From Fear to Joy

This is a guest post by Neil Essen. Neil is a “Husband, Father with 3 girls, Minister, Reader, Runner, Food Maniac, and Lover of Cities.” You can connect with him on Twitter. If you are interested in writing a post for us, visit our Guest Post page. You can also view other guest posts by clicking here.

Fear - From Fear To Joy

I used to live in constant fear, but now I have joy and peace that I never thought was possible.

I grew up in a family that loved going to church. From as far back as I can recall, we went to church constantly. At least four times a week we were at the church building or involved in some sort of church function. It’s what we did. I remember thinking that it seemed like a lot, but that is what I knew and other people seemed to be enjoying it, too. I also remember seeing in my parents that it was much more than church attendance or simply participating in an organization. I would always see them reading their Bible, praying together and talking about God with others. They seemed to know Jesus was real and believed that the Bible was true.  This led me to think that there must be more to God than just showing up to a service on Sundays.

In addition to church participation, the biggest passion of my childhood was basketball. I ate, drank and slept the game. I spent every waking minute practicing and playing in my backyard. From an early age, I could tell that God had gifted me for the game and I found quick success when playing in leagues. As my success grew, so did my pride. Someone in the sports world once said, “it’s not bragging if you can back it up”. I believed that and selfishness and pride were truly taking up residence in my heart and it showed in the way I treated others.

Although I know my parents had shared about God’s love with me many, many times, it became clear to me through my Grandma Marjorie. She was in town visiting and while sitting together in the front room of my parent’s house, she shared the truth of what Jesus did for me and I received it! I was 8 years old at the time. I remember being hungry to know more about the Bible and some family friends gave me a red Bible that I was thrilled to have. The next few years were a time of understanding God’s love for me and that He wanted me to love others the same way. My heart slowly began to grow in love for God and others.

I never could have been prepared for what happened next in my life. When I was 11 years old I began having severe panic attacks. What my parents initially thought was merely social fear was really something much worse. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and due to the strain of constant panic attacks; I sunk into a deep depression and was gripped with constant fear. It was by far the worst time period of my life. I was home-schooled at the time and I am really grateful for that because I was essentially not able to function outside my home. Looking back I can see that God was really working in my life to mold my character into what He wanted. The prideful and arrogant kid that loved basketball was being given a gift. That gift was humility and a compassion for others that were hurting. Because of my emotional struggles, I was hospitalized, several times for weeks. It was in these times that my faith in God grew. As I would often struggle to fall asleep from being “panicked”, God would come and comfort me time and time again. The relationship with God that seemed so real to my parents and siblings was being confirmed in my own life.

After four and a half years, within a matter of days the panic attacks and depression just got lifted off of me. My counselor and doctors were deeply amazed. It’s like someone just peeled off the fog that was over my life. I really believe that God healed me!

“I used to live in constant fear, but now I have joy and peace that I never thought was possible.”

When I was a sophomore in high school, I became good friends with one of my youth leaders who was studying to be a pastor and church planter. He gathered with three of my friends and me every week for two and a half years to help us grow in our understanding of the Bible and what it meant to obey what we were learning. We even were challenged to do pushups and sit-ups. This period of time brought me the greatest growth in my love for the Bible.

From there, God brought my wife Debra into my life. We married young (20 and 19) and we joke that we finished growing up together. There is no person that has loved me and challenged me more to live like Jesus than Debra. We have three daughters together and are seeking to raise them in a way that points to the goodness of God to us through Jesus. My life is no longer characterized by fear and pride. By God’s grace in my life I am growing beyond those things and living with a much deeper love for others.

The journey continues…


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I'm a Husband, Father with 3 girls, Minister, Reader, Runner, Food Maniac, and Lover of Cities. If you are interested in writing a post for us, visit our Guest Post page. You can also view other guest posts by clicking here.

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