Overcoming fear... As I sat drumming my fingers on a metaphorical table, mentally assessing various ideas to write about for this month’s topic, I realised that this was something I was very good at ignoring – fear, I mean. Before you labour under the mistaken notion that I am claiming to be in any way fearless, allow me to disabuse your mind. Although I am quite the worrywart, most people who know me would never describe me as a fearful person. Yet recently, I experienced a season of crippling fear. And my way of dealing with it? Ignore the cause.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
A couple of years back, I sensed God leading me to pray, not just for myself but for others; to intercede, if you will. So I took a few baby steps in that direction. Then followed a season of severe personal strife. Though God was faithful and I eventually came through, it is a time that I look back on with dread. There was too much pain, too much heartache. Then recently, I heard God very clearly say that I needed to start praying and interceding again. Now, I’ve always claimed that if I just heard God say – This is your calling – I would jump to it and joyfully start obeying and serving. Yet here I was hearing exactly that, but there was no resulting jumping or joyful obeying.
Instead, there was a paralysing fear.
For some reason, I was afraid I would lose my daughter. There was no logic to the fear. Yet my mind would provide these plausible scenarios where something terrible could happen to her. So I did what any sane person would do. Ignore the cause; that is, ignore the command to pray. (Don’t ask. It made sense to me at the time!) I believed that praying and interceding would leave my family open to spiritual attack. It had happened before. It could happen again. And this time, the damage could be worse. Oh, the thoughts I thought nearly drove me insane! Fear for my daughter’s safety kept me awake at night. I tried to bargain with God – “Ok, Lord, You want me to pray. Then promise me that You will keep Abby safe. Give me a verse. Speak to me. Tell me she will be ok. I need to know. Then I can obey You.”
Which can be unnerving to say the least.
So again, I did what any sane person would do – I got angry. With God, for not speaking or giving me a promise. With myself, for being so ridiculously afraid of hypothetical situations. With life. (I’m realising being sane is not all it's made out to be). This led me to exhibit Jonah-esque tendencies. At least he had the guts to run away from Nineveh. I, on the other hand, took the cowardly option of hypocrisy. Instead of disobeying God outright, I played around with the notion of prayer. I prayed some days (out of guilt), and forgot to do it most days. I carefully ignored my fears, attempting to keep up appearances. Of course, this didn’t fool God or me. I tried to tell myself I was obeying in letter (sometimes), but I knew that I wasn’t in my heart.
Until one Sunday morning when the message from the pulpit struck a chord deep in my soul. The preacher shared his own experience of hearing God’s call and finding his response being crippled by fear and pride. Two simple points – fear and pride. I knew then, even as I heard him share, that when God calls us, we have to obey. We have to step out of the boat and get on the stormy seas. Obedience comes first. Understanding may come later.
Something broke inside me that day. I knew what God was calling me to do. I had to obey. I might not understand why He didn’t give me promises to calm my fear but I had to choose to trust God, above my fears. It was about living by faith and not by sight. Phrases of “Christianese” that I’d grown immune to over the years began to shimmer with a new light.
My daughter illustrated this for me very vividly the other day. After giving her a bath, I was trying to towel her hair dry. “Trying” being the operative word as she kept squirming, working herself up into a nice frenzy till anyone watching us would have thought that I was actively torturing her. Irritated, I yelled sharply told her to stand still, asking rhetorically, "What's wrong with you?" Taking this at face value, she replied, “I can’t see.” So I retorted, “Why do you need to see? I’m drying your hair so that you won’t catch a cold.” To which she replied simply, “But I have to see.”
This was exactly what God had to put up with when dealing with me! (Thankfully, He doesn't yell or give sharp retorts.) Here He was, doing everything for my good, while I was struggling with frustration trying to “see” when there was no need. If I trusted God and had faith that He was in control and He would work everything out, then sight didn’t come into the picture. I didn’t need any assurances or promises from God to keep my daughter safe. I knew, whatever the future held, He was there and He would work it out for good.
So I took the step of obedience. And the fear left. No, I’ve not had any assurances or promises about my daughter’s safety, but there is peace. And there is no longer silence.