Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.
--Isaiah 41:10 HCSB
Okay, sweet friends, I have one more thought to share before I finally get to tell you about the special thing I'm doing for my kids this weekend. I'm really excited about it, so stay tuned!
But something else has been heavy on my heart this week. I've tried to avoid writing about it, telling myself I need to focus on editing in stead of blogging, but I simply can't get it out of my head until I get it on paper. (Or computer screen...whatever. Y'all know what I mean!) So let me take a quick break and tell you...
This week I've come face-to-face with fear.
Early this week a violent crime was committed in our neighborhood. The local news reported that similar violent crimes had occurred in nearby residential areas as well.
And the neighborhood erupted in fear.
The streets were eerily quiet as parents locked their doors and kept their children inside. Our neighborhood Facebook page exploded with residents urging one another to protect ourselves with guns and self-defense classes. Many neighbors commented that they were terrified to leave their house alone, especially at night.
And you know what? I completely understand why so many residents reacted in fear. (N.B.: I think self-defense and gun protection is a great idea. Please don't misunderstand.)
But it was the level of fear that struck me.
Overnight, we went from a typical suburban community to high alert, terrified for our safety and our children.
And it got me thinking...
Why are we so afraid?
Now, before you mistakenly think I'm approaching this subject as a "what's wrong with those people" post, let me assure you that I know fear firsthand. I've been suffocated by it, ambushed by it, paralyzed by it. Fear so physically painful that it sent me to the doctor, convinced I was having a heart attack. Fear that consumed me with the crippling worry of endless "what-ifs."
Just to give you an idea...
- When my dad died at a young age, I was very afraid of dying.
- When I miscarried my first child, I was afraid I would never be able to have kids.
- When my daughter was diagnosed with glaucoma, I was afraid she'd become blind.
- When my marriage started falling apart, I was afraid my husband would leave.
- When our church plant started struggling, I was afraid the church wouldn't survive.
- When my husband abruptly moved out, I was afraid of being alone.
I was controlled by fear.
I am a Christian, so my fear doesn't make any sense. In my head, I know that fear has no place in the life of a child of God.
After all, "Fear not!" is the most repeated command in all of Scripture. The pages of our Bibles are replete with God's assurances that He is with us and will never forsake us. Reminders that He will protect us and is our refuge and strength. Commands to trust Him and to cast our cares on Him and to be anxious for nothing.
Why, then, did I react in fear? Why do any of us feel afraid?
Regarding my list above, some of my fears came true. Some didn't. Either way, I couldn't alter the outcome. All my fear and anxiety didn't change the fact that I am helpless to control my life.
Ah... there's the rub.
I can't control my life!
(Yes, I just heard you say, "Well, duh.")
I know, I know. Of course I can't control my life. God is in charge of the whole world. Those of us who cut our teeth on church pews learned this foundational truth as preschoolers. We sang, "He's got the whole world in His hands!"
Over and over in our churches, we read and teach and sing this fundamental reality:
God is in control.
Ironic, isn't it? The truth that troubles me the most is the same truth that gives me the most comfort.
I am not in control. God is.
That is both alarming and assuring.
Alarming, because I can't plan my life the way I want it to turn out.
Assuring, because I know that the God who gave me life loves me and has a plan infinitely greater than anything I could ever concoct.
Obviously, if I was writing the story of my life, I would NOT have included the plot twist of my former-pastor-husband leaving me. Or of my miscarriage. Or of my daughter developing glaucoma at age three. Or of two church plants failing. Or...
You get the picture.
But you see, God Himself is writing my story. In fact, He finished the entire story and wrote "The End" before I was even born. All of my days were written in God's book and planned before a single one of them began (Psalm 139:16).
As much as I'd like to whip out my editor's pen for a substantive rewrite of my life, all the red ink in the world can't change the story God wrote.
And all the wishing in the world won't bring my husband back or give me back the child I miscarried or reestablish the church that failed.
And all the worry in the world won't add one moment to my life's span or alter any of the circumstances God allows.
And all the fear in the world won't change the future that the Author of Life has already planned and penned for me--and for my children.
So day by day, I choose to obey the command to "Fear not!" I've filled a spiral notebook with scriptures that remind me of God's sovereign care and protection. And over the past few months, I've learned to respond to unexpected and even tragic events with faith, not fear.
That's why when I heard of the devastating event that struck our neighborhood this week, I can honestly say that I didn't react in fear. Maybe after all these years, I'm finally learning to rest in this whole "God is in control" thing! :)
It is a grand thing to be able to say, "Wherever I go, and whatever happens to me, I belong to God; and I can say that God will prepare my way as well when I am old and grey-headed as he did when I was a boy. He shall guide me all the way to my everlasting mansion in glory; he was the guide of my youth, he shall be the guide of my old age. I will leave everything to him, all the way from earth to heaven; and I will be content to live only a day at a time."