(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 4 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)
Remember that show Fear Factor? It's the game show/reality show where contestants confronted their deepest fears head on. Whether it was jumping from one tall building to the next or being trapped in a glass container full of bees, the contestants faced their fears. When I first read the title of Chapter 4, confronting your fears, I immediately thought of Fear Factor. Why shouldn't we be like these contestants and face our fears head on?
Joyce Meyer breaks fear down into seven different fears that we must confront and how to confront them. They are as follows:
1. Fear of What People Think
2. Fear of Criticism
3. Fear of Not Pleasing God
4. Fear of Making the Wrong Decision
5. Fear of Missing God
6. Fear of Change
7. Fear of Sacrifice
For me, my biggest fear to confront is Fear of What People Think. For some reason, this has always been an issue for me. I remember in elementary, middle and high school, being so obsessed with what others thought about me or my decisions that I rarely made the right ones. In fact, a lot of times I ended up hurting those who loved me the most and weren't judging me. I remember in college wanting to find that perfect guy but was so worried about what they would really think about me that I rarely let anyone know the real me. Luckily, I found the one who was willing to wait and was so supportive and comforting that it was easy to be me. Once we married, I worried what others would think if they overheard us arguing, or if he wasn't wearing his wedding ring what would our family think or worse yet, after we had twins I was constantly worried that others would see me as a bad mom. So, you can imagine the fears that went through me after our son was diagnosed with autism. Do people think it's my fault? Do the teachers see how hard I work with him? Does this old lady in the grocery store think I'm a bad mom because my son is screaming for ice cream?
This is one of the big things that autism has taught me....to let go of the fear of what other people think. It's taken me about 4 years, but I've almost kicked this fear out the door. I have to admit, when my son who is now 7 gets mad he screams. At home, behind closed doors where no one is watching, I can handle this like a pro. It doesn't bother me and honestly he gets over it in about 2 seconds. However, if we're out in public or even if our windows are open and someone just so happens to be walking by our home, it turns into a big struggle. Mainly because my fear of what others are thinking is clouding my judgement on how to help my son get through this.
Now I have to ask myself, where else am I letting my fear of what others think about me or my decisions get in the way for what I know is the right thing to do? Am I doing what God wants me to do or am I taking the safe route of what others around me want me to do? Whether it's a new therapy for my son, deciding whether to homeschool or send my kids to public school or even going to a neighborhood gathering....is this what God wants me to do or am I deciding this because I want to make others around me happy? Here's the one thing I need to remember, the only one I need to make happy is God. I want to do what He needs me to do, not what my neighbors, friends or even family want me to do. He's the one I want to make happy.
So, now back to the show Fear Factor. Now that I know that this is my biggest fear right now, I need to tackle this fear. I picture myself on stage with a sold out show. It's me on stage with my son. The seats are full and my son is having the biggest meltdown in the world. What do I do? Do I discipline him like you would every other 7 year like that guy in the front row is telling me to do? Do I hug him and tell him how much I love him and that everything is going to be ok like that Grandma in row two is saying. Or do I ignore the behavior so that I'm not reinforcing an inappropriate behavior like his therapists are telling me to do just to the right of the stage? What I need to do is stop and pray and listen for what God need me to do I need to know that the decisions I'm making are in line for what He wants. Not anyone else. I love how on page 47 Joyce references John 12:42-43...
"And yet (in spite of all this) many even of the leading men (the authorities and the nobles) believed and trusted in Him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that (if they should acknowledge Him) they would be expelled from the synagogue; for they loved the approval and the praise and the glory that come from men (instead of and) more than the glory that comes from God. (They valued their credit with men more than their credit with God.)
How many times do we do this today? It may not be us denying who God is, but how many times do we deny what He wants us to do? Not feeding the homeless guy on the corner, not reaching out to that mom at the playground who you can tell clearly has a child with autism or worse yet giving up on our own children because we think we're going to fail at helping them conquer autism. It's scary. Autism is a very scary world and no one ever said it wouldn't be. But the one thing we can count on with our children having autism, is that God is with us each and every step of the way. He'll help us meet all of our fears head on. Whether it's Fear of What People Think or Fear of Change, through Him, we can do it.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
I would like to add one more thing to this post, I love how Joyce included Helen Keller's story at the end of this chapter. I was highly encouraged by what Joyce wrote on page 59...
"One of the primary reasons Helen Keller never gave up on herself was that Anne Sullivan never gave up on her."
Joyce then writes how she encourages us to not give up on ourselves. Then at the end of the paragraph she writes "But I also want to make sure you remember to do everything you can to inspire others to persevere through their difficulties and overcome their challenges, just as you do."
My prayer for us all is that we never give up on our children. That we will never let any kind of fear stop us from breaking through what others see as an incurable situation.
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1