Archive for February 17th, 2011

Joyful Faith: Dealing with Fear

A few years ago we went to Disneyland with my parents and sister’s family.  At the time, my son was 7, and my daughter celebrated her 5th birthday while we were there.  My little girl has always been somewhat fearful when encountering new situations, so I prepared her for the unknown by watching videos of the rides through the Disneyland website.  We would watch the slide-shows and videos over and over as her excitement grew.

Then we got to the park.  We went to California Adventure on her birthday and found a great spot for the Pixar Play Parade, of which we’d seen video clips on the internet dozens of times.  But all of a sudden she was terrified of her favorite costumed Pixar characters.  She was crying and shaking because she…wait for it…thought the characters were going to eat her.  The rides turned out to be an even worse nightmare because we would stand in line for 40 minutes to go on a ride, and just as we got to the front, my daughter would flip out and start screaming (and this girl has some serious vocal chords) that she can’t go on the ride.

One such experience was when we were about to get on one of my favorite rides, The Pirates of the Caribbean.  Since this was one of the few rides our entire extended family could go on (my sister has twin boys who were only 1 year old at the time), we weren’t keen on sitting this one out with her.  As we got closer and closer to the front, her refusal to go on the ride escalated.  She was absolutely convinced that the animatronic characters (that are nailed down) were going to get into the boat and hurt her.  No amount of reasoning with her could convince her otherwise.  We tried distracting her with her cousins, and pointing out how they were not afraid to go on the ride.  We pulled out the big guns – Grandma – and even Grandma couldn’t work her magic on my terrified little girl.  Finally, my husband picked her up and asked her flat out, “Have I ever let anything bad happen to you?  Would I take you some place where I know you will get hurt?”  She shook her head “no,” and continued to whimper.  Then he assured her, “I will be right there with you, holding your hand the whole time.  I will protect you, and I promise nothing bad will happen to you.”  She still was afraid, but got on the boat with us and closed her eyes for most of the ride.

Her fear seemed so ridiculous and unwarranted, and yet we have all probably experienced this kind of crippling fear when facing the unknown.  My husband’s company folded last September, after a year of uncertainty and unfulfilled hopes that it would survive.  We are just 2 months away from the end of our unemployment checks, and my husband received a rejection yesterday for the job he interviewed for this week.  I can identify with the fears my daughter felt, inching down the dark hallway toward the unknown.  I don’t know what kind of ride is ahead of us.  It might be pleasant and refreshing, like Splash Mountain on a hot afternoon.  It might be a crazy whirlwind, like the Tea Cups.  It might be exhilarating and exciting with unexpected twists and turns like Space Mountain.  Or it could be a bit frightening, like the Haunted Mansion.

I don’t know what is ahead, and it would be so easy to give in to fear’s paralyzing power.  But I have a choice (remember, the theme of this blog is choices).  I can kick and scream all the way because I have made up my mind that what’s ahead must be terrible.  Or I can listen to my Heavenly Father, who’s standing right here with me, saying, “Have I ever let anything happen to you that I have not used for your good (Romans 8:28)?  Have I not promised you my plans are to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future (Jer. 29:11)?  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).  I can face the unknown because I know that my Father is holding onto me.

We can find safety and comfort in God as our refuge, but his plan for us goes beyond simply providing a safe haven from the troubles of this world.  You and I were meant to overcome them – which doesn’t mean we will escape them.   (As Beth Moore puts it, “You can’t overcome something if you never underwent anything.”)  We are given the power through Christ’s death and resurrection to be “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).  After all, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).  I believe God has given the power to overcome discouragement, fear, and doubt to all who call on his name.  It’s so easy to focus on our present struggles, but God’s plan is not for us to just hunker down and wait out the storm, going through the ride with our eyes closed.  The Holy Spirit gives us the same power that raised Jesus from the dead in order that we may have victory in this life, when by the world’s standards we should be falling apart.

I was reminded in my Beth Moore study of the book of Revelation, that when God is about to do something of great magnitude in our lives, he will often let us feel its absence deeply so that we can have a greater testimony of his deliverance, and a greater appreciation for the gift he’s about to give us.  Personally, I don’t know when God will choose to act on our behalf.  The last time my husband was unemployed, he got the call for his job after his unemployment checks had run out and our savings were dwindling.  Sometimes God waits until the 11th hour to act, but it is because he is working out a powerful testimony that will bring him glory.  As sons and daughters of the King, we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16).  He holds us up when are afraid and need our Father.  But when we approach the throne and choose to surrender those fears to him, God equips us with everything we need to be conquerors and live a life of victory as a testimony of his power and might.  To God be the glory!

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