When I was young, I read a story about a blind dog. He was able to roam free in his house and yard because he had such a good memory that he never bumped into anything more than once. If he bumped into anything, he’d avoid it from that point on. This worked fine for permanent things like trees or buildings, but the problem is that some items aren’t permanent. Sometimes a chair wasn’t pushed up to the table, or or a rake was not put away, or a car was in the driveway and then drove away. If the dog bumped into it, he’d avoid that place from them on, so as he walked across the room or house, he’d weave a curious path around things that weren’t there.
I think that fear is like that. We all have painful, difficult, or fearful experiences that make us afraid, so the tendency is to avoid them. We burn our hand on a burner, we avoid doing it again. We are afraid of bridges, so we don’t drive on. Someone rejects us, so we avoid relationships. Someone takes a advantage of us, and we stop giving. Fear can be debilitating, and if we aren’t careful, we can weave around experiences like the blind dog avoided places where he got hurt. If we aren’t careful, we can become like Adrian Monk, the phobic detective in the TV program “Monk,” who was so afraid of everything that he never enjoyed life. Ok, so maybe this example is a bit excessive, but fear can limit us severely.
People say that fear and doubt is sin, and I think they are correct. However, over and over again, God has take me straight to my fears. I once told God that I believed I would have strong faith if He would only STOP leading me DIRECTLY to the things that I was most afraid of. I mean, what does He expect me to feel if He takes me to my fears. OF COURSE I AM GOING TO BE AFRAID AND SHAKE AND TREMBLE.
When I was a child, I was afraid of blood and hospitals. If someone described an accident or medical procedure in my hearing, I’d turn white and get whoozy. Many times I came very close to fainting in science classes or when visiting people in hospitals. I once went to the doctor about a pain, and he said said he could do a procedure but it might be painful. I said, no, that’s ok, it’s not that bad–then I went out to the reception area and fainted in front of everyone. I think I was too empathic and could feel things as if they were happening to me. I confronted this fear, learned techniques to overcome it, and while I’ll never love hospitals, blood tests, medical procedures, or surgeries, I have faced many without flinching.
When I was in high school, someone asked me “What is your greatest fear?” I replied, “My greatest fear is that the people I love would stop loving me.” Then, a few years later, every significant person in my life rejected me–friends, pastor, parents, and siblings–because I did not meet their expectations. Over time, I faced the fear of rejection, and now I am not afraid of people I love not loving me, although it will always be painful. In facing this fear, I have learned to set healthy boundaries, overcame an excessive need to have other’s approval, and many other things.
I was afraid of being poor. And then God took us through times of poorness, and He provided. And I am not afraid.
About ten or so years ago, I told God, “Please don’t ever, ever, ever, EVER cause ***** to happen. Do You hear me? Of all the things I have been through, of all the fears I have encountered, of all the heartbreak and sorrow, THIS one I cannot endure. This would crush me beyond crushing. This would destroy me.”
It was EJ’s biggest fear and heartbreak too.
I cannot tell you about it because it’s not just my story, and the person who is affected by this story has asked me not to share it. So I won’t.
But I will tell you that it occurred at the time I was sick, and EJ was working long hours, and his back hurt, and we were struggling in our marriage. When we discovered that our fear had come true, EJ’s and my hearts broke. And we were very afraid. I trembled and shook as I wept in horror. “I told You, Father, NEVER to let this happen. What sort of God are You? Why do You say You will deliver us from evil when You don’t deliver us?”
After a while, God gave me a verse that I didn’t even know I knew existed.
“If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in YOU.” Ps. 56:3
I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. Prov. 4:11