You are reading Part Two of the mini-series subtitled “Conquering Fear.”
Some things we go through stay with us through the years, even if they seemed negative at the time. For when we allow the Lord to work, he can use even the hardest situations for our good. Upon our move to the Bronx, having a fenced yard with a German Shepherd watchdog went a long way toward making me feel safer. So much so that I thought, “This Big Apple will be a piece of cake. I can handle it!”
But I hadn’t reckoned on walking past drug pushers, junkies, prostitutes, and homeless people on my way to the grocery store. It wasn’t anything like the cow-pasture farmland of my Michigan childhood. And I much preferred the cows. At least I knew they wouldn’t attack me! Yet I worked hard at being courageous.
But soon I became fearful and too overwhelmed to go out alone. Dictionaries define fear as a disturbed or unpleasant feeling brought on by the presence, imminence, or thought of danger. But if allowed to grow, it overtakes and engulfs, crippling and paralyzing its victim. And it wasn’t long until I felt unsafe, even at home.
Doors locked, blinds closed, I was imprisoned in my own home. As much as if I’d actually been locked up in prison.
During this self-imposed confinement, the Lord used one of my spiritual heroines, Corrie ten Boom, to remind me that he is victor over all our enemies – even fear. “Just ask the Lord to help you overcome it,” she wrote. And recounted how the Lord had her delivered her of fear, when she prayed. “Oh, to have such strong faith!” I thought, while continuing on with my ever-growing specter of fear.
Then on a visit to David Wilkerson’s church, the Lord finally got through to me. After announcing that he wanted to pray for everyone present who was suffering from fear, he asked us to raise our hands as a sign of faith.
But I didn’t want to. “No, not me. Then everyone will know!”
But my husband and children were there waiting and watching. And the look in my hubby’s eyes, more than