It was a dark and stormy night.
My nine-year-old self huddled in bed, trying not to hear the crashing thunder and hiding my eyes from noon-bright flashes of lightning. As the wind came whistling around our house, timbers creaked, and I felt a quick stab of dread race through me. In my mind’s eye, I could see black clouds mixing with the wind, twisting, spinning into terrible tendrils that soon touched earth and headed straight for our house. The tornadoes would destroy it and hurt us all.
I was petrified.
In reality, the storm was far from dangerous. But what could turn a summer thundershower into a life-threatening tornado that might sweep us away at any moment? What awful power could distort my mind and hold me captive, powerless?
Mine was not a healthy fear – the sort that keeps you from jumping off buildings or putting your hand in the fire. The fear that squeezed my heart and petrified my bones was mostly irrational, and often debilitating.
It held me back from enjoying life and the adventures set before me. I was terrified of waterskiing and hesitant to embark on our family’s boat. I spent much of our family ski trips plagued by nightmares or frozen at the tops of steep slopes, afraid to move. I set the boundaries that defined my comfort zone (easy ski slopes, for example), and was afraid to cross them. Afraid to fall. Afraid to fail, or experience some mishap beyond my control.
And there’s the heart of the matter. I did not trust.
I knew that God and my family loved me. I knew of God’s providence. I didn’t want to be trapped by my own fear.
But I did not believe, truly, deep inside, that there was grace for all my failures – that when I fell, Love would catch me and set me right again.
My healing started with a verse.
My mom and I are cut from the same cloth, and she saw in me the same fear of failure that had once held her, too. So she taught me the verse she’d learned to yell while barreling down ski slopes:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
The truth and beauty of that verse seeped into my mind and heart each time we said it to one another. Relief washed over me. And slowly, my tears and frozen muscles were replaced with confidence, laughter, and adrenaline as we sped down the slopes together.
God has not given us a spirit of fear!
His Holy Spirit is with me. He has not made me to cower away from the adventures and challenges of life. He has given me the power to press on, to face my fears and overcome them. He gives me His everlasting love and renews my mind that I may know His will and trust His ways.
The Lord knows my weakness, and He supports me with His promises.
“There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 John 4:18)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
“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)
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to the Lord. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
I won’t say that I’m fearless, by any means. There are still moments when I pause at the top of a ski slope and wonder if I really can do it, when my heart quails at the thought of possible tragedies and trials, when I forget the height and width and depth of God’s love.
But fear does not hold me now. Nor can it keep me from enjoying the adventures, challenges, and experiences that God has set before me. For He did not leave me lamed, trapped, terrified. He helped me to grow, to begin living and internalizing the truths I already knew in my head, but that had not yet worked their way into my heart.
I can now enjoy life for the wild and wonderful journey it is. I love seeing God’s awesome display of power in thunderstorms. I eagerly look forward to our family ski trips, boating on the lake, and waterskiing. I’ve tried so many other things that I once feared (like rappelling!) and loved it!
Most of all, I hold on to the truth that I am a servant and soldier of the King, and fear has no claim on me when I am wrapped in the strength of His love.
“I called upon the Lord, and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)
Our God is a God of deliverance.
Call out to Him. He did not leave me, and He will not leave you, trapped by your own sins and failings. His grace, compassion, and love are great enough to forgive you, change you, and make you whole.
This has been a very personal post, but I felt the need to share one of the great things that God has done in my life. Until recently, I hadn’t realized how much of a problem fear used to be for me – and how much I have to thank God for. Internalizing the truths I knew was a lesson that I needed to learn then, and still do, in other areas of life. I look forward to continuing this journey with His help!