It's easy to feel paralyzed by uncertainty. We want our questions answered, our decisions affirmed, and our plans applauded. But life doesn't come with an instruction manual and rarely follows a straight path. How would your life change if you learned to lean into uncertainty instead of waiting on the sidelines for just the right moment or opportunity?
The paradox of faith is that you can't activate it until you act on it. Trust compels us to move forward. If you don't, then you'll be left with a laundry list of unrealized expectations. You were meant to experience a life of abundance and blessing, not frustration and failure.
Clarity only comes when we look back. So if you wait until you have clarity, you'll never find it. Instead, you must move forward even when you feel scared to death. That is when you'll be able to turn the fears that keep you up at night into fuel for your journey.
If you want to experience a breakthrough in your life, then you must find a new cadence that will provide the strength you need to move forward in spite of your doubts, questions, and fears. The rhythm of faith is not hinged upon our circumstances but our willingness to surrender.
In his most insightful work since the debut bestseller, Plan B, Pete Wilson provides a plan for living that will lead you to a place of peace that you've only dreamed about and a life filled with meaning, significance, and satisfaction.
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What Keeps You Up At Night?
How To Find Peace While Chasing Your Dreams
By PETE WILSON
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Pete Wilson
All rights reserved.
STEPS IN THE DARKNESS
"But instead of spending our lives running towards our dreams, we are often running away from a fear of failure or a fear of criticism."
Let me introduce you to some people I know. I won't use their real names, but you probably know some of them, too.
Adam, a fifty-three-year-old top executive at a prominent engineering firm, just found out that because of a slumping economy, his position—along with his high six-figure salary—is being eliminated. He had worked his way up from the bottom, and this was his dream job. He is wondering what he and his family will do now.
Carrie, a forty-two-year-old mother of three, just got a phone call from her gynecologist. As far as she knew, her last checkup was routine, but what she hears on the phone is anything but.
Tyrone, a thirty-six-year-old professional, was feeling exhilarated three days ago because of the fantastic date he had with Fran. He sensed chemistry between them and had started daring to believe that at long last he had found the soul mate he had been praying for all of his life. But he just got a text message from Fran, and now he knows why his last two phone calls went unanswered.
Amber, a twenty-five-year-old musician, has been waiting for weeks to hear back from the producer who requested her demo. She is starting to wonder if what she thought was her big break is just another dead end.
Have you met any of these folks? Or ... are you one of them? What do you do when you are afraid your dreams may not happen? How do you move forward in a landscape that looks unfamiliar and even dangerous? Are your dreams over?
Let's face it: we live in uncertain times. When all the rules are changing, when everything you thought you knew is suddenly called into question, it seems impossible to live confidently, to keep believing. Your rational mind tells you to take the next step, but you have no idea what the next step should be.
And yet, I believe there is a way to keep going in the direction of your dreams, even when the landscape is shifting. I also believe that taking those steps, even in the midst of fear and uncertainty, is what helps you become all you were meant to be-all that God wants you to be. I believe there really is a way to keep moving forward, even when you are scared to death.
This is a book about overcoming the fears that seem to paralyze us over and over. Even more importantly, it's about the way God gets involved in our lives to help us fulfill our deepest purposes.
It doesn't matter what your dream is. Whether your life's aim is to find a cure for cancer, to take God's Word to a place that has never heard it, to operate your own car repair shop, or to bake the best cakes anyone in your town has ever tasted, the pursuit of that passion is a precious and holy thing. It will take you places you never would have gone otherwise. It is God's path of transformation into all you were meant to be.
But there's a problem. Many of us, especially these days, are too afraid to keep walking the path.
The Trouble with Dreams
Starting with Cinderella in 1950 and coming right up to the present with Frozen, the Walt Disney studios have spent considerable effort to convince us—at least temporarily—that if we believe enough in our dreams, they can come true. And it is a fact that the first step to make a dream come true is to have a dream in the first place.
Makes sense, right? Without dreams—aspirations, hopes, expectations—we would never know the joy that comes when a cherished desire is fulfilled. We would never experience the satisfaction of seeing a hard-fought goal become reality.
So why is it, then, that so many of us are afraid of our own hopes? In fact, many of us spend much of our lives actively avoiding our hopes, running in the opposite direction.
I believe it's because we are afraid, pure and simple-afraid of disappointment, dashed hopes, broken hearts. I mean, if you never want anything, you can't be disappointed when you don't get it. If you don't have the desire or expectation of a richer, more fulfilled life, you don't have to worry about that ache in your soul that comes from being denied the desires of your heart.
The trouble is, each one of us is hardwired for dreaming. That's right; we were made to be dreamers! The writer of Ecclesiastes, in the Old Testament, explains it by saying God has "set eternity in the human heart" (3:11). In other words, we were created to yearn for something better, something more. We can't help ourselves; we have to dream. And that's where our fear problem comes in.
