God’s Dog and Overcoming Fear

The Lord led us to move from Colorado to the Bronx one year before coming to Italy. We really didn’t know why. We only knew it was right. Only later did we see that that move was but the first step in a long series of the Lord’s leading. Yet the move filled me with terror. I was just a simple farm girl, after all, raised in rural Michigan! And New York City was the last place I wished to go. 

Yet I knew the Lord was leading. 

The Lord guides in many ways. Through his Word, our spiritual leaders, the counsel of godly friends. And by giving us a peace that passes all understanding. Even when we don’t understand.

But for me the greatest confirmation was my husband’s certainty. I believe that a wife’s first calling is that of following her husband’s lead, even when it’s to a place she’s terrified of! I felt certain it was the right step.

Yet as the day drew close, my fear intensified.

Visits to my husband’s Bronx family over the years had done little to set my heart at ease. And I wondered how I would survive in such a place! But just before moving, the Lord put peace in my heart with this verse:

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’

Acts 18:9-10

How foolish I was being! Had I forgotten that the Lord is everywhere, even in New York? “He’ll be with us,” I assured myself, “surely all will be fine!”

I wish the perfect apartment we found was a result of my great prayers and faith. But truth is, I’d been too busy worrying to pray about any details at all! But the Lord is ever faithful, even when we are not.

What a shame we often fret over things that never even come about.

I had dreaded the idea of a huge apartment complex. But we found a place in a single-family dwelling. Along the tree-lined street of a quiet, friendly neighborhood. Complete with a fenced yard and trained German Shepherd watchdog! (Useful things to have in the Bronx!)

But that dog was God’s dog.

Which is why, upon our arrival, the new landlady greeted us in utter astonishment.

Rocky usually lunged at anyone foolish enough to near the fence, barking with snarling jaws. But not us. He simply greeted us panting away and wagging his tail. The landlady only came to look because she heard us talking to him as we pet him!

They usually had to pen him up before letting anyone in. But not us. He took us in as family right from the start. Almost as though he had been waiting for us. And I think he was!

Crazy as it sounds, I think Rocky was God’s dog! Used by the Lord to help me through a really difficult time. Teaching me that he was with me – even in the Bronx. And that I could walk safely even in the middle of such a big and scary metropolis. And that, in spite of my lack of faith, he would always take of us.

God never promised us a life without pain or problems.

Our year there was anything but easy for me. The shopping district just blocks from our house was terrible. Drug addicts and pushers, pimps and prostitutes, and street people everywhere. Sirens sounded all hours of the day and night. Traffic never stopped. Crime became part of the daily scene. And overwhelmed, I nearly had a nervous breakdown. (More on that another time.)

But God does promise to stay with us and help us through.

And one by one, he helped me through the scary days and difficult nights. Through getting lost at night. Through the scariest train journey of my life. And by freeing me from the prison I had built for myself. The prison of fear and worry.

We can trust the Lord, not only when all is well, but also when overcome by fear and trouble.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

Why should we fear with God on our side?

Read Part Two: Unlocked Doors in the Bronx.

IMAGES: German shepherd by Rajesh Balouria. | Grass by Marketplace Designers.

Published by Signora Sheila

Missionary blogger, wife, mom, nonna. Join my simple life journey of faith and missions in small town Italy!

13 thoughts on “God’s Dog and Overcoming Fear

  1. Your experience (though much more intense) reminded me of the times we received word from our denomination leaders that my husband, a pastor, was being assigned to a new church in a new community. That happened five times. I never wanted to move; the process was painful. But God lovingly and faithfully led me along, giving me special scriptures each time, just as he did for you. I also agree that my spiritual growth was augmented by those challenging times. My trust in God expanded and perseverance developed. With you, I can now say, “Thank you, God, for pushing me out of my comfort zone so I could become more mature. I am a better person today for those experiences!”

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    1. Yes Nancy, moving is often difficult and challenging. But it is just for those reasons that it does stretch and grow us. God is so good to love us just as we are, but too much to leave us in our failings, weaknesses, and sins!

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  2. I can only imagine what a farm girl moving to New York City felt like–a whole cultural change. Hard, persistent, difficult times. But God. You found Him there, in a kind dog and in His wholeness for you, even in a place that felt and was so very broken. Thanks for sharing so honestly, Sheila.

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    1. I had my doubts about the whole episode, Pastor Pete! I’m glad you liked the post! I just hope it will encourage someone who is struggling with fear right now. Fear can be terrible and extremely binding. But God can help us overcome it!!

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    1. Thanks Bruce. Yes, they are. New York was hard for me. But in looking back, I now see that it was one of the best times for me spiritually. I think God is like a mamma bird, pushing us little fledglings out of the nest of our comfort zone, so that we have to try our wings and grow!! P.S. More coming soon!!

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  3. I’m with you Shelia. For me to move to a place like that would involve me seeing a literal hand writing on my literal wall! This country boy has traveled to many large cities, and on every occasion the happiest time of all was when I got on the plane to escape and head for home!

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    1. Ha, I can understand that for sure, Ron! But in looking back, I also see that my year there was a time of great spiritual growth. And actually, I have come to love cities. I would, in fact, move back to NY in a snap if I felt God was so leading!

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