Learning to Pray My Fears (and Phobias)

Living with fear is something that everyone who lives in the world must do; but praying our fears is the privelege of God’s people. All through the Bible, you will find the prayers of people dealing with fear: Moses, Elijah, David, even Jesus.

Especially Jesus. 

His prayer in Gethsemane before the crucifixion is the prime example of how faith prays while in deep fear.

I soon found it was the only way I could pray about my fears, too.


In two of my most recent posts I was trying to start dealing with, and praying, my fear of back surgery. I have always had a phobia about being cut, sliced or stabbed. I still turn white as a sheet whenever I’m in the same room as a blood test needle. And I’ve always thought of back surgery as the kind of thing that never leaves you normal again.

When Your Surgeon Looks Disappointed was my response to the news that the emergency surgery I had on October 2nd wasn’t enough to fix my back and leg pain. At that time, I only wanted to hope I was “dreaming in slo-mo, or that a genius doctor will find the reboot switch, or that God will grant me a long and active life.”

What Faith Looks Like When You’re Afraid was my response to the news that my L4 and L5 vertebrae needed to be fused together, complete with bone graft and titanium screws. By this time, I was really trying to get past the “I don’t want this. I don’t want this. I don’t want this” stage.


The more I prayed, and the more I bathed myself in Scripture (I have a lot of time on my hands now), the more I found I could only pray one way about my fears: like Jesus did.

The words just can’t help being said:

 Father, heal me. Father, deliver me. But if not, Your will be done.

I couldn’t help praying them because although I know God’s power, I have to constantly learn to trust His kindness toward me.

The central issue when praying our fear is trust—pure, simple, relational trust. God comes to us as Father, and is constantly working in us both to challenge and deepen the quality of our trust in Him, and to re-demonstrate His trustworthiness to us.

The Bible is pretty clear that everyone, Christ’s followers included, will suffer in this life. Pain, misery, anxiety, fear and death are universal. But Scripture is equally clear that God has promised an eternal reward to those who trust Him, a reward that is beyond comparing with our present suffering.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.—Romans 8:18, ESV



I’m happy to share that a more conservative surgery (discectomy on L3) is planned for tomorrow instead of the previously planned L4-L5 fusion. After getting a second opinion, it seems probable that the discectomy will relieve my pain. The fusion may not be necessary… yet.

This takes a big relief off my shoulders. For now.

I don’t know where this road will end. I hope I’ll be completely repaired and able to re-engage my active life. But, Your will be done.

I hope this will be the last surgery on my back and that I’ll never need the fusion. But, Your will be done.

I hope I can return to a job I love and complete a kitchen for the love of my life. But, Your will be done.

You know what this means don’t you?—It means this fearful journey through (what is, to me) a valley of the shadow of death, is a test of my trust that belonging to God, my God, is worth all pains and fears.

Is He worth it? Your will be done.

Will He take care of me? Your will be done.

Can I trust Him with my life and death? Your will be done.

Will He comfort me in my pain and my fear? Your will be done.

Will I experience His peace when I’m afraid? Your will be done.


To those of you who face roads that infinitely darker and longer than mine (just an hour ago I heard that a friend of mine is having emergency brain surgery today!!), I commend you to Jesus, to His work for you on the cross, to His prayers for you. And I hope you are learning, like average me, to prayer like Him too.

Grace to you,



What Faith Looks Like When You’re Afraid

The thing I dread most has come upon me and, I’m afraid.

Since mid-February of this year, I’ve been dealing unsuccessfully with lower back pain. I ignored it for a little while and continued to run and lift weights. One of my joys in life is meeting friends to run 10-14 miles on Saturday morning, followed by Starbucks.  When the pain got worse, I stopped all exercising and dabbled with things I’ve never done before: Seeing a chiropractor (twice) and an accupuncturist (once).

By Memorial Day weekend, I could barely walk more than a few steps at a time. I finally went to see my doctor. He’s conservative like me, and recommended trying physical therapy first. If that didn’t work, he would send me to a physiatrist to get epidural cortisone injections. Last resort: Surgery.

Three weeks of physical therapy did nothing for me. So, on I went to the Physiatrist. He ordered an MRI which revealed two herniated discs, one not-so-bad, the other really bad. My first round of coritsone injections was pretty effective at reducing my pain (procedure #1).

But, by August, the cortisone effectivenees abruptly stopped after 4 weeks. I delayed for a few weeks, and finally decided I had to give it a second go (procedure #2). This time, the effectiveness was almost nil.

Still no running. No weight lifting. But, I was building kitchen cabinets, using a stool in my workshop whenever it was too painful to stand.

Again, I delayed getting a third cortisone injection. But, by late September, I could no longer manage things. I went to see my doctor on September 30th for his advice and to get pain medication. He referred me to a surgeon, and gave me a pain prescription, the first in this months-long ordeal.

