:
Those who are bold in proclaiming their faith. Those who are authentic, vulnerable, and unapologetic about who God created them to be. They say yes, then figure out the path to success, relying on God and others to show them the way. They put up a hand to perfectionism, pleasing and performance. These are fearless women, who know it really isn’t about what they can do, but who they are. They may struggle with anxiety, but it doesn’t stop them from fulfilling their callings as servant leaders in Christ.
In my twenty years of experience training women, I’ve discovered that the number one threat to being an empowered woman of Kingdom influence is fear and anxiety. In fact, anxiety isn’t the exception in those on the front lines; it’s often the rule. But that doesn’t mean it has to rule your leadership. The good news is:
Anxiety doesn’t disqualify you. It’s not failure. It’s an opportunity to develop radical trust in God’s sovereignty and goodness, and powerfully influence others in your circle.
Let’s start by taking a closer look at fear, as fear and anxiety are slightly different. Pure fear relates to anything that could threaten life or limb . . . like a bear charging you in the woods (that happened to me!). Fear results in the life-saving reaction: fight, flight or freeze, depending on the situation. Anxiety is more like fear of fear. It’s an emotional state that relates to potential threats that go beyond life and limb to identity issues, approval, belonging, success, etc. It is defined as, “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” It shows up as a “what if?” mindset rooted in scary possibilities, oftentimes based on past experience.
“Anxiety is a daily statement to God saying, ‘I don’t think you have my best interest in mind.’” – Tim Keller
For your own life, what are your “what ifs?” What are those things keeping you from fulfilling your higher callings?
Worrying about what could happen can be paralyzing and is just where the enemy would love to have us all. Yet, leaders living on purpose for Christ are influential because they take action, even in uncertain or unpredictable circumstances and despite the enemy’s schemes to question themselves.
Faith is their foundation; not fear or anxiety.
However, many women struggle with anxiety on a daily basis. Let’s take a moment to look into the effects of chronic anxiety and some common sources of where it may come from.
1) Depletes Our Energy: It’s exhausting to maintain a defensive and vigilant posture, always waiting for the other shoe to drop, or simply trying not to feel.
2) Derails Our Minds, Making it Difficult to Believe God has our Best Interests in Mind.
How can you renew your mind if it’s held captive by your body’s emergency response system? We begin to define ourselves according to what we are afraid of, rather than our chosenness and callings. We have three enemies: the world, ourselves, and Satan. All three constantly attack our beliefs. Once doubt has a foothold, our empowered influence suffers a devastating blow.
3) Disrupts our Growth and Development. We stay stuck, which keeps us from fulfilling our callings. Our “what ifs” drive our decisions and inform our identity. Who you are becoming will, in large part, be determined by what you fear. Only faith can open us to all God has designed us to experience and who He has designed us to be. This requires a radical trust in His goodness and love, and belief that He knows what He’s doing. Even this isn’t enough without a crazy amount of Holy courage.
Now that we are able to identify how chronic anxiety might be impacting our lives, let’s try to get to the bottom of where the anxiety might be coming from.
3 Of The Most Common Sources of Anxiety That Drive Our Behavior Are:
1) Fear of Making Mistakes: Judgment. This results in perfectionism, doing anything and everything necessary to avoid criticism or failure. Vulnerability isn’t possible, so we end up living at a “safe” distance from God, ourselves and others.
What if someone doesn’t agree with me? Approve of my approach?
2) Fear of rejection: Abandonment. This results in an inauthentic life, where everything from emotions and gifting, to preferences and dreams, are suppressed. It sabotages your calling and becoming a woman of Kingdom Influence.
What if someone thinks I’m not qualified to lead? Not experienced enough? Not smart enough?
3) Fear of letting go or relaxing: Harm. This results in wearing self-protective armor in an effort to defend ourselves from being hurt. It manifests in vigilance and elevating what we can do (our callings) over who we are (our identity as a daughter of the King).
What if someone discovers I struggle with doubt? Anxiety? What if they learn I had an eating disorder?
Do any of these “causes” cause your heart to beat a little faster? If so, we want to challenge you to pause right now and sit with the Lord in it. Ask Him to speak into those areas of anxiety and to give it up to Him!
Romans 8:31-34 is a great reminder that even if we fail to measure up in the world’s eyes, God has our back:
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own? No one – for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself. Who then will condemn us? No one – for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” – Romans 8:31-34
Growing up, I disqualified myself from leadership roles and ministry because I wasn’t particularly adventuresome and struggled with social anxiety. I was an introvert living in a family of extroverts, all of whom loved stepping into challenging situations. I struggled with everything from parties to getting on an airplane. While they laughed and sang up the mountain to the ski slopes, I fretted we were going to slip off the road. I couldn’t hide my anxiety, as it often showed up as cold sores.
I quit a lot, lied a lot, and eventually developed an eating disorder to inadvertently deal with the physical, mental and emotional discomfort of living the stress of “life”. I also began to strive at becoming the “best” at whatever I did. Not only do people admire those who are good at things, the effort it took to excel absorbed a lot of my anxious energy. By my senior year in high school, I was voted “Best Athlete”, and honed in on running as a way to avoid my fears and define my identity. Of course, while an eating disorder and running can certainly address the symptoms of fear and anxiety, they don’t heal the cause.
At age 19, I was a freshman in college and my family underwent several crises back home, including the near-death of my older brother, and the murder of a classmate and close family friend. Through that first year away, a Bible course, and a lifelong pull toward all things Holy, I had an experience with Jesus on a walk alone in the darkness that healed me from my disorder and set me on a new path of deliverance and freedom. It was my “conversion”, but so much more. Something deep inside me shifted that didn’t remove the fear, but provided me with that necessary courage to start facing it with my Lord and Savior.
I’m 52 years old today and still learning to face my fears and work through them, but for the most part, I’ve said yes in response to God’s invitation to step boldly into new and sometimes threatening territory. The Holy Spirit has empowered me to step over my fears in many situations that require courage and conviction, including:
With all of that life experience, I am convinced that we can’t grow as servant leaders until we are willing to come close and step in to all that God asks despite our self-doubts and sweaty palms. In other words, do it anxious, ask for it anxious, forgive it anxious, pray for it anxious, and whatever else life and leadership demand. The point is, we have to DO IT AFRAID to experience God’s presence, guidance and deliverance.
Yet, even more powerful and true than encouraging you from my own personal life experience is doing so through the living Word of God. So listen to this:
“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity? Or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ Jesus who loved us.” – Romans 8:35-37
Even if you are risk averse and struggle with fear and anxiety, you can still override fear’s control over your life, because Jesus is your source of courage to overcome whatever you are facing and NOTHING will ever separate you from His love! Sometimes we ARE paralyzed by fear, and that’s ok, because we have a Rescuer who runs to us and finds us in our fear. Jesus is the hero of every story when we trust Him enough to have a supernatural perspective.
Psalm 34:4: God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears.
Sit with the Lord for a moment. What anxieties are living in your heart that He’s asking you to surrender to Him? What are two things you can look back on and see how the Spirit empowered you to move forward through fear? What is one step you can take today toward freedom and courage?
Katie Pearson is the owner and founder of Be New Ministries, which provides faith-based retreats, workshops, coaching and leadership development training for women. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines, publications and training programs. She is a Certified Professional Life Coach, has an M.A. in English Literature, and has trained yoga instructors for more than twenty years. Katie and her husband Kevin have two daughters in college, and live on Bainbridge Island, WA, where she was raised.
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