I am always inspired, moved and motivated after reading my dear friend and guest writer Mary Rabe’s words! Thank you Mary for always being vulnerable and willing to encourage us!
“Seasons of Fear”
By MARY RABE
My oldest son started having some pretty scary medical symptoms a few weeks back, and as days went by with no improvement and lots of medical tests, I found myself starting to feel afraid…even terrified sometimes. I’ve always had a deep fear of my children becoming seriously ill or hurt, and anytime there are symptoms or signs that point to that possibility, my anxiety rears its ugly head and the fearful thoughts start up. “What if this is something serious?” “What if he needs even more invasive tests?” “What if we all just stay sick for the entire summer and miss out on everything fun?” (It’s been a very long season of illness for our family that really does feel like it may never end!)
So what are we to do in these seasons of fear and uncertainty? How do we respond to times when fear is literally all-consuming and leaves us unable to cope? I’m still muddling my way through those answers, but hopefully the insights I’ve learned from others and am experiencing now will be of help to those of you who are also living in a season of fear.
1) Remember that Fear is a Liar.
There is a very moving song that I’ve adopted as my “anthem” to fight off my anxiety called “Fear Is A Liar” by Zach Williams. Even just the chorus is a powerful reminder for my anxiety-prone heart:
“Fear, he is a liar. He will take your breath, stop you in your steps.
Fear, he is a liar. He will rob your rest, steal your happiness.
Cast your fear in the fire, cause fear he is a liar.”
These words have proven themselves so true for me when it comes to fear’s effects on my life. Fear has literally taken my breath in these last weeks, causing my long-dormant asthma to suddenly erupt with a mighty vengeance. Fear has stopped me in my steps, keeping me frozen in deep anxiety as worst-case scenarios race through my head and leave me weak with dread. It has robbed my rest, keeping me not only from sleep at night, but even from quiet moments throughout the day as it urges me to just stay busy and distract myself from what’s happening, rather than taking my Savior’s hand and facing things head-on. And fear has absolutely and completely stolen my happiness lately, leaving me struggling with discouragement, weariness, and depression.
I think that fear is one of Satan’s most dangerous tools. Fear can completely destroy us if we let it, and I think the first step to stop that from happening is to recognize that it often lies to us, making things seem way worse than they are; tempting us to look back in the past, or far ahead, rather than staying in the present moment God has given us; and whispering ugly things that only tear us down and make us feel defeated.
2.) Stay in the Moment
My mom has a lot of wisdom and experience in dealing with fear. Like me, she struggles with all kinds of anxiety, and something she reminds me of when I am in the midst of a particularly intense panic is the verse Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” God doesn’t give us a floodlight, showing us the entire path we have ahead of us and revealing every detail of every choice we have to make; instead He gives us a lamp, literally like a flickering candle, only showing us the very next step we have to take.
Fear and anxiety tend to make us project our thoughts way out into the future, wondering what we will do next week or next month or next year and leaving us so overwhelmed with those worries that we can’t even handle what the current day holds. We need to resist that temptation and really focus on the path right in front of our feet, the very next step that God is illuminating for us, and then take that step in faith.
A sweet friend of mine shared the story in Matthew 14 where Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, walks on the water, and she used it to encourage me to keep my eyes on Jesus rather than the “waves” of my life right now. Verses 22-32 tell the story:
“22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
Peter didn’t start to sink until he took his eyes off of Jesus. While he was focused on His Lord and moved toward him, he was able to experience the miracle of walking on water! Yet, as soon as he was more aware of the wind and the waves, he started to sink. The same can be true of us in fearful circumstances. Scary or overwhelming times give us the opportunity to “walk on water”, to be part of something amazing and unbelievable that only God could accomplish…as long as we stay focused on Him. As soon as we take our eyes off of Him and focus on the fears, we start to sink.
Now, don’t let this become some kind of shaming message! As believers we can be tempted to think, “If I were a good Christian I would never be afraid. I would be so focused on God and would have such amazing faith that I would never, ever let fear win!” All that does, though, is make us feel beaten down and ashamed when we experience the very natural emotion of fear. Jesus actually shows us that He has immense mercy and kindness towards those who call to Him in fear. As soon as Peter called out for help, Jesus grabbed him. He didn’t make him wait it out, or mention anything about his faith yet; He reached out and grabbed him the moment he cried out for help. Only once He had Peter out of that fearful circumstance did he urge him to analyze his lack of faith. Jesus doesn’t rub our fears in our face or make us suffer in them all alone; He is there, waiting for us to call out to Him to save us, and knowing that sometimes we can only grow in our faith when we let Him help us conquer our fears.
I don’t have my “calmed storm” experience yet for my son’s scary symptoms. We have more doctor appointments and tests left to go, and I don’t know how this is going to end. I’m trying hard, though, to keep in mind that my fear lies to me and I need to ignore the things it tries to tell me; that God only expects me to take the next step in faith and I should focus only on today’s challenges; and that as long as I keep my eyes on Jesus, He will keep me afloat…no matter how intense the wind and waves may get.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” Psalm 94:19