What is fear, really? Usually, when we talk about fear, we mean the unpleasant emotion that comes with the feeling something or someone is a source of pain, danger, or an undesirable outcome.
Not all fear is bad. Our hunter-gatherer forebears learned quickly, for example, that when you see or hear a large predator, that voice in your head yelling, Get away fast! needs to be heeded. In that case, fear keeps you alive. It is a flashing light on the dashboard of life that says, "Pay attention, or you'll die!"
But for most of us nowadays, fear has a different meaning. It typically has less to do with preservation of life and limb and more to do with a heightened sense of vulnerability and a diminished sense of power. And these fears are not imaginary! Fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of disapproval, fear of poverty, fear of illness, fears for the well-being of the people we love-all these are very real, very present challenges that everyone faces. All of us struggle with fear-every single one of us.
But I'm here to tell you that fear shouldn't get the last word. Fear should not deter us in the pursuit of the lives God has for us, nor should it paralyze us. The fact is that you were meant for so much more, as Switchfoot tells us in their song "Meant to Live." The dreams in your heart are no accident; they were put there by God.
Your Dream and God's Plan
God has always used dreamers to do the really big stuff. Take Jacob, in the Old Testament, for example. God first revealed himself to Jacob in a dream of angels going up and down a ladder to heaven. And you have to understand that at that time, Jacob was on the run from his older brother, Esau, whom he had just swindled out of his rightful inheritance as oldest son. Things were pretty hot at home, so Jacob's mother had sent her favorite son to her brother's house in Harran until Esau's rage cooled down. The Bible records what Jacob thought about the dream:
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it." He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven "
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." (Genesis 28:16–22)
Indeed, God had big plans for Jacob, despite what his angry older brother thought. Jacob would go on to become the father of twelve sons—who would in turn become the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. And—spoiler alert—he and Esau were eventually reconciled.
For a New Testament example, take a look at the apostle Paul. Throughout his career as a missionary, Paul received guidance, warning, and encouragement from his dreams. On one occasion, he was even permitted a peek into heaven itself (2 Corinthians 12:2–4). And trust me, if anyone could have used a glance past the pearly gates, it would be Paul. After all, this is the same guy who was falsely accused, beaten, shipwrecked, whipped, imprisoned—even bitten by a snake!
No Bed of Roses
The point is, there is overwhelming evidence that pursuing a God-given dream—whatever the dream may be—is guaranteed to bring you up against opposition. That opposition can come from many sources: naysayers and critics, well-meaning friends and family members, negative circumstances, and, most of all, from the fear in your own mind.
When we start facing disappointments, setbacks, bad news, or what have you, one of our first reactions is usually to say to ourselves something like this: Hey, I thought I was doing God's will! What's the deal with all these trials and tribulations? God, how about a little support here? Whaddya say? Our confidence in pursuing our passion is all too often overwhelmed by a riptide of fear and doubt.
Let me share this truth with you: the bigger the dream, the bigger the fight you'll face. In fact, the people throughout history who have been the most directly in the center of God's will for their lives are the same people who have gone through the toughest trials.
Think about it: Joseph, Moses, the prophets, Peter and the apostles, and of course, the best example of all, Jesus Christ Himself. There is a very good reason why the Messiah is described as a "man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3 KJV).
So, it seems we can safely conclude that if we are expecting the universe to lavish approval on us for following our dreams, we are destined to disillusionment. Chasing a dream is no job for an approval junkie.
A Change in Perspective
Pursuing your passion will be accompanied by trials that will test your resolve to the utmost. The outcome of that testing is you will either grow stronger and more focused in your quest or you will be derailed.
I can promise you that, in my own life, I've gone off the rails more than once. As I look back on my journey, I can clearly see the times when fear, disappointment, and disapproval have taken over the driver's seat.
When I was just twenty-one years old I believed that God was prompting me to start a church. I thought it was kind of weird, but I simply couldn't shake this dream God had given me. At the time, I had been a youth pastor at a little country church about thirty miles away from the college I was attending. I had a few years of ministry experience but was realistically not prepared to start a church.
I remember sheepishly telling my pastor and boss at the time what I felt God was prompting me to do. Much to my surprise, he encouraged me to take whatever steps were necessary to follow God's will for my life.
A few weeks later I stood before the church and told them I was stepping down as the youth pastor to plant a new church. Everyone seemed tremendously supportive. I spent the next couple of weeks praying, planning, and getting ready for my leap of faith.
My last Sunday night on the job, the church I had been serving threw me a little party, mostly attended by the teenagers who had been a part of my youth group, along with many of their parents. We had a blast celebrating all that God had done the past few years in the life of those kids.
