03 Sep Fighting Fear with the Promises of God
On May 26th, I laid panicking in bed, trying my hardest to fall asleep while my thoughts spiraled. Two notable events had happened earlier in the day: George Floyd’s murder hit the news, and I found out I was pregnant. My joy in seeing the positive pregnancy test immediately collided with the grim reality of 2020. We were three months into the COVID-19 global pandemic, in the middle of a lock-down that threatened to destroy the economy, and the heartache of racial injustice was crushing my closest friends.
As I fought to fall asleep, the combination of fear, pregnancy hormones, and tired emotions created a concoction of worst-case scenario thinking inside of me. As a pregnant woman, I’d be at a 10x higher risk for COVID-19. What if my husband and I got really sick? Specifically, what would we do with our extremely shy toddler? With our family ten hours away, I didn’t know where he would go. And Corona wasn’t the only thing messing with my head; I unwisely began to consider the brutal ugliness of the world my children would live in. Even if I raised them to be kind, just, and courageous, I wouldn’t be able to protect them from other people. Or from accidents. Or from a thousand other things that could rip them from me. Although I’m usually an annoyingly positive person, I dove into worst-case scenario waters, and I couldn’t get out.
When I realized the fight I was facing was too much for me, I sobbed and sent a quick text to my sister: “Please pray for me, I have so much anxiety tonight. What will we do with Cassius if we get really sick? I’m panicking.”
My sister responded almost immediately, and what she said broke through the intensity of the spiral:
“Fear tells us the story of what would happen without God’s presence in that moment. We can’t believe that story because God never leaves us. No matter what might happen, God’s grace is sufficient enough to carry you, and His presence is strong enough to comfort you.”
As I meditated on these truths, I tangibly felt God’s presence cut through my fear. Even if my nightmares came true, God would pour out sufficient grace. His presence would be with my sick body, with my tiny baby growing in utero, and with my scared son. No matter what might happen, He would still be Emmanuel, God with each of us. I finally fell asleep with assurance and peace.
Since that day, I’ve learned to recognize when fear is telling a story to me or one of my friends:
- Fear tells us that our nation will collapse if our preferred candidate doesn’t get elected
- Fear tells us that our high schooler won’t ever recover from the pain of missing senior year
- Fear tells us that our marriage won’t survive the quarantine
- Fear tells us that we’ll lose everything in this economic crisis
- Fear tells us that racism will destroy those we love
Fear rushes to the worst-case scenario but forgets about God. Isaiah 43:1-3 gives a powerful image of God’s presence with us in threatening situations. It says,
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
As I started to proclaim promises like this over my fears, something else stirred worship inside of me: all of these truths had nothing to do with me and rested entirely on God.
When I tried to combat anxiety by imagining a perfect scenario, trusting in my limited resources, or ushering in all the positive self-talk I could muster, I completely failed. But when I chose to combat anxiety based on WHO God is and WHAT He is infinitely capable of, my faith grew. Courage poured into my heart, and I found rest.
Church, instead of trusting in ourselves to combat fear, let’s trust in Christ. Here are some examples that I’ve been using in my own life:
- My hope is not anchored to my ability to imagine the perfect outcome of a situation. My hope is anchored to Christ, because “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
- My security is not dependent on my ability to “make it happen,” or because I’ve “got what it takes.” My security is dependent on Christ, because “God shall supply all your needs according to HIS riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
- My peace is not based on reading calm news headlines on social media. My peace is based on Christ because “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
God is strong enough to carry our fear— of disease, of political unrest, of economic turmoil, of painful relationships. We can take all that’s raw and unedited inside of us and boldly approach His throne for help in time of need. He isn’t a far-away God who waits for us to regain composure. He is Emmanuel, God with us, walking through deep waters.