A Place of Fear

By Ashley Zabriskie

“You can make any decision, because God gives us choices. However, any decision you make out of fear isn’t a godly choice.” It was Orlando in March. As someone from New Hampshire, I was enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. I sat in an air-conditioned conference room, physically there, but mentally and emotionally absent. The past year hadn’t lived up to my naïve expectations and the romanticism of ministry had worn off long before this moment. A year prior I was a wide-eyed college senior with endless expectations about how life post-college should and would look. And with a full-time job in the ministry I loved? My face beamed when I thought and talked about it. That beam had diminished by following fall when my struggles to raise all of the necessary funds to start full-time ministry work on my campus had overwhelmed any optimistic view I once had. And so I found myself in that conference room in Orlando, defeated and ready to walk away.

Not knowing what was next on the horizon for me, I tried to sit there with open hands, but I closed them when the prospect of staying in the ministry I was working in was put on the table. I had already said no in December; I would finish my commitment and start a new venture in June. Feeling out of place at a conference intended to spark vision for my ministry, I had considered my week here as more of a nice get away to a warm climate. I wanted to be unaffected by the vision and mission of the people around me. If I allowed myself to be affected, it could change everything, and I just couldn’t make anymore decisions.

One of my coworkers had gotten up to speak about her time on staff. I was under no delusion that I was alone in the hardships of working in full-time ministry as she shared about the hardships she had endured in her time thus far on staff, but as she began to share about her struggle of whether to stay in ministry or go, I tuned in more closely. This was something I could relate to. I guess my subconscious was still unsure. Then she shared some wisdom from a mentor that woke me up spiritually and emotionally. If I was to leave staff in a place of fear, that wouldn’t be honoring to God. I knew as my emotions began to unravel that maybe I wasn’t done working in this ministry.

With those few sentences, I was undone. Feelings of anger and confusion erupted to the surface and out of my eyes. What does that mean? I thought. What does it mean if every choice I’ve made in the past few months was a choice based out a fear? I’m also not great at identifying anger in my life. I can identify most other emotions and sit in them for way too long, but anger isn’t one of them. When I feel it, I tend to push it back down, because I don’t know how to process it. I couldn’t do that this time.

Raw and vulnerable I sat with an open journal, writing words I wasn’t sure were true. I wasn’t in a place that was able to minister well to people. I opened my hands to God, telling Him I was open to staying on staff, but He needed to change my heart. God answered my prayer that week. My circumstances remained the same, but my heart had shifted. I was able to identify the lie I had been believing that marked most of my decisions that year: “I’m not qualified, I’m not good enough.” Just because I felt that at many points, didn’t mean it was true. If my ministry was marked by how I felt, it would never bear fruit or be glorifying to God.

Ten months later I’m sitting in a coffee shop, still battling uncertainty. I know that I need to intentionally let God in and allow Him to continue transforming me. Somedays I thrive at that, and other days I’m closed off again.

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Ashley Zabriskie began writing in elementary school when she discovered she would get a candy every time she shared a new story with the principal. She now writes to share about her life experiences in hopes of encouraging others. Ashley has a passion for prayer and helping people experience the deep love of Jesus. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2017 and is currently serving as a campus minister with Greek InterVarsity at the University of Rhode Island. When she’s not on campus you may find her reading, exploring outside, or walking through Trader Joe’s to find free samples.