A couple years ago, my husband was on yet another business trip while I was home alone on a very windy night. The howling wind that knocks a stray plastic flowerpot against the house or causes the welcome sign to clatter against the siding turning it into intruders with sinister intent. The single chirp of a smoke alarm with a weakening battery at 3:00 am becomes the alarm system going off is a window is being opened. My thudding heart pounds in my ears causing me to question every noise. This was me the Christian battling my fear once again.
I am not sure when fear first tip-toed into my life, but can’t remember a time when it wasn’t lurking in the shadows. I can’t remember when fear first visited and setup its residence inside my fragile heart. My earliest memories of fear were tied to the family I was born into where a parent would suddenly rage and punish for infractions I committed. The standards were constantly evolving as to what was good and acceptable behavior. Any violation of those ever changing standards brought about severe and sudden punishment. The walking on eggshells fear of causing any waves was firmly rooted in me early.
My fears multiplied as I grew. I remember jumping as far as I could to get into or out of my bed, otherwise the monsters that lived under my bed at night would grab me. My fear of fires wasn’t helped by my Dad, who for entertainment would pile the family in the car when he saw smoke, and chased it until we could see the burning building. I can vividly remember both a tire warehouse and a house fire we witnessed on these drives and had numerous nightmares of fires as a child. Having a third grade teacher who told horror story after horror story of people being struck by lightning greatly increased my fear of thunderstorms
As I matured, my fears did too. Fear of not being accepted or ever loved, (In my home I was frequently reminded how bad and unlovable I was.), fear of failure, fear of not getting good enough grades, fear of not ever being attractive enough to be loved, fear of being alone, fear of being in new social circles where I didn’t know anyone…fear of, fear of, fear of!!!
At seventeen, after a thwarted attack by a drunken man, I began a whole new set of fears. Thank God, a neighbor that lived on my 3 block route from my house to my job intervened. I couldn’t tell anybody for fear that my parents would find out and make me quit my job, which would mean I would never afford college or a car. I now added the fear of rape or other attacks to my list of fears. This began the long era of nights alone becoming a battlefield of terror and horrific “what ifs”.
Yet God’s Word tells me in 2 Timothy 1:7 fear is not from God, so where did this fear come from?
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7
God has been so faithful to help me face up, literally head on, many of my fears. He has bit by bit drawn me out of the shadows and into the light. God orchestrated that the girl who was terrified of mild spring thunderstorms in Eastern Washington to live in Tornado Alley for five years. He brought a loving, godly man into my life who, after nearly 33 years of marriage, still finds me beautiful in spite of gravity’s pull of time. We lived under evacuation notice for 3 weeks in Alaska while forest fires raged nearby. The girl afraid of meeting new people, of being accepted or being in new situations, married a man who was raised as a missionary kid overseas and was accustomed to visiting a different church each Sunday when back in the States on furloughs. This same man joined the United States Air Force a few weeks after we were married. We spent the next ten years moving to bases in Montana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Alaska, and Iowa.
When hubby got out of the military, we returned to my home town of Spokane, Washington and spent the next sixteen years there. God allowed a job transfer to Phoenix in 2008 and we lived there for six years. A year ago, we once again had to say hard good-byes and moved here to Colorado due to my health. I am learning to come out of my shell and make friends and actually enjoy new social situations.
Motherhood brought on many new fears and “what if” scenarios. Both of our children were born a bit early and had infant apnea where they would at times “forget” to breathe while they were sleeping. They had these episodes and needed apnea monitors for several months. Logan, our son, who was our first child, had a strangulated hernia and had to have emergency surgery when he was eight weeks old. This happened during a freak Mother’s Day blizzard that knocked power out of the whole town of Great Falls, Montana. While generators kept the essentials running in the hospital, we sat in a dark waiting room where I played the championship game of “what if”. I had fully convinced myself our son would die because I needed to be punished for getting pregnant before our wedding.
As a mom, I could easily think of numerous “what if” scenarios for my kids as they grew from infancy until adulthood. My fears, I am sure many times, stifled my kids especially in their teen years.
The area that has been the most difficult to overcome is my fears of evil attackers when I am alone at night. Joel has traveled throughout our marriage. As a result, I have memorized many verses on safety, peace and sleep.
My family always attended church while I was growing up. I first understood the gospel, my sinful condition and need for Jesus as my personal savior at Vacation Bible School the summer I was nine and a half years old. My home life was difficult but my relationship with Jesus Christ and a few Christian friends really sustained and protected me in many ways especially through my teen years. As I grew in my Christian walk, I realized my fears and my dysfunctional family had twisted my view of God. Though I was saved, I still felt I had to be “good enough” to earn approval of God or He would make me pay the harsh consequences. I began to learn through the Word about the character of God, about His amazing, unfailing love and faithfulness, His unchangeableness, His mercy, grace and goodness. Bit by bit I was able to replace my false views of God. Over the years I also began to realize I am not who an angry parent says I am. I am who Christ says that I am in His Word. I am a sinner deserving of hell but I am so loved that He went to the cross for me. God brought others alongside me to shepherd me and train me that fear is the opposite of faith and that God gives us grace for each day but not grace for the “what-ifs”. I learned the importance of taking my thoughts captive and bring them under submission to Christ rather than to let them run rampant on the well-worn ruts of fear.
3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
On my family room wall I have a large metal sign that says “whatever”. That sign is a constant reminder of thinking right thoughts as listed in Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Often just asking myself if what I am thinking is true, about either God’s character or what the Word says, is all I need to rein my thoughts in and take them captive. If I am still struggling to take my thoughts captive, I go down the list and ask if my thoughts are honorable, just, pure, lovely etc. Lining up my thoughts to the truth of God’s Word and character have been my greatest help in taking thoughts captive and dealing with fear.
Colossians 3:12-17 is a passage that I have camped in the last few years. It not only helps me realize who I am, but also how I need to respond to others, even others who the enemy of my soul uses to condemn me (Romans 8:1).
12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17
At the beginning of that passage I read I am chosen, holy and beloved. Because I am chosen, holy and beloved I am enabled to have compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, love and forgiveness towards others. I also notice that thankfulness is mentioned three times in this passage. When I practice thankfulness and am grateful for all the many blessings great and small I am much less likely to fear.
Ephesians 1 is another great chapter about who I am in Christ; who you are in Christ. It tells me I am blessed with every spiritual blessing, He chose me before the foundation of the world, He predestined me for adoption, I have redemption, He has lavished His grace on me and I have an inheritance.
When I take my eyes off of Christ and His word I can easily fall back under the grip of fear. I now know it is a spiritual battle my loving Abba God wants me to be victorious in through the power of His Holy Spirit and His Word.
In 1 John it tells us that God is love and then in 1 John 4:18 we see fear has nothing to do with God and love.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
When I am struggling with fear, Isaiah 26:3 is often a moment by moment prayer of mine. I ask God to enable me to keep my mind focused on Him rather than my fears.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3
Psalm 4:8 is my prayer every time my husband travels. In the last few years most nights are full of peaceful sleep.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
I would like to end with a couple quotes by Paul David Tripp that have greatly impacted me.
“I am not afraid for one glorious reason: I have been lit by the Lord of light”
Paul David Tripp
This second quote well summarizes my testimony and is also by Paul Tripp.
“Deep and lasting security, resilient hope, and sturdy rest of heart and mind can only be found vertically. You will only know the rest for which you seek when you begin to embrace the astounding reality of who you are as a child of God. If you are God’s child, you are the object of the love of the Person who rules everything that there is to rule.” Paul David Tripp page 31 A Shelter in a Time of Storm