I've experienced several traumas in my life that surfaced fear. As a child, I tried my best to keep a lid on it. It wasn't until I was pregnant with my third child, that fear could no longer be contained. I woke up one night with a stranger standing over me and was so paralyzed with fear I couldn't scream. I finally groaned loud enough to wake up my husband who chased the guy out of our home. Because I had already experienced trauma, the break in caused PTSD and I had flashbacks or woke up screaming believing the man was back. This startled my little guys. When bedtime came, the oldest often said he was afraid the bogeyman was in their room. I watched my husband gently take our little men to their room and look under the beds, in the closets, and in the toybox to prove the bogeyman wasn't there. He then sat down with them, reminding them God kept us safe when the man broke into our home and then pray with them, asking for God's protection over them as they slept.
Because my emotions felt so crazy, I ordered tapes from a tape ministry and listened to well known pastors' sermons on how to manage emotions. Until that point I thought all fear was a sin and a sign that one lacked faith and was shaming myself for experiencing it. One of the pastors pointed out that fear was a common human emotion and it helped us stay safe. He also pointed out that when Moses died the Lord directed Joshua to enter the promise land, telling him not to be afraid but to be strong and courageous because He would be with him and would not leave him or forsake him. Around that time a friend came up to me at church and handed me a piece of paper with a Bible verse on it. She explained she had never experienced someone breaking into her home, but God had laid it on her heart to pray that verse for me every night. When I got home I looked at the verse she had written out and it said, "I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety." I committed that verse to memory and went to sleep every night meditating on it, comforted by that fact that my friend was praying the verse over me.
As I processed the verse and the sermon on fear, I began to view God's command to not fear differently. Before I had believed God was always displeased with me when I experienced fear, but when I put the command in its context it seemed like God was speaking to me in the same way my husband spoke to our boys when they were afraid of the bogeyman. Instead of avoiding God in shame when I experienced fear, I began to acknowledge it to Him and then focus on His attributes and His care for me. Several years later I told God I knew He was with me on the night of the beak in and asked Him to give a vision of where He was that night. Immediately I saw Jesus dressed as a soldier, standing at the head of my bed watching over me. When I think of that night I no longer experience fear, I simply see Him standing guard over me.
I pray we will be gracious to those who have been or are still struggling with fear as we navigate this pandemic and the reopening of our country. There is a time to confront fear, but we would be wise to confront it the way the Lord does with reminders of His continual presence and His lavish care. We want to remember some came to this pandemic with unresolved trauma. For those who grew up without enough food to eat, for the ones who have lost loved ones to horrible diseases, for the ones who were abandoned as children, or those who were harmed in someway this pandemic may surface strong fears that need to be honored and patiently worked through so they, too, can continue growing in their ability to trust God in the hard.
I have had to continue to take my thoughts captive to Jesus' truth during this time, reminding myself this pandemic was no surprise to God. For while He was forming me in my mother's womb, these days were already written in His books. I know my God knows my history and isn't angry when I experience fear. He is reminding me He is right here with me. His presence means even on my loneliest days, I am never alone. It means when I am feeling anxious or afraid, He can give me the courage I need to face the day in a way that honors Him. It means when I am weak, He will give me strength to do what needs to be done. It means when I am confused, He will give me the wisdom I need to navigate the hard. It means when I am feeling powerless, He is all powerful over all that pertains to me. It means when everything feels out of my control, He is in fact in control of it all. It means when I am struggling with sin, His perfect righteousness covers it. It means when I am feeling unsettled, He is my perfect peace. Oh, I hope that we would navigate this roller coaster season with His grace.
Isaiah 41:10 brings me great comfort these days:
"Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am you God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."