I have been dreading this topic. As I sit here and write, I am actively chatting with God to push my fear aside and give me the words to communicate in love rather than incite indignation from those receiving this. God called me to write about fear weeks ago, and as I look back through my notes it appears I’ve been praying about how to approach this as early as May 2.
We, as a people, are consumed by fear. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that many people allow their actions to be driven by fear, even unintentionally. We allow it to drive our choices and our interactions with others, and we act out in hateful bursts because another’s choices don’t support our fear.
Coming out of the height of the pandemic, strangers boldly snarled at others because their fears weren’t honored. Many pro-maskers tore down those who refused to cover their faces due to fear of illness, and many anti-maskers ripped the covered faces to shreds due to a fear of freedoms lost. Those not allowing fear to take over either quietly put on a mask regardless of their own personal desire or they quietly walked without one.
We all succumb to fear. Not one of us is exempt.
Before my husband an I were married, we stopped at the Great Smoky Mountains on our way home from a family wedding. Of all the places I’ve ever been, the Smoky Mountains remains number one on my list. I’ve gone a number of times and I am never not blown away by the beauty of God’s creation. As we arrived in town to find a hotel, I was overcome with paranoia about black bears. Every time I’ve gone down there I always encounter bears, generally from a distance. It’s not unusual to see them being that they’re quite used to being around people and they understand we love to eat. Through our gluttony, God provides many a feast for a prowling cub.
We had decided to go out and walk to find dinner, all the while I’m freaking out about running into a bear. Dinner went off without a hitch, and on the way home my then fiancé is talking me off the ledge, probably wondering exactly what he’s gotten himself into marrying a completely insane person. We look up to politely greet some passers by when they warn us there is a bear rooting through the garbage just ahead of us. I honestly cannot remember exactly what we said to build each other up at that time. I’m going to guess there was a lot of “buck up buttercup” talk from my now very supportive husband, and a big fat “I told you so” smugness from my lips, but we HAD to keep going. There was no other way to our hotel.
We bravely walked past the bear, praying the whole time that God would get us each home in one piece. As we casually walked past the beast, silently screaming on the inside, it never once even gave us a second glance as it rummaged for its meal. We got to the end of the block and ran, then promptly dissolved into giggles.
We saw an unusual number of bears that trip and because of my fear I ended up missing out on truly experiencing my favorite place on this Earth. My husband and I love to hike and be out in nature and I could not bring myself to go off into some of the off beaten trails, (always the best ones), because I was convinced we were going end up roasting on a spit, cooking over a pot Looney Toon style, for a malevolent bears feast.
I gave into my fear and missed out on the experience God had for me, but my faith was not in God at that time. It was in myself and those around me. I was lost and wandering, running around like a panicked squirrel trying to beat a car across the road.
My faith was reawakened by God a few years ago, and what an incredible ride it has been. He has taught me many hard lessons and the hardest by far was allowing him to take my fear and trust him completely. Last year at this time, I had not found out yet that my 10 year old daughter was falling into a very real, frightening depression. A few months later we discovered she was exploring self harm and suicide and I just wept. All the time, I wept. My own life was complete chaos then and it just felt like one thing on top of another.
I reached out to everyone I knew, with her permission to share, to surround her in prayer. I prayed continuously that God would let me intercede on her behalf. While my daughter believes in God, talks to God, and is building a relationship, she hasn’t yet given her life over to him… even as I type this. The fear that was whispered in my ear was not just possibly losing her, it was that she would be truly lost.
I knew that I could not physically save her, only God could.
Her social worker at school called and recommended that I place her in a mental health facility and I lost the legs beneath me. I was such a mess that the woman over the phone, who I had not yet even met in person, was concerned for my own mental health. She began trying to find interventions to help me! I assured her I was going to manage, hung up the phone and just proceeded to lay on my basement floor crying out to God. Not for help, not for peace, not anything really. I just sat in my grief and wept.
It was in that moment that I gave my fear to God. Slowly, through the following days, I began telling the enemy that he had no power here. Even if my worst case scenario happened and I had to bury my baby, I would not be shaken. God is the only one who could save my little girl and even if he chose not to, regardless of my own understanding I promised to trust his will. Even through devastation, God uses all things for his good.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Sprit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8: 26-28
He led us to therapists, psychiatrists and and army of his people surrounding her. She now manages her anxiety, which ultimately caused her depression, with some low dose medication as well as regular therapy and has become her bubbly, goofy self again.
There are still hard days, but God walks us through them. It’s when we allow fear to take the lead that darkness falls.
We all experience fear. Not one of us is safe from it.
God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2
I know a good number of people who live in anxiety. And please do not think I am in any way minimizing the need for medication and intervention for those who struggle like my daughter. God has given us those advances for a reason as well. That being said, I know many who are constantly afraid of their own shadow. Those who lie awake at night holding onto every tiny thing that could go wrong, rather than put their burden aside and give it to God.
I am often asked, especially by those who struggle with anxiety, if it makes them a bad Christian to fear. During the sermon on the mount, Jesus himself commands us to not give in to our fears. He states there is more to life than the things of this Earth and illustrates how God always provides by looking out at his other creations, like the birds in the sky and grass of the fields.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matthew 6:30
Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Matthew 6:34
Does it make you a bad Christian to fear? The short answer is, no. God gives uses fear to alert us to dangers around us and to highlight our weaknesses. However, the problem comes in when you start listening to Satan rather than God’s voice. When you believe your fears have the power rather than God, you become the frantic squirrel in the road and your fear will be the death of you.
When my daughter is having a rough day, we play the “Worst Case Scenario” game. We take whatever she’s worried about and play it through each scenario she’s worried will happen and see where we end up. We talk through it and find ways to deal with and overcome that possibility and she has more confidence knowing how to tackle something if it does happen.
My husband and I did the same thing when confronting the dreaded bear, and I took my worst case scenario last year to God because I knew I couldn’t overcome it on my own.
As Christians, our worst case scenario often ends morbidly in death. What we forget to grasp is that in death is redemption! I know that is a difficult thing for most to wrap their head around, but in a world consumed by fear, we are presented with death on a daily basis and Satan has done an excellent job making us believe that returning to God’s side is the worst case scenario. God knows the exact day and time we will exit this place and go home, or for some of us, remain lost. There is no point in trying to always prevent our return. Instead, choose to live this life vibrantly. Enjoy the time you have with your family and friends, rather than spend every second worrying about their departure because it WILL eventually come.
It is time to stop giving the enemy power over your life. There is true power is putting faith in God over your fear. If your worst case scenario is being next to God himself, please recognize that is not something to fear. Your worst case scenario is not death at all. In fact, you actually have no worst case scenario. Recognize the power in knowing who you belong to. Satan and fear has no power here. Put that in your car, on your mirror, in a notebook…. wherever you can remind yourself who is in control when fear snakes itself around your throat.
And for those of you who truly do face a worst case scenario, I hope you hear God calling to you today. There is a place where fear and pain do not exist. He’ll equip you to conquer this life as you dance into the next.