Part IV: Fear
Friends, I feel so ill-equipped to talk to you about fears. I have way too many, most of them irrational. In fact, I thought about just skipping this topic altogether. No one would ever know; no one knows what I plan to cover in this series. But I can’t because fear has been a huge part of this journey and it would be dishonest to pretend it hasn’t.
“I’m afraid.” I’ve whispered that to God endless times this last year. I’m afraid my husband will never again know what it’s like to live without pain, I’m afraid this illness will never lose its grip on us, I’m afraid we’ll never thrive while we focus on surviving, I’m afraid we won’t be able to have children, I’m afraid one of our children will get it and I’ll have to watch it happen all over again, I’m afraid I’m not being a good wife or I’m failing some type of giant faith test, I’m afraid my husband will die, I’m afraid I’m not showing Jesus to my husband, I’m afraid I’m giving up or giving in, I’m afraid I’m inadequately showing Jesus to people in how I’m handling everything, and I’m afraid my fears will consume me.
So these are the uglies. These are the goblins I fight when the sun goes down. The truth is I’m ashamed I even have fears. Aren’t Christians supposed to have such ironclad faith, such “temporal suffering can’t touch me” confidence that fears don’t register? If we are, I’m not there yet. I’m still in Desperately Searching the Bible for Magic Wisdom-land. Therefore:
What God says about fear. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. My dad had my youngest sister memorize that verse because she used to get horrible nightmares and be really afraid at nighttime. She was about 5 or 6, so we’ll give her a pass on that one. (A little trivia: My siblings and I all got verses to memorize to address our specific foibles. Mine was Philippians 2:14. Go read it and laugh at me. It won’t hurt my feelings.)
You know what I love about that verse? It doesn’t say “Be strong and courageous, because to be otherwise would embarrass God,” or “Be strong and courageous. Just do it, OK?” It says to put your fear, your trembling, your total dismay aside because the Lord your God, your Savior, your Redeemer, your Friend, your Warrior, your Father is with you. Jesus Himself reminded his followers of that promise saying, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
Before we go any further, I have to talk about my feelings because I’m a woman and I love to talk about feelings. For me, fears aren’t a head thing. My fears are largely irrational, don’t make much sense, and don’t say much for my strong grip on reality. In my head, I know those fears are ridiculous and I also know God is with me, but knowing it in my head doesn’t make the fears any less potent. If I feel fearful, almost anything—even the most benign thoughts—can turn into a fear. That’s why I love that verse in Matthew. I need to know—and I want you to know—that even if we don’t feel like Jesus is with us, fighting for us, and blessing us, He is. Our feelings one way or the other do not change the reality of His “always” presence.
So, time for my weekly Prayer PSA. God can change our feelings. I know He can because He’s done it for me at the most crucial time in my life prior to this one. Back then, my prayer looked something like this: God, I think you might want me to make a big change. This change goes against every single one of my feelings. I don’t think I can do it. I think I would knowingly go against your will because of how I feel. So if you want me to make this change, I need you to change my feelings. Now, my prayer looks more like this: I can’t do this. I can’t stand up to these fears or this stress. I need you to do this, Lord. I need to borrow your spirit of boldness, your spirit of victory, your spirit of steadfastness because I’m totally empty and wimpy. And wussy. And a huge scaredy-cat. I’m still waiting to see the full picture of how He’s answering that prayer in my life, but I know (and feel like) He is.
When fears attack. I don’t know what it is about nighttime that makes fears seem so much more real. It could be the dark, the quiet, or that you’re so tired you’re just short of derangement (and trust, if you’re dealing with the stress of a chronic illness, you’ll be exhausted way before bedtime). Whatever it is, fears aren’t as scary during the day. That’s your time to arm yourself. During the day, I try to address what I know is coming. I’ll look up specific Bible verses that deal with my specific fears, I’ll read my Bible right before going to bed, I’ll talk them out with Brad, or I’ll talk him into giving me a backrub so I fall asleep quickly at night (hey, this is spiritual warfare. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do). It also helps to remind myself that God isn’t scared of the night. I love this passage in Psalm 139 for that: If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
I’m not good at this yet. I’m still afraid most of the time. Maybe it negatively affects my “testimony,” but it also shows I’m a real person and God is still at work refining me. And that’s hopeful!