It is something that I have struggled with since I was a little child.
When it rears its head anywhere in my direction, its invisible grip on me is paralyzing.
It has caused me to miss out on events and other things that would probably have been good for me.
It is a constant lurker in every one of my days.
It fights to control my mind and my heart–and often wins.
It is FEAR.
As a child, I had some of the fears that many children have. I was terrified of thunder, bees, spiders, darkness, and our basement. If any of those listed things entered even just a fraction of my day, internal panic would begin. Many children outgrow fears experienced in their early years. For me, this was not the case. In fact, those fears seemed to not only intensify but also multiply to additional fears. Darkness, already a source of fear, would bring additional thought that someone would certainly break into the home where I was living. My imagination would conjure up all sorts of dark scenarios at the least noise heard. I began sleeping with a fan running to help drown out the noises heard at night–a necessity still to this day.
If you’ve never experienced what psychology refers to as anxiety or panic attacks, you may struggle to understand why an adult would be so afraid of the dark or a basement. If you fall into that category, may I just admit that I am somewhat envious? Because I write honestly but tactfully, I see it as important for me to admit the struggle yet, for now, keep to myself what I believe to be the source of all the fear in my life. In fact, I’m not sure the source really matters. What matters, at least today, is what God is doing in me to address the deep-seated and paralyzing fear in my life. Make no mistake please–my fear is often completely paralyzing. At times, it is so real, it feels as though I am struggling for each breath and will most surely die before I can find the next one. This absolute terror and panic can hit anywhere, anytime, and without any warning. There have been times I have been driving and the fear hit. There have been times I have been quietly sitting and watching TV and the fear hit. Most often, though, it is in the darkness of night that fear finds me and puts its death grip on me. In those long and difficult nights, I try with all my might to break free from the death grip of fear.
A few years ago I found myself paying weekly visits to a Christian counselor. She was a wonderful listener who understood the root of my fear. We often discussed ways to help myself should the fear pay a visit at night time. One tool she recommended was a stack of index cards on which would be written Bible verses that would help. I went through the process of finding verses of comfort and wrote them on the 3×5 cards. The problem was, they didn’t really help. Fear was much more powerful than words on a card. I put them in my desk drawer for lack of something better to do with them. Before I gave up on that idea, though, I had read some of them enough to have them memorized. One of my favorites was Psalm 27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid. ” I found myself repeating that verse many times in the dark hours of a long night when sleep was elusive and fear was very much present.
Since I’m writing much in the present tense, you can go ahead and assume that fear is still a battle I face. Some of my fears have changed. Thunder no longer terrifies me, although if a storm hits in the middle of the night, I do still feel that initial terror. I don’t like spiders or bees, but I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of them. The fear of darkness, though, is still very real in my life. I have also found terror gripping me at the thought of something happening to my husband or one of my kids. I fear driving at night–so much so that I will avoid any night time commitments. I am also finding that fear I setting in just being in a car at night. Our small group meets Friday nights and even though my husband always drives, I find myself wishing I had stayed in the safety of my home. These fears are not only terrifying, but I allow them to run scenarios through my head–scenarios that probably won’t happen. You don’t know how many times I have heard a siren and started to believe one of my kids was in an accident. The news headlines can trigger fear. As the Ebola virus threatens to spread, I find my mind giving into the fear of being in public places or coming in contact inadvertently with the virus. Even the thought of isolating myself at home for safety is shattered by the thought that the mail still needs to be brought in and who knows how many hands touched it!
This morning I was working on my Bible Study Fellowship homework. The year is studying the life of Moses. We just reached the part where Pharaoh let the Israelites leave Egypt. They have arrived at the Red Sea with the fickle Egyptian leaders hot on their trail, regretting the fact that they allowed them to leave. I know the story–Moses raises his staff and the sea parts. Heard it many times. Today, though, the following verses caught my eye: “…Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them.” (Ex. 14:13,19) Because my mind often thinks musically, the words from Chris Tomlin came to me:
“I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind,
The God of angel armies is always by my side.”
I decided to do some research. The words “do not fear” are said over 365 times in the Bible.
For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Is. 41:13)
Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. (Lk. 12:32)
I could list many more–over 300 more. My heart and my mind scream “FEAR!”
God tells me to fear NOT.
I think I have some hard work to do.