March 17, 2016
By Matt Morrison
There I was, sitting in Terminal E of DFW International Airport, just minutes from my first of three flights. While everyone around me would be at their final destinations in a matter of hours, I wouldn’t arrive in Romania until the following evening.
I love to travel, but I met this particular trip with an even mixture of excitement and dread. As soon as I got the invitation to join this September 2014 medical mission, I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that God wanted me to do it. But I also knew this would mean coming face-to-face with the ultimate thorn in my flesh – my anxiety disorder.
Being so far away from friends and family, leaving United States sovereign borders, travelling with mostly strangers – these were all well outside the comfort zone of this avid indoorsman. And with an anxiety disorder, I really didn’t need reason to be nervous in the first place. I could trust my wonderful brain to go into freak-out mode all on its own. And that it did.
Just 30 minutes before boarding, I felt all the telltale signs of a panic attack coming on – racing heart, rapid breathing, clammy hands, and the general feeling that I would soon jump out of my skin. It all hit within minutes. By God’s grace, I managed to keep my composure, board the plane, and wave Texas goodbye for 11 days.
MISSION TRIPS ARE SCARY
Let’s face it. Mission trips are scary. Just the thought of leaving the country puts some people in a panic. That’s to say nothing of the fear that comes from sharing your faith, spending time in unknown places, or crossing cultural boundaries.
Whether you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder or not, mission trips will take you far outside your comfort zone, linguistic preferences, sense of control, and physical limits. Right here on this website, it’s remarkably easy to find a trip and click the giant “Apply” button. But it’s the journey on the other side that often keeps us from acting when we know God is calling us to do it.
And it’s not just true of mission trips. I belong to a notoriously commitaphobic generation, plagued by indecision when it comes to even the smallest choices. Picking an apartment, deciding where to attend graduate school, or selecting a career are all choices often crippled by anxiety of the unknown.
THE TRUTH ABOUT FEAR
A great theologian once wrote, “Fear, not doubt, is the opposite of faith.” Just as darkness is the absence of light, so fear is the absence of faith. It comes from a lack of certainty that God knows what he is doing. As a result, we obsess over the endless details we can’t control. We get bogged down in these worries when God is calling us to something significant, ultimately causing us to miss out.
In the months leading up to my expedition to Romania, I incessantly checked every detail of the trip. Though it was all arranged for me, I checked out the airfare, the lodging arrangements, and the environment around the city. I even found the websites of the airports so I knew what to expect when we landed, as if knowing these things would somehow mean I could control them. The time spent doing this only distracted me from preparing for the purpose of this trip – seeing four unreached towns engaged with the Gospel while meeting their medical needs.
When fear takes over and threatens to stand in the way of obedience to Christ, we must remember a critical truth – fear doesn’t come from God. Paul reminds us of this in Romans 8:15, “ For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!”
In other words, that crippling anxiety, endless questioning, and paralyzing indecision that prevents you from acting is not something God desires for your life. Fear isn’t a spiritual gift. It isn’t part of your heart’s design. It’s a lie the enemy feeds straight into your soul. It’s a neutralizing weapon that keeps you from hearing and obeying God’s will for your life.
This is so critical to remember. Whether it’s a mission trip, a new career opportunity, or a commitment you’re facing, the God who is calling you is tremendously bigger, stronger, and more powerful than the doubts, questions, and “what ifs” swirling in your heart. And when you actually step out in faith, something else remarkable eventually takes over – peace.
When I finally landed in Bucharest the next day, I was overwhelmed with a sense of rest. In our 7,000 miles of travel, we were no longer strangers on a plane together. We were a team. After a good night’s sleep, I woke up in my hotel room the next morning to the sounds of church bells and the crisp Autumn air. Less than 24 hours in, I had forgotten I was even nervous anymore. I was too busy falling in love with the people, the culture, and my surroundings.
In that entire week, I never experienced another panic attack. Instead, I took on each day with a sense of purpose, excitement, and peace. Being in the center of God’s will made me feel more alive than I had felt in years. Despite the exhaustion, my butchering of the Romanian language, and the difficult cultural rifts that had to be navigated, it was easy to see his hands in the middle of it all. As I stepped out, he provided the mental stability I needed to make it through the task.
Whenever God calls you out of your comfort zone, fear will ultimately rear its ugly head. Just expect it. In fact, it’s a good sign you’re in exactly the right place. Whether it’s the decision to uproot your life, ask her to marry you, accept a new job, or even just get on a plane for a week, don’t let it keep you from experiencing the joy of being in his will. Ask the Prince of Peace to step in and overwhelm your heart.
Ready to take a leap of faith? Visit www.e3partners.org/missions to find your trip and get started.