Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Overwhelming Fear

"For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 
"Fear not, I am the one who helps you.””

Isaiah 41:13

Fear is an interesting emotion in that it can be both rational and irrational. I have several fears I believe are rational and protective. I am terrified of rattle snakes and that fear kept me alive when we lived in an area where there was rattle snakes. I am also afraid of riding in a car with someone who has been drinking, walking alone after dark, and afraid of heights. Okay…as I am writing this I am also realizing that the fears I thought were rational aren’t always rational. My fear of rattle snakes has grown to include all snakes, even those that are harmless. My fear of riding in a car has grown to irrational proportions and I often brake my imaginary break and scream, “STOP!” at my husband. My fear of heights has become irrational after I suffered a broken ankle and a broken knee and have realized that I am not quite as stable on my feet. I have also had irrational fears of the dark and public speaking, but have worked on them some.

I’ve had other fears that were situational. One bout with fear occurred when one of our sons was in an accident and his spleen ruptured. There were no words to describe the fear that I felt when they wheeled him into surgery. I was afraid I wouldn’t see him again and afraid of the pain that would bring. I was afraid of the lowered resistance to infection that he would have without a spleen and afraid of seeing him in so much pain. But I prayed and faced those fears with God and He truly was with me. His presence was huge and looming even though the truth that His sovereignty determined the outcome, which thankfully was positive.

I was also overwhelmed with fear when our granddaughter came thirteen weeks early. I was afraid she wouldn’t make it and got on a plane not knowing if I would get to see her when I got there. I was afraid I would never know what her voice and laughter would sound like. I was afraid I would never have the privilege of seeing what her personality is like. I was afraid I would never know what could make her smile, cry, or jump for joy and I prayed and again experienced God’s overwhelming presence and again was blessed by joy of seeing her overcome the odds and had the joy of hearing her sing, laugh, cry, and wine. I had the joy of seeing her this last weekend play with her cousins, dance beautifully, draw, and run this last weekend as we celebrated her fifth birthday. Every time I look at our son or granddaughter I am reminded of a season of intense intimacy I experienced as I talked honestly to God about my fears, my belief, my unbelief, my desires, my hopes, and admitted the powerlessness that terrified me.

I was overwhelmed with fear when our sons faced deployments in war zones. To wake up daily knowing they were in harm’s way is different kind of scary for which no one prepared me. I think those who have had loved ones killed or wounded in the line of duty have even more fears to face than I can even imagine. The deployments and a few other situations have been what I have called, the fear of the what “ifs.” They loom, but they don’t seem valid, because we don’t know if we will have to face them or not. Sometimes it is hard to share those kinds of things, because people don’t get them and we feel alone. But the truth is God is with us and will help us face whatever the outcome is and it is okay to talk about them.

I have watched some precious people deal with huge fears when the outcomes weren’t so positive. They lost jobs, spouses, children, marriages they wanted to keep, and homes their families have lived in for years. I have wondered what kind of fears they face when they have to provide for their families on no income. What kinds of fears surface when a widow or widower enters the house for the first time without their loved one and have to face their first night alone in a bed they once shared? What kind of fear looms over the parents who have had to lay such tiny beings to rest? What kind of fears do those betrayed by divorce have to overcome to find their joy again? What kinds of fears do those who lose their homes face? What kinds of fears loom on the horizon while a person waits on a medical test or gets back a test that is positive for cancer?

I used to feel a great amount of shame for the fear that I experience and that shame drove me away from God when I needed to cling to Him the most. I have heard some people say that fear is a lack of faith. I don’t agree with that. I think that fear is an opportunity to exercise faith as we take Him at His word and choose to cling to the truth of verses like the one above. I think that fear is a normal part of life and an opportunity to develop rich intimacy with God as we tell Him the truth about our fears, longings, and desires, and learn to trust His sovereignty.

Fear is personal in that we all have different things that trigger fear and we all respond to it and feel it’s intensity in different ways. We can choose to stuff it and never learn from it or we can acknowledge it to God and to safe people and move through it and learn from it. We do have some power over the fear in that we can choose to intensify it or decompress it by what we think about in regard to the fearful situations. What a gracious God we have. He tells us so much in that one verse: He is our God! He holds our right hand! He speaks directly to our hearts! We don’t have to fear, because He is the one who helps us. There is not a fear too big for Him to handle. He doesn’t promise to rescue us from every fearful situation…but He does promise to help us. When I am faced with the next fearful situation, I close my eyes and focus on Him so I can feel His hand in mine and I will listen for His voice to say, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” May we never forget that it is God who holds our right hands and speaks hope into our hearts as we face fearful situations.

Prayer: Father, thank you for promising to be with us every moment of every day. Thank you for speaking hope into our lives when we are afraid. Thank you for promising to help us through everything that we face. We love you and want to honor you even in the midst of our fear. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!