Whether it’s a spiritual attack, the creative stress of writing a book, a severe lycopene deficiency or a potpourri of all three, lately I’ve been having a hard time sleeping.
I’d be no means say I’m struggling with insomnia, but the last week has been a difficult one. Reflecting on it, I think there are a few contributing factors:
1. I’m writing a book.
When I asked people to tell me their story for my new book, more than 600 people responded. From around the world, some of the most amazing/heartbreaking/beautiful stories poured in about the tension we all face when crushed between a day job and a daydream, between doing what we feel called to do and doing what pays the bills. I feel an overwhelming burden to write this book. And as I’ve said before, the devil only attacks things that matter to the kingdom. So it might make sense that as I sit down to do what I feel led to do, I keep hearing this steady chorus, “Who are you to think you can do this? A 65 year old should write this book, not you. You’re woefully under qualified. Your first book was just a satire and ‘doesn’t count.’ This is a ‘real’ book. You’ll never do it.”
2. We’re trying to buy a house.
We sold our house in Atlanta, which was a tremendous blessing. Now we’re trying to buy one. It’s definitely one of those moments when, despite your age, you look up and say to your wife, “Hey, where are the adults? Seems like there should be some adults involved in this process. What’s that? We’re the adults? Oh no.” House inspections, negotiating closing costs, old roofs in 25-year-old houses, these are not fun things.
3. Sometimes I feel like I’m failing at blogging.
Not all time and not in a “lack of gratefulness” kind of way. When I wrote my other blog for a year that a handful of people read every day, I would have killed to have something like Stuff Christians Like. But the weird thing about blogging is that you’re never “done.” There’s always a different technology you could be using or a new platform all the smart people are on or a better post you should be writing. Plus, it’s so easy to measure yourself in a 1,000 self-esteem crushing ways. Just yesterday someone came in my office and said, “How come that guy’s Alexa rating is so much higher than yours?” So you start to compare and realize that other people are better at responding to Twitter conversations than you or have more followers or a million other things that make you feel like you’re not doing it “right.”
So the combination of those three pressures and a few others, has left me wracked with doubt and anxiety these last few nights. I roll around in bed like a dog turning circles 17 times before it sits down. I close my eyes and a failure parade that spans decades marches into my subconscious. Friendships I didn’t maintain. Opportunities I let slip through my hands. Commitments I broke. They all get loud.
In those moments, I often look for the one thing I can do that will “fix” things. Out of the tangle of fear I want to find a fix, to this feeling of failure. But in looking for the fix, I often miss the father.
I lose sight of what his love letter says about stress and panic and fear. There are countless verses, but one I come back to time and time again is 1 Peter 5:7. It says:
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
I love the word image I get from the idea of casting, but I often misinterpret it. I think of casting my fears on God like a deep-sea fisherman. From the 7 minutes I didn’t spend throwing up during my one deep sea fishing trip, I remember what it meant to cast in that context. You baited your hook, cast as far as you could and then waited. Some of the time we just had the lines dragging behind the boat while we moved to another spot. We waited until someone got a hit, then we’d jump into the chair and wrestle the fish in.
That’s how I’ve looked at casting my anxiety on the Lord. I do it once a day at best. It’s something I do in my quiet time in the morning and then maybe at night if something is really bothering me. It’s a singular event, like throwing out a deep sea fishing line.
But in the last few days, I’ve started to feel like I might be wrong about that. What if casting your anxiety is more like fly-fishing. Have you ever seen a fly fisherman? It’s a surprisingly active form of fishing. You have to keep your fly, or lure, in almost constant motion, tapping the water repeatedly in an attempt to attract a fish. The fly is no chunk of bait like in deep fishing either. It’s a delicately crafted, insanely detailed decoy that looks like any of a thousand different types of bugs. Fly fisherman are artists, with magnifying glasses and tweezers to craft their lures.
That is how I am with my worry. I am like a fly fisherman in the basement of my heart, slowly, obsessively working on the things I am worried about. I tie on new thread and different colors to my worries. My money concerns aren’t just about money, they reflect that I’m a bad husband or a bad father. My book sales thoughts are not just about book sales but actually about whether I’ll ever be considered a “real author,” a fictional creature I’ve created that always seems just out of reach.
And into that space, into my panic and tangle of worry, I am told to cast all my anxiety on God. Not like a deep-sea fisherman, throwing out one line and waiting. But more like a fly fisherman, constantly sending out line. Constantly giving up my fears and worries to the Lord. Not as a single act, but as a lifestyle of surrender. As a constant release to the Lord. Why?
The verse doesn’t say, “Cast all your anxiety on him because that’s what good Christians do.”
It says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
He loves us. He wants us casting all day.
Your job fears.
Your concern that it’s only January 5th and you’ve already blown your resolutions.
Your belief that it’s “too late” to do whatever it is you’re called to.
You will never exhaust God with your worries. You will never reach the end of his ability to hear or handle your fears. You will never disappoint him with the amount of times you cast your anxiety on him.
Because he cares for you, he cares for me, he cares for us!