I used to struggle with fear. I’m not sure when it began, perhaps when I became old enough to understand that there really are monsters in this world and bad things do indeed happen to good people.
It showed up in such a profound way when my first child was born that I didn’t even recognize it for what it was. It almost completely crushed me. For two years I lived in the darkness of the shadow of intense fear with no idea how to explain it to loved ones, how to get out from under it, or if I would ever be free again.
The doctors called it Postpartum Depression. Knowing that there was a medical term for what I was feeling gave me hope that somewhere out there I could find help; I wasn’t just crazy! “Depression” was a term that helped me describe the overwhelming sadness I felt — in what should have been the happiest season of my life — but it didn’t explain those other feelings. The ones that had me convinced that my husband was probably going to die. Or the ones that didn’t allow me to accept the pure joy that is being a mom — because deep in my heart was a fear that this could all end at any moment.
Those feelings that couldn’t be articulated, the ones that couldn’t be described by using the word “depressed,” the ones that were the darkest and most crushing; those were the manifestations of deep-seated fear. I couldn’t see it for what it was because my emotions were amplified and distorted so much by the imbalanced hormones that were raging through my body that they weren’t recognizable as simply fear.
I say, “simply fear.” But there is nothing simple about fear, or what it can do to your soul.
He knows what fear can do to your soul. That’s why He tells us, over and over, “Do not fear.”
He also knows that fear has no power over you or me. That’s why He is able to say, “Do not fear” because He knows we have a choice.
I’m learning, ever so slowly, that “perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) I struggle with that verse because I wonder, if I have fear, does that mean I don’t love God? So I ask God to “…search my heart… and point out anything in me that offends you” (from Psalm 139:23-24).
Recently, during the most frightening trial of my life thus far, God camped out with me on that verse and taught me something I’ll never forget.
When I was imagining the worst possible outcome in a situation my family was facing, there was a moment when God asked me, “And if that were to happen, would you trust me?”
“No,.. I don’t think so.” (Through many, many fearful tears and trembling.)
“Well, maybe.” (As He gently whispers, “I am.”)
“Oh God, I hope so.” (Because what do I have if not that?)
“I want to…but…” (I know you let bad things happen to good people.)
“…Help me in my unbelief.”
And He whispers the truths I’ve been reading in my Bible since I was four years old.
And then I asked, “Do you mean to say that I can trust that even if, in your sovereignty (that I still don’t understand) you allow my worst nightmare to come true, you will still work it together for our good?” (Romans 8:28)
And God patiently waits while I let that truth penetrate the darkness that has threatened to choke out all hope and joy.
And by the grace of God I learn in that moment that I have no reason to fear.
…deep, cleansing, exhale…
God wasn’t testing my love for Him.
Instead, He’s revealing to me that I can trust His love for me.
His love is complete.
When I fully accept His love, there is nothing to fear.
We have an enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). But we have a savior who has crushed his head (Genesis 3:15).
Satan is defeated.
The battle is won.
The war is over.
So will I trust Him and be healed of my fear?
God revealed to me in that moment the faith I wasn’t sure I had. He showed me that I do trust Him, that I do believe — no matter the outcome — that He is good, and that we are safe in His care. With trembling hands, and a sudden sense of peace, I heard my soul say,
“So be it.”
It literally lasted as long as it takes to say those three words.
But it meant that I was free.
Free from crippling fear.
Free to trust my God with whatever may come.
“And I am now convinced that nothing can separate me from the love that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8: 38-39)
Not the coming true of my worst nightmare.
My worst nightmare did not come true. I’ll never use that outcome as proof that “God is good” because I believe He is good even when our fears do come true. His ability and willingness to keep me from harm is a profound testament to His greatness. His ability and promise to keep me safe even in the midst of my worst nightmare, that is what makes Him the God I willingly trust.
It’s easy to say, not as easy to live. I guess that’s what faith is all about.
I see the danger and heartache all around me. It’s tangible, it’s real. If I am to overcome the fear of what I see, I must develop a deep and rich understanding of and belief in the Love of God, who I can’t see.
It’s only by walking and talking with Him every day, surrounding myself with His truth, and listening to His voice of truth, that I will ever, and always, be able to answer, “Yes. I trust God’s love.”
Do you know Him so well and trust Him so deeply that you can say, in the face of your worst fear, “So be it?”
photos courtesy of Lydia Cranford