How I eliminate fear of the unknown, when I can

14 Mar

I’m a skeptic by nature. If I don’t understand something, I tend to shun it completely. For example, when I was younger, I did not understand anything about eschatology. It was such a complicated subject that I ignored it for the most part as most ministers do. Lately, I’ve been working to educate myself in the subject a little at a time. We find a sense of comfort in the things we understand and about which we have a bank of knowledge.

Almost half of US citizens don’t pay their taxes. Could it be that there is such a fear of the over-complicated tax code that keeps them from filing? There is an innate fear among the citizenry that the IRS is out to get them and devour their gains (which is mainly true). So, instead of forging ahead, they sit paralyzed by a lack of knowledge and understanding.

The things that paralyze us the most are the things we least understand. Certainly, there are things we will never understand that are completely in God’s control. I’m mainly referring to the things that are within our reach and control that can be learned and understood with a little bit of time and effort.

Why are we paralyzed with some tasks, while enthusiastic and productive with other tasks? I believe the answer to that question is education. I’m a bit proponent of structured institutional education, but not if its for the sake of just getting a degree. Education should always lead to understanding. Most of the time it leads to knowledge and stops. Understanding is when fact and reality come together in a sensical schema. A true test of understanding is polished application. If you can take knowledge and apply it to real life, you probably have a good understanding of the subject.

Knowledge is useless without understanding. My son knew the stove was hot and he was forbidden to touch it, but he did not understand it until he disobeyed and touched it. Now, he has a 360 degree comprehension of the matter because it was practically applied.

When I find a subject matter of which I have a lack of understanding, I find myself in a mental paralysis of not knowing what to do next. Left untamed, this can bleed into other areas of life and cause stress and anxiety. There are a few steps I take to get out of this trap of the unknown.

  1. Prayer – My father taught me an important lesson at a young age while we were fixing his car. He had come to the end of the road with his knowledge of the issue and with greasy hands and arms, he bent over the engine block of that car and prayed for understanding. Within minutes, a light bulb came on his head and shortly thereafter the car was fixed. God is the source of all knowledge and many times he has given me understanding in time of need. However, there are times we must put our shoulder to the wheel per se, stop being lazy, and use the brain God has given us.
  2. Reading – Barnes and Noble is your college. I learned graphic design, programming, photography, and much more by reading and reading and reading more at book stores. If I don’t understand a subject, I will find a quiet spot in B&N and absorb as much as possible from several books on the topic. This gives me the knowledge and power to attack the subject. The Internet also is a good place to find educational material (be choosy as much of it is not quality).
  3. Consulting with experts – If a subject is too complicated to learn (IRS tax code) and won’t be beneficial to the long-term, I don’t waste my time. I search out an expert in the field and let them take care of the issue. We can’t possibly learn everything in life, that’s why God created us to be different from everyone else. There’s a good chance someone’s passion for understanding is in the area that paralyzes you. Go find them and ask a ton of questions. The most qualified answers might come from the source of the dilema (call customer service).I find insurance to be frightening. This past week, I had the task of finding health insurance for my two sons. I had procrastinated for weeks because I knew nothing about it. Finally, I called my current insurance agent and started asking questions. Within ten minutes my mind was at ease and I had a game plan. I still don’t know everything about insurance, but I built trust in an expert who gave me honest answers (that I double checked with others as well).
  4. Communication – Sometimes solving a problem or tackling an issue is simpler than finding an expert. It might involve a simple phone call that you’re scared of making. Say you have an outstanding debt or a broken friendship. There’s no way to solve these issues without communication. No knowledge or understanding will help if there isn’t a flow of information between parties. If you’re paralyzed by a communication problem, stop procrastinating and communicate. If your team has no direction, communicate. If you want to build stronger friendships, communicate. If you want to make a payment plan for an outstanding debt, communicate.

How does this relate to church? Think about the things that paralyze your progress either as a lay worker or minister. Why is your church communication strategy still reminiscent of carrier pigeon days? What are you not improving in your ministry simply because you are scared to try? How much more effective could your congregation be if you would make the effort to learn about the thing that hinders the body most (Organization, finances, planning, leadership, technology, etc…)?

Stop procrastinating, start learning and eliminate the fear of the unknown. If you can’t learn and understand it with any of the methods above, then pray for peace of mind and let God handle it.


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