I stayed late helping clean things up, and eventually everyone had left. I was walking out of the church, getting ready to lock it up for the last time, when I saw a light on in the church library. As I got closer I heard a couple voices in there. I recognized the voices of two deacons of the church. Just as I was walking by, I heard my name. I stopped out in the hallway and was shocked at what I heard next. These two deacons were going on and on about how they couldn't believe I was going to try to plant a church.
"Pete doesn't know how to plant a church."
"He doesn't have the resources."
"He doesn't have the experience."
"He doesn't know how to preach."
"He doesn't have any people."
"He doesn't even know where he's going to plant this church."
My heart sank. See, I knew everything they were saying was true, but I was still crushed. I felt fear instantaneously enter my veins and spread throughout my body. I attempted to hold it together long enough to run out to my car in the church parking lot. I got in the car and just started to sob. I remember praying out loud to God, "They're right. They're right. I don't have a clue what I'm doing, God. I don't know how to plant a church. I can't do this. It's going to be such a failure."
I continued to pray and confess every fear I had to God that night. Over the next few minutes I felt God impressing something deeply into my heart. I never heard a voice that night, but I sensed God saying to me, "Pete, you've got a huge decision to make. Are you going to listen to those men in there, or are you going to listen to me? Are you going to trust them, or are you going to trust me? Because here's the deal, Pete: for the rest of your life I'm going to prompt you to do things that will absolutely scare you to death. I'm going to prompt you to do things that won't always make sense to the people around you. Will you trust me?"
You know, that night I literally got out of my car and onto my knees in that church parking lot. I prayed and told God that to the best of my ability, the rest of my life I would trust in Him and be obedient to His prompts.
That night was a reminder to me that most of the time we don't really have a fear problem; we have a trust problem. When we focus on our fears, we stop focusing on God; we assume a position in the universe that we don't own. We stop trusting God and start trying to control things we can't control and manipulate circumstances we can't manipulate.
One of the things I hope to convince you of in this book is that the object is not learning to fear less; it's learning to trust God more. If your goal is to have a fear-free life, you'll never have a fear-free life. God is not a tool you can use for fear avoidance.
Let me say it this way: if you, your fears, or even your dreams are at the center of your story, things just aren't going to work out. But if God is at the center of your story—if, in fact, you can understand that God is writing your story—then you will be well on your way to becoming all that God intends for you to be, living your dreams in a way you could never have imagined.
Chapter One in Review
1. There is a way to keep going in the direction of your dreams, even when the landscape is shifting. Taking those steps, even in the midst of fear and uncertainty, is what helps you become all that God wants you to be.
2. Many of us spend much of our lives actively avoiding our hopes because we are afraid of disappointment, dashed hopes, and broken hearts.
3. Pursuing a God-given dream—whatever the dream may be—is guaranteed to bring you up against opposition. The bigger the dream, the bigger the fight.
4. Most of the time, we don't really have a fear problem; we have a trust problem.
1. If you walked into your workplace tomorrow and one of the bosses said, "We're going to make some changes around here," what do you think your initial response would be?
2. In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for most people in following their dreams?
3. Think about the last time you were really afraid. What can you remember about your thoughts, words, and actions during that time?
4. Why do you think that those with the biggest dreams typically encounter the harshest opposition?
Your Next Step
Go to YouVersion.com, or a similar site, and do a search for the phrase "Do not be afraid" (if you prefer the King James Version of the Bible, you might use "fear not" instead). Notice how many times, in both the Old and New Testaments, God, an angel, or one of God's chosen leaders tells some person or group that they do not need to fear.CHAPTER 2
"Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it."
I have done some checking with friends in the counseling business and have come to the following conclusion: no one ever comes in and requests counseling because everything is fine. For some unexplained reason, it seems that no one needs help dealing with positive circumstances. Seriously, in twenty years of ministry, I can count on one hand the number of times that people have scheduled a meeting with me just to let me know that things were going great in their life.
The truth is that none of us have any trouble handling life when things are going our way, right? Our default setting as humans seems to be "doing great!"
But we all know that those good times don't last. One hundred percent of us will deal with difficulties, challenges, problems, and obstacles during our lives. Even Jesus Himself warns us, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). This is like Jesus' seven-day forecast for our life: trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble ... "Get ready," He warns. "It's coming."
So why do tough times always seem to surprise us? Why is it that when we are walking through a season in the valleys of life, we wonder what is wrong, what we've done to deserve this, or why we've been singled out for such trouble?
Excerpted from What Keeps You Up At Night? by PETE WILSON. Copyright © 2015 Pete Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Seeing Clearly xiii
1 Steps in the Darkness 1
2 Expect Conflict 13
3 Hang On to What Lasts 35
4 Embrace Uncertainty 47
5 Learn to Wait 65
6 Give Up Your Container 83
7 Endure the Dip 103
8 Recalibrate 117
9 Lean into Transition 139
10 Live for the Adventure 157
11 Anticipate Confirmation 171
12 Pass It On 189
Conclusion: Waste Nothing 197
About the Author 209