Austin suffered paralyzing bouts of irrational fear and anxiety in his otherwise “good” life. But one day, God radically transformed Austin’s heart, leading him to freedom and true joy.

May 9, 2018   |  

Topic Fear

I called myself a Christian nearly my entire life, but I distinctly remember a time in my mid-20s when I was walking through the living room in my parents’ house. In that moment, I realized I was a sinner and was stuck. There was no way to heaven, except through Jesus Christ, who had provided a way. I needed Him.

After that, I thought I had everything figured out, but in reality, I was working to reduce my sin. I strove to prevent bad things, whether it be sin or things I identified as bad, from entering into my good and enjoyable life.

The fruit of this undercurrent started to surface in the years leading up to February 2017, I would have paralyzing bouts of irrational fear and anxiety. In these moments, I felt hopeless, and my mind would completely lock up. Mentally, I would spin out of control.

During this season, I read Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, and by no special activity of my own, God lit up my heart in a way that radically transformed my life. The fear and anxiety that disrupted my world vanished.

All of a sudden, I had new desires, new affections. It became clear that my life up to that point, even though I professed being a Christian, had been lived for my mission of avoiding “badness”—hardly the sacrificial pursuit of Christ and what would bring Him glory. I realized that, up until that point, I had lived no differently than any other nice, kind, upwardly mobile professional who gave some money and time to charity.

I realized it is only God, in His goodness, who provides freedom and forgiveness through His Son and the gift of a transformed heart. This freedom allows me to go forward and climb the mountains and hills He calls me to, even if there will be pain, sin and brokenness. If in everything God is receiving the glory, it doesn’t matter if I fail or succeed. In the failures, He sustains and is glorified, and in the successes, He rejoices and is glorified. It’s this weird situation where if you risk something for God’s glory—you can’t fail. The only true loss would be to remain unmoved; I am free to fail in pursuit of His glory.

God had done something in my life that was so great that I wanted others to have it, too!

This newfound freedom brought me such joy, and I became consumed by thinking about how I could share God with others. The gospel was on my lips at every business lunch; I finally didn’t feel like I was tricking someone into talking about God or forcing it out of duty—God had done something in my life that was so great that I wanted others to have it, too!

Soon after, I shared my experience with Matt Younger, the Dallas Northway Groups pastor. Following our conversation, I booked a last-minute ticket to go with him to India to teach a group of pastors. I'm not a trained pastor, but I was excited to get the opportunity to share what I had been learning in the Bible and what God was doing in my life.

But when I returned from India, the fear and anxiety that had remained absent for nine months rushed back in, and I crashed into a deep valley. I fell back into my old habits of fear and inaction, which then led to shame and anger. These familiar patterns, which seemed to have disappeared since God transformed my heart, forcefully re-entered my life. In my confusion and disappointment, I questioned, Why is this happening to me?

Eventually that darkness lifted, and God reminded me that I still needed Him. I wasn’t God. He gave me a transformed heart. It was as if He was saying, Remember, I did this in you. You didn’t do this. You need Me, your Savior.

This event exposed my immaturity as a believer. It reminded me that when I'm not “feeling” the Holy Spirit, I need to have biblical truths to fall back on, as opposed to my experience or fickle emotions. Life can’t always be a “mountaintop experience,” like those nine months were.

It’s been over a year since God transformed my heart, and unfortunately my fear and anxiety are still present in my life. But this doesn’t negate all the good God did and continues to do, like leading me to pursue a different career. Though I loved my former job as a technology consultant, I also was increasingly aware that the world around me in West Dallas was one where people often don't have the same opportunities that I had for education and jobs.

We are free to pursue faith-filled risk for His glory.

I had been praying for a vision of how I could use my position and talents to more directly glorify God and concluded that I was uniquely positioned to help people in my neighborhood get jobs and earn a dignified wage in technology. I began waking up early in the morning before my full-time job to brainstorm and plan. In February 2018, my wife, Emily, and I went all in, and we are now trying to make this dream into a full-time reality.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you “five steps to transform your anxiety to joy,” or “how to change your affections and desires.” I tried for years to change myself. It wasn’t until God’s intervention that the needle moved. Remember that sin and "badness" will happen, but anxiously obsessing over reducing or avoiding it is hardly the freedom God had in mind when he said He "will remember [our] sins no more" (Heb. 8:12). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We are free to pursue faith-filled risk for His glory, even if we do sin and screw things up along the way. I hope this part of my story helps you understand His story all the more.