On the Side - December 2016
The Treachery of Fear
By Shelly Wyrick
I read a book, in a shaking whisper, to my four beautiful children as we hunkered on the bathroom floor. We were in lock down. This was not a drill, but a terrifying response to a situation I will never forget. A man had walked down our long driveway and sat down on our porch. He was high. He was nonsensical. He was not going to leave. My fearless husband stood guard while the rest of us hid until the police came.
Imagine the spiritual warfare over my front porch that night. God’s fingerprints of surpassing power, love, and mercy were all over the situation. We were fine. In the moment, God gave both my husband and me wisdom and patience and strength as we trusted Him.
Actually, by the grace of God, were beyond fine. Another doc in the group took call for the night, enabling my husband to stay home. The kids barely mentioned it the next day. Not a thing was stolen, nothing was vandalized. All was well. Except for in the deep caverns of my inner being. I was shaken to the core. To the core. In the days that followed, the fear that tsunamied over me was treacherous. I was frazzled, my muscles tense…I felt paralyzed in my own home.
In short, I was terrified of the man on my front porch. Every waking moment was consumed with how I would escape him, how I would protect my children, how I would overcome him. I was making plans as if the whole situation might play out every morning, every afternoon, every evening from then on. I accomplished nothing for days because I was too busy plotting against him. The bulk of my time was spent guard-dog shopping and reliving the story as I shared it with family. Every waking moment was tainted in fear of the man on my front porch.
But here’s the catch: He wasn’t on my front porch. Sure, he had been, and when he was, God gave us everything we needed to deal with him. But once he was gone, I was carrying forward as if he were still there. God was patiently leading me to scripture that should have dispelled all fear. Psalm 121. I could write a whole article about the specific details of how a sincere and compassionate Father walks you through scripture when you need it. Get in the Word. God was providing a way to escape the incessant fear (1Cor 10:13, 2Tim1:7), but I was choosing to chain myself to the angst as if the man was on my front porch every moment of every day.
As I acknowledged my self-enslavement, I became not only fearful but also annoyed with myself, because it wasn’t the first time I’d done this. How many times in my life had I let fear and anxiety of something I wasn’t currently facing overwhelm me? How often had I looked to the future of what might happen, what could happen, and reacted with all the prickles of doubt as if it was currently happening.
Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow (Matt 6:34), and to trust that God will take care of us and give us what we need (Matt 6:26). Simply put, God gives us what we need when we need it. Can I trust that? Can you trust that?
When my husband applied to medical school I surmised how awful it would be to move half way across the country, from the moment he received the acceptance letter to the moment we pulled away in a U-haul. As match day approached four years later I stewed over all the options and how they would play out and oh-my, what if he didn’t even match. All this before the envelope was opened. And when he stepped into residency and I had my first child, my heart was seized by what people might think if I walked away from a career I worked really hard for. What would they think if I gave up all that so I could change diapers and read nursery rhymes? I carried that burden before “people” even had the chance to have those thoughts.
I’m not alone. Instead of worrying about the future, which Jesus himself warns against, let’s look at the reality of what is actually right in front of us. There’s not a man on my front porch. And when there was, God gave me what I needed.
How do we do that? Can we control our worries? With practice, I think so. Practicing a moment-by-moment gratitude to the One who provides is, at first, rusty and awkward. Taking my thoughts captive, telling myself to trust Jesus over and over and over feels just as relentless as telling my kids to stop tipping their chairs back at dinner, which I do approximately three times per second for the entire meal. It feels forced to willfully choose to receive God’s grace every moment. But then, as days pass, it becomes a new rhythm. A new freedom. A new mercy. It’s there, the escape from anxiety and fear of the future, we just have to choose it…three times per second.
Shelly is a physical therapist turned play-at-home-mom of four kids. Among other accomplishments, she cleared her schedule this past fall…and…exhaled. Shelly adores her old-fashioned manly-man of a husband, coffee, and Jesus. She also enjoys writing, jogging, and being out of doors with her family.