I went home and took a pill. I felt better for a little while. But that night everything fell off the cliff. I was delirious with pain, even with Percocet in my system. Dawn had to take over.

At 1 am on October 1st, two EMTs carried me out of my house, put me in an ambulance and brought me to Northside Forsythe Hospital. The ER Staff put something strong in me via IV to calm me down, and ordered another MRI. This time, things looked worse.

They admitted me immediately. The next day they operated  (procedure #3) to remove the material that had leaked out of my L4 disc and was pressing on my nerve, causing the pain. I now have a walker to help me get around the house. And I’m on short-term disability leave from work.

A week later, I saw the surgeon to follow up. I wasn’t doing well. Just getting me to the appointment was a painful ordeal, and my surgeon looked sadly disappointed. He ordered another MRI.

Four days ago, I saw the results. At first, I thought I was looking at a pre-operation image.

It wasn’t.

My post-operation disc now looked like a flat tire squeezing out under the weight of a car. My disc was so badly damaged that there was no longer enough internal material in the disc to support my weight, so now the disc itself was pressing against my nerve.

Surgery has been scheduled to fuse my L4 and L5 vertebrae together. Honestly this is about the scariest thing I’ve ever faced even though I know many people have had this surgery done successfully.


See, I’ve always had a phobia about being cut or stabbed (ironic that I took up woodworking and carpentry as a hobby). And I’ve always had a phobia about back surgeries. I think there was a time in my life when everyone I met who had back surgery had bad results and needed further surgeries. Now, here I am, 0 for 3 with procedures that were supposed to “fix” me, and with procedure #4 glaring at me with its Jack-O-Lantern eyes.

The phobia part of average Lon is trying not to think about what’s coming soon, and whether or not I’ll be “fixed.” The phobia part of average Lon is worried I’ll never experience the joy of running even 2 or 3 easy miles with my friends. The phobia part is worried I might never be quite normal again. The phobia part is worried there will have to be procedure #5, and #6, or more.


What about the part of average Lon that trusts God’s providence? What about the part of me that believes wholeheartedly that God is always working for my eternal good behind the scenes of every good and bad event in my life (Romans 8:28-30)?

Those of you who are Christians know I have to reach a point where I am able to hand my fear to God. You know I need to trust Him with my phobia, trust Him with the outcome of this surgery—whether good or bad—and rest in Christ alone.

But the honest truth is, at this moment, I’m not there yet.

Because I’m average.

The usual theme running through my head (and prayers) is, “I don’t want this. I don’t want this. I don’t want this.”

So, I don’t have any counsel for you about how to get to that place of quiet rest in Jesus when you face your worst fears. All I can tell you is that it’s a process. It takes time, even when you have a solid, biblical worldview to guide you. I can tell you it will always involve prayer and Scripture. It will always require a clear understanding of who God is, and a solid trust in His purpose for your life. The support of a prayerful Christian community (e.g. a home church) will be invaluable, too.

And yet, even with all this, it may still take time. And, for me, in God’s mercy, I have until November 13th (my procedure #4).

In that time, I would appreciate it if you would pray that God will bring me to that place of peace that passes all understanding. Paul’s counsel to the Philippian church about fear and prayer and peace needs to sink deeper into my soul.

Thanks so much, Lon

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:6-7


So You Call Yourself a Christian?—10 Things Jesus Said That Make Me Reconsider

I’m confused.

What does it actually mean to be a Christian? I mean, I read Christian things from Ameri-Christian culture via social-media…

And then I read the Bible.

And the differences make me wonder about myself, about American Churches, and about what I now call Ameri-Christianity.


The principle growth strategy of many churches is to make it easier for people to believe in Jesus. They want to remove obstacles to Christianity, or make it sound more appealing, to make it easier for people to begin identifying themselves as Christian. People will more easily identify themselves as Christians (and join churches and give to ministries), if Christianity can just be made to sound a little easier than it really is, or a little better than it really is.

Three methods of implementing this strategy are pretty common if you look around.

1. Culture-Copying

Just make the church look and feel more familiar, more like-able, like our favorite Monday-Saturday places and experiences. Churches have music and singing; so do concerts. So, let’s make our music and singing feel more like we’re at a concert. It’ll feel more relevant, more high-powered (depending on the skill of your musicians and tech crew), and people will just, plain, feel good. They’ll show up, sit back, and enjoy.

Churches have a sermon; so do those popular (e.g. profitable) self-help, inspirational events. So, let’s make our sermons feel more like a how-to, self-help event. All we have to do is selectively use relevant parts of the Bible, like a manual, for how to have a better/fuller/xtreme life, marriage, career, kids, etc.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, people like that sort of sermonizing. In fact, if you don’t deliver, you run the risk of having church meetings which you’re not invited to.

2. Half-Gospeling

Another common way to make Christianity seem more appealing is to fudge a bit on the story about what it means to be a Christian. To make this work, all you have to do is keep on being selective about how you use the Bible in a sermon. After all, there are so many upsides to being a Christian, why not focus just on those? Just talk about the benefits; what you get. And many churches do. Still worse, I see some people directing these for-Christians-only benefits to everyone on social media, not just Christians.  There is no “If you belong to Christ…” part of the message. So, not only do people never hear the whole story, but apparently, you needn’t even be a Christian for the benefits to apply to you.

How do they succeed at this? Easy—people like it. Christians. Non-Christians. Everyone. And more importantly, fewer and fewer people who self-identify as Christians have ever read the Bible. All they know is what Pastor X tells them. So, after people start coming to church because it feels familiar to hear about all the benefits of being a Christian (and only the benefits), pretty soon they’re showing up twice a month wanting to hear more of the same.

3. Over-Promising

Believer it or not, some churches take half-gospeling even further. They reason that since Christians sometimes experience (or believe they experience) a few highly desirable benefits that hardly anyone ever experiences, why not promote those very rare, incidental benefits as the central promises of Christianity? No matter that the Bible doesn’t specifically, clearly offer these as promises.

Who does that you may ask?—Anyone who says Christians are supposed to be rich if they have enough faith. Anyone who says Christians won’t ever be sick if they have enough faith. Anyone who says God’s plan for you is to have your best life now, not in the next life.

It is true that Christians can find their financial situations improving as they give up gambling and drunkenness, as they learn moderation, frugality, and generosity. It is also true that Christians can experience full, meaningful lives as they gradually unlearn the behaviors which brought disfunction into their lives and families. But it is not true that God promised Christians would never experience injustice, poverty, heart-break, betrayal, infidelity, deadly illness, discrimination, war, or crime in this life.

Actually, calling this Over-Promising is too generous; perhaps its better to call it what it is: lying in God’s name.


Ameri-Christianity is a populist approach to religion. It figures out what people want and offers it to them. But Jesus, was no populist. And he made it hard, not easy, for people to believe in him. The Scriptures say he didn’t trust himself to people, meaning, He knew when their motives for hanging around, or even promoting Him, was driven by a self-serving agenda. Because He could see motives like you and I see mountains, it even seemed at times He was purposefully driving people away.

I lay this out for you, Reader, because you may experience the populism of Ameri-Christianity Sunday after Sunday without ever noticing. Or, maybe you feel something isn’t quite complete in the messages your hear, but you’re not sure what.

This doesn’t mean your church is of the devil, or that you’re doomed unless you leave it. But it is important for Christians (this writer included) to examine ourselves in light of what Scripture tells us.

Sometimes, when biblical light shines on our conscience, a course of action will appear obvious and necessary; but sometimes, not. Sometimes, the best thing to do is repent, and bring attention to the thing that hasn’t seen enough light for far too long. Our Christian lives and our churches are like a beautiful, yet under-exposed photograph, the darkness can hide flaws that we get used to, flaws that feel normal to us. And we never notice the gospel dimming here and there compared to how it shone when Jesus announced it for the first time.

So, here is some gospel light shining straight from the lips of Jesus. Here are ten sayings that—when I take them seriously—make me stop and reconsider, What it really costs to be a follower of Jesus? Do I really deserve the label, Christian? Does my life do credit to Him as the only One worth following?

Let us together, you and I, reconsider our lives, our Churches, and our Ameri-Christianity again in the light of these faithfully recorded words of Christ. May He give us ears to hear, and eyes to see. May He give us hearts to truly believe and obey.

For His Sake, and by His grace.

(All quotations are from the English Standard Version with verse numbers removed. Summary titles added by me.)

1. God’s Exclusive Claim on Us

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.—Matthew 6:24

2. The Priority God Expects of Us

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.—Matthew 6:33

3. What Following Jesus Will Cost Us

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.—Matthew 16:24

4. More About the Cost…

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.—Matthew 16:25

5. And More…

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.—Luke 14:27–33

6. By Nature, We are Unfit for God’s Kingdom

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”—John 3:3

7. Faith in Jesus is Our Only Escape From God’s Wrath

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.—John 3:36

8. The Demand for Repentance (And What It May Mean for Us…)

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.—Mark 1:15

9. God’s Demand for Our Radical Dependence

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.—Matthew 18:3

10. Jesus is both Our Savior and Judge

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”—Matthew 13:24–30

Thanks, so much for reading. I hope it helps you reflect more deeply on what it means to adopt the name, Christian.

Oh, and here’s something else I wrote on what it means, specifically, to believe in Jesus.

Finally, please know that I believe there is still tons right with the church in America. I believe in the work of many ministries, and receive personal, spiritual benefit from the instruction of several. I’m also a member of my local Presbyterian (PCA) congregation. If you want ideas about what to read, who to listen to, and who to avoid, send me an email at lonhetrick@gmail.com.