Out of Focus
I didn’t realize I was having a panic attack until I couldn’t breathe. I felt my throat constrict as I tried desperately to remember how to control my inhales and exhales. The only thing that seemed to bring me back was saying the name of Jesus.
Anxiety is not something that is easily understood. I think that a lot of times, Christians simplify it by saying that anxiety is just a sign of a lack of faith. Even I was starting to wonder if my belief was strong enough.
However, my world-shaking experience that day was not just from a lack of faith. I finally realized that, at the root of my anxiety, I had somehow lost focus on God. I knew that I could trust Him, but He wasn’t at the forefront of my mind and heart in the way that Jesus should always be.
Sound familiar? It’s actually something the Apostle Peter experienced.
So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:29-30 NKJV)
Although most of us look at Peter’s rebuke for having a lack of faith, we often forget where this unbelief and fear actually originated. Peter lost his focus. Instead of looking toward Jesus as he took his steps on top of the violent waves, he got distracted by the storm around him.
I am a Peter sometimes. I step off of the boat and into some of the great things that God has called me to be a part of, and I forget to fix my eyes on Him.
I am so busy trying to be the “good girl” and please those around me, and do anything that I can to help and make up for my weaknesses. My intentions are good, maybe even noble, but they’re also deceptively self-destructive.
Now that I’ve made the decision to step back from a couple of things, I’ve found a small void that can now be filled by the presence of Jesus. I can let Him in even more.
Work is good. School is good. Ministry is good. But what happens when jobs, positions, and people become idols in our lives? What happens when they fall apart or are ripped away from us?
But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40-43 NKJV)
We can easily fall into the Martha trap of doing and serving (which is fine when done right). But when things stop going our way or become too much, we realize that what we really need is to focus on God and rest in His presence like Mary.
Falling apart or feeling anxious when life gets stressful does not make you a “bad Christian.” It makes you human. At least you’re stepping off of the boat.
Lovely reader, you don’t have to live this way permanently. Little by little, start fixing your eyes on Jesus. Put your time, thoughts, and energy on His unrelenting love.
Right now, I’m still learning to do this, but that’s okay. God is still walking with me, cheering me on. He is for me, and He is for you too (Romans 8:31)! Even in my moment of dire panic, He never left my side.
For now I’ll keep pressing in and reaching out to Jesus, trusting that my fears will keep fading, until they are no more.
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3 NKJV)
Thanks for reading! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
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I agree that it wasn’t his lack of faith but that his focus had shifted. When we keep our eyes on Jesus and the things he is specifically calling us to…we can “walk on water” Great post!
Thank you so much! I totally agree 😊
Thanks for sharing this, its an important topic to discuss! I am a mental health counselor and I treat anxiety daily. As a Christian I know a portion of this is a spiritual battle.
Hey there! Thanks for your comment 🙂 I want to become a professional counselor one day as well, so I agree with you that this is an important topic to discuss.
One thing that truly bothers me is when people want to blame downfalls, failures, shortcomings or really, any negative aspect of life, on “a lack of faith”. That is a despicable lie, and I hope you’re never tempted to believe it. As you point out so well, a lack of faith and losing focus are not the same thing at all. Romans 3:3 says, “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all!” And Romans 12: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” God gives a measure of faith to every man, but that doesn’t mean that we all have the same amount.
Faith is putting into practice what you believe. Peter believed that Jesus could hold him above the water — if he hadn’t believed it (lacked faith), he never would have stepped out of that boat. So it wasn’t a lack of faith that caused him to fall into the water. It was, as you said, that he stopped focusing on Jesus.
When my mom died, a pastor told my dad and I that it was our “lack of faith” that prevented her from living. That we didn’t believe hard enough. But let me tell you, no two people on the planet prayed harder and had more faith than we did during that time. Sometimes life just happens, and circumstances are out of our hands. Life is not supposed to be easy: This life is our punishment. Of course we’re going to face hardships and trials and persecution. From John 15: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” And “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” I don’t know where “Christians” get the idea that if we belong to God, then we’ll have great wealth, possessions and success in this life. I don’t believe that at all. I believe that in this life, we will face great suffering. But this is what I love most about your blog: You’re always reminding us that in the face of that suffering, we will survive as long as we hold on to Jesus. No matter the trials we face, we don’t have to face them alone. Jesus gives us strength, someone to hold on to, to lean on. And no matter how bad it gets, there’s nothing that can break us as long as we keep our eyes on Him.
Wendy, you are a treasure chest of wisdom! Thank you for your comment. Just like you said, at least Peter had the courage to step off of the boat. Even faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. It’s a growing process until we get to heaven, and of course, everything all depends on God’s will and timetable (which isn’t always ours). I’m sorry about your mom and what those people said. I think a lot of people mean well, but get insecure that perhaps God isn’t real or moving if they don’t see what they want to see. Of course, I could be wrong. We’re all flawed, and no one’s faith is yet perfect. Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement!