“We are brave of all scary.”—Paul, age 4
This past week, I sat with three different women who had faced some of the deepest fears I could ever imagine. One of them is a dear friend who is facing single parenthood after the man she loved and trusted confessed a sin that left her breathless. She is forced to answer questions she never thought would be asked by a son she never thought she’d have to raise alone.
Another woman told me how she struggles this time of year because it brings up the memory of the day she came home from work to find out her eighth grade son had never made it on the school bus. Just minutes after Judy kissed him good-bye, he had been attacked and murdered by someone who wanted the things they would have given away for nothing. They found their youngest child dead on the floor near their bed where he was trying to hide.
The third discovered she and her husband had incompatible genes. Together, they had a 1 in 4 chance of creating a child with an incurable and excruciating disorder. But they did not know it until an ultrasound of their first child showed it. It took a little baby being born into a hopeless situation to learn what lingered in their DNA. By then it was too late to help him: a little baby was born into a life of pain, and a woman was born into motherhood by a child she could not keep. This friend had to give her son back to heaven five years after he had been given to her on earth.
These are the stories that seize my heart as a mother. I listen, watching the faces of these women, and I wonder how they ever survived, how they are surviving. They embody everything I fear as a mother: losing a child, illness, disease, betrayal, abandonment, and more.
I realize I am a fearful person, a fearful mother. The traumatic events of my life—real or imagined—have left me quick to flinch, and I respond with the classic fight-or-flight impulse. I respond in anger or I retreat into avoidance. I control or I over-protect. I accuse or I suspect. Fear is the catalyst of all sorts of actions that are not love. It keeps me from loving and enjoying my children because it binds up my heart and doesn’t leave it free to beat the way it should. I cannot truly love them when I am fearful.
In fact, it seems to me that love is the opposite of fear. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, it was not hate they felt first, but fear. As soon as that awful choice was made, their hearts began to quiver, and they cowered at the familiar sound of their Lord walking in the garden. Everything that was beautiful and lovely now cast shadows and harbored danger. They knew the most lovely thing was the most dangerous of all.
Our children are the most lovely things we have been allowed to create. But because they are so lovely, they are the most dangerous of all. We fear losing them. We fear hurting them and being hurt by them. We fear not being able to control them and being embarrassed by them. We fear failure at not parenting them well.
All that fear rushes into the places where love should reign and deceives us into thinking we are really loving our children when in fact, we are acting out of fear. We are coating them in hand-sanitizer and telling them they can’t date until they’re thirty and calling them fifteen times a night to ask them where they are–not because we love them but because we fear what might happen to them. We get angry when they jump off of things they shouldn’t or run across the street without looking because we fear they will break.
We know we live in a broken world, and we must walk amongst the shards. We know we will get cut but we don’t know how deep, and that is the fear. So we respond the only way we know how, by instinct rather than faith, in the hopes of getting out with as little damage as possible. We allow fear to reign where love longs to dwell.
If only we understood that love is more powerful than fear! It is the original beautiful thing, and fear is but a broken shard, no longer beautiful, and no longer good. Fear does not have the same beauty and it does not hold the same power. The words of truth confirm it. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
There is no fear in love. How I want that to be true! I want to love my husband so perfectly, I never fear for his loyalty. I want to love my children so perfectly, I never try to guard their freedom or control their actions.
But I cannot love perfectly. That part of the verse does not apply to me at all. It applies only to Christ, whose perfect love stepped into my world of shadows and laid His life over the shards. Into the midst of all my fear, Christ has come. Christ is.
In the midst of the very real and dangerous moments, I find Him abiding. There, the sweetness of Christ demonstrates real love and allows me the freedom to let go of fear. I have never been in a situation in my life, even the most fearful moments, where I did not find Christ.
But I have found this to be true: I have had less fear in the actual traumatic events in my life than I have had in the imagined events that never came to pass. How I worry and fret and fear for things that God never ordained for me! How many times have I feared because my husband had to drive home in the snow? How many times have I planned his funeral because he was two hours late? How many times have I diagnosed my child’s cough as pneumonia and allowed my mind to bind me up with terror?
That is when I must turn to faith instead of fear. Fear does not have the power to change the course of events. It only keeps me from fulfilling my purposes in the time and space God has ordained for me. It keeps me from enjoying my children and cherishing my husband.
Instead of giving in to fear, I must cling to this truth: Christ’s love is greater than anything I could imagine. He is sufficient for this moment, and He will be sufficient for whatever comes to pass. His love will abide wherever He chooses to lead.
Where Christ abides, I am free to love and enjoy my children without fear.
Please join us tomorrow for Day 16: Weakness
For further thought:
1) Are you living under the weight of fear? My friend gave me this suggestion: think of your fear and imagine Christ in the midst of it. Can you see Him there? Can you trust Him to love you through it?
2) When I am afraid, I love to meditate on Psalm 23. You may know it by heart. When you are struggling through difficult situations or facing future fears, read it over and over again. Let the words sink deep into your heart. Hold onto the fact that Christ will permeate any future hardships.
3) 2 Corinthians 10:5 talks about taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Are you allowing your fearful thoughts to control you, or are you taking them captive to the truth that Christ will be sufficient in all things? Ask God to help you discipline your mind toward faith.