The narrow, magenta ribbon of sunset faded over an hour ago, and the moon won’t rise for another hour. The neighbor’s security lights and the red blinks on radio station antennae and cell phone towers are the only lights visible from my house.
I slide on chore boots, zip up a jacket, and press the switch on the palm-size flashlight as I step into the blackness of the back yard. I walk down three steps and follow the familiar path across the lawn, between the apple and the fir trees, across the shop drive, around the diesel fuel barrel, and onto the gravel that leads to the edge of the field.
I retreat to a dark spot away from the house because I hope to see the Aurora Borealis. Although it’s rarely visible at my latitude, the chances are good tonight because of a solar storm two days ago. I click the flashlight off and scan the sky. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I begin to pick out single stars, then constellations, and finally the Milky Way stretched overhead.
Despite the deep darkness of the night, regardless of the shadows moving toward me (our black cats had followed me), and even though I’m alone, I’m not afraid. I remember Psalm 8 and am comforted by God’s presence when I gaze at the “glory in the heavens.”
Although I wasn’t frightened of being alone in the dark, others in the same surroundings might be. Years ago a group of inner-city youth visited a neighboring farm. In the same inky night where I found comfort and closeness to God, those children were terrified. They were afraid of the open spaces, the black night devoid of street lights, and the startling appearance of previously unseen stars.
What petrifies you may not scare me. What unhinges me may not scare you, but even the bravest will have something that makes their heart beat fast or twists knots in their stomach. David wrote of faith and fear in the Psalms. Remember Indiana Jones’ terror in the pit of vipers? “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”
I know the kind of fear that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t want to let go. I recently watched my new-born grandson being prepped for an ambulance ride to a NICU. Seeing the wires and sensors, the supplemental oxygen, and the IV in his tiny, splinted arm increased my anxiety.
Guilt followed the fear and led to dark whispers of self-accusation and additional fears of inadequacy. How can you write about faith when you’re so afraid? How can you lead a prayer group when you can’t think of a word to pray?
I need to ignore those dark whispers and listen to the “still, small voice.” The verse I repeat to myself is
When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3 NIV
Not “if” but “when.” I’m grateful that God knows all about our fears and has compassion on us. Many of the verses in the Bible that command us not to be afraid have this same formula. Fearful? Look to God. His presence will comfort you. He will help you.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.
Isaiah 41:13 NIV
What frightens you? Is it a metaphorical snake pit or a real-life hospital room?
Are you afraid when the road ahead is risky?
Are you scared of being alone?
Are you frightened when death stalks your family or
when illness is eating the heart out of you?
Are you scared when you compare yourself to others and think that you don’t “measure up?”
If I’m honest, I’d have to raise my hand and say “yes, I’m afraid of all those things . . . and more.” My list of fears may not be as long as Mr. Monk’s (the fictional, phobic detective), but it’s there and includes public speaking and crowded elevators.
I’ll try to remember the next time fear threatens to overwhelm:
trust in Jesus,
listen to His voice,
hold His hand,
and try not to let fear push me around.
Bravery isn’t about being fearless. It’s about being less controlled by your fear.
What are you afraid of, and how do you deal with your fear?
- I write today about garden-variety fear. I do not intend to demean or diminish the crippling anxiety or phobias some may endure. Medical and psychological treatment may be necessary in the healing process.
- My grandson is home and doing well now