I recently got back from a trip to Alabama for a week of prison ministry with my family. Wow! If you ever get the opportunity to minister in a prison, do it! We saw Jesus work in every corner of those prisons.
The second night, we got in the car and drove a half hour from where we were staying to a women’s work release prison. (Work release just means that some of the inmates can have an outside day job). As we pulled up, my heart sank. The prison looked dirty, dark, smelly . . . all the things I didn’t want to see or walk into. I had been dreading this prison all day. I had been dreading the whole week for months. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t even pretend I wanted to be there.
I spend hours each week dreading things.
I dread teaching the kids Bible study.
I dread my workout the next morning.
I dread having to tell a friend that I actually can’t come to the party when I thought I could.
It’s a physical, stomach-ache dread. I know it sounds dramatic, but I accept dread as part of my everyday. And that’s not okay.
That night at the prison, something happened that I can’t quite explain. All I know is that Jesus was there, and all of those women worshiped right along with us. There was no dividing line between us. We were sisters in Christ worshiping the same heavenly Father. God showed me that many of those precious women are much freer in spirit than millions of women on the outside who don’t know Jesus.
He showed me something else too: nothing is really worth dreading; all things can be used by God in our lives. This is a great reason to look forward to each new day with a “yay, what are you going to do today, God?!” mindset as opposed to an “ugh, I can’t wait for this day to be over” mindset that’s not uplifting anyone and does nothing to diminish the challenges of the day.
Dread Didn’t Overcome Daniel
A great example of this is Daniel. Daniel was a prisoner of the Babylonian king, taken from his hometown by force. He was chosen as a smart, good-looking guy to be sent to the king along with some other Israelites. His home was ruined. His life was in shambles. He was stuck and at the mercy of a pagan king. The king was even going to force him to eat Babylonian food.
I can’t speak for all of us, but I think I might have sat right down and pitched a fit. This is not the way this was supposed to happen. God didn’t even try to protect us. He Just walked away and now I’m stuck with these heathen Babylonians. I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE! THIS IS TERRIBLE! Anyone else feel like this might have been your response? But Daniel didn’t whine and cry and dread the days ahead. He looked at the situation and made the best of it. He didn’t fall down in a heap of despair. He knew God had his best interest at heart, so he got up, dusted off his backside, and didn’t allow his dread to get the best of him.
Three Questions for When Dread Sets In
Dread can’t be part of my daily routine anymore. It’s a waste of time, thoughts, and a “I know You say You’ve got it all under control, but I don’t believe it” right in God’s face. Whenever dread starts seeping in under the door of our minds, here are three questions to ask ourselves:
- What am I dreading?
Usually it’s something that’s not worth dreading, especially since God says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). “Them” was the enemy army in Deuteronomy, but doesn’t dread act like an enemy army sometimes? Surrounding you on every side, always coming closer, always ready to attack? When God is on our side, nothing is worth dreading.
- Why am I dreading it?
Dread and anxiety can easily be rationalized in our minds, but if we really ask ourselves why we’re dreading something, it’s usually simple: we’re uncomfortable, nervous, or scared about something. Yet God has our best interest at heart, and we can’t go through anything apart from His will.
- Can God handle this?
There’s an obvious answer for this question: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).
Catch that? Not only is God able to do more than we could ever imagine, but the power that raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11). Lives. In. Us.
We don’t have to be captive to dread anymore. God calls us to a life of freedom, hope, and joy. So let’s go live it.
I’d love to talk in the comments!
- Have you struggled with dread and worry?
- How has God helped you through it?