It is silly now but as a child, fear gripped my heart at night. In those few moments after my parents switched off the light and before falling asleep, the shadows of the room leaped into monsters. I laid in bed frozen with fear as the form of a dinosaur appeared next to the bed. Then I would see a gorilla next to the closet or a ghost in the corner. I tried to dismantle the spooky forms lurking in the dark corners. Afraid even to swallow, I blinked and blinked again trying to make the creatures disappear. The forms stayed there until I drifted asleep.
The next night the same creepy characters appeared in the shadows, and I battle fear again until I lapsed into sleep.
It is ridiculous now, so irrational and childish. But the fear I experienced as a little girl–my stiff body afraid to move in the bed, barely breathing as not to disturb the spook in the dark–triggered the deepest, most primal fear.
As I grew older and more mature, I discovered different kinds of fears still lingered in the dark shadows of my bedroom before I slept. Their faces took on new forms: fear of failure, sickness, disappointment, betrayal, debt, death, and the list continued. Their dark, looming shapes triggered the same foreboding emotions. Those fears became just as paralyzing and real as the imagined spooky creatures of childhood.
I just read an interesting article about a possible cure for fear that scientists are developing. They really feel they may be close to finding a “cure for fear” by studying it. It is estimated that over 40 million Americans suffer from severe anxiety disorders which costs our economy about $42 million annually.
That’s a lot of scared people putting an exorbitant amount of money into becoming free from fear.
Of course a little bit of fear is good. It is what keeps me getting up in the morning–the fear of starvation and loss of shelter. The fear of fire keeps me from scalding my hands on the stove. The fear of my husband keeps me quiet when I want to say something sarcastic. A little fear makes me wise.
Wisdom is the cure for fear.
I honestly don’t believe there will ever be a scientific cure for fear, but there is wisdom that overcomes fear.
Song of Songs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The first “fear of the Lord” that we experience may be negative, like God might smash us when we disobey. But as we mature, we realize that we deserve to be smashed–that our sin has alienated us from the Father–but God’s lovingkindness and patience restrains His arm. Instead He offers love and forgiveness through the person of Jesus. We fear God in a whole new dimension because of His awesome love and patience. That fear is healing and leads us into supernatural wisdom and enables us to deal with the onslaught of fear, rational or irrational.
Our first year on the mission field in Odessa, Ukraine, I became overwhelmed with fear. The changes in lifestyle, culture, and economics shattered my peaceful and stable existence. I remember one day walking in the downtown area, and everything was dark and gray. The sky was overcast and the heavens as heavy as lead. The cement buildings towered dark and gray above me. The faces were unfamiliar and strange. I sought comfort from my surroundings and found only hard, gray cement and chill.
Suddenly this overwhelming fear rose up in my heart that I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I wanted to vomit it was so strong. We had sold our house, our belongings, left our family and friends for something dark and gray and foreign. I wanted to run, but there was no place to run, nothing to do but embrace the shroud of gray enveloping me.
From the depths of my heart a Scripture from Hebrews bubbled up to the surface: “You are seeking a city whose Builder and Maker is God.”
In that instance, I understood through experience what it meant to be a “sojourner,” a “pilgrim.” A deep longing for heaven–that city whose Builder and Maker is God–washed over me and diluted, even vanquished my fear. That fear of loss, fear of not belonging, fear of making a mistake, fear of the unknown, and fear of rejection dissapted in the warm truth that I am not at home on this earth.
In comfort or dreadful discomfort, this earth is not my home.
That bit of supernatural wisdom opened up a new dimension that took me beyond my immediate fear.
The fearful child in me still sees the shadowy forms in the dark corner of my bedroom from time to time. I can’t stop them coming, but I can illumine the bedroom with the light of God’s glorious wisdom and presence.
The light that comes from wisdom is the only cure for fear. It penetrates the dark and pulverizes the many faces of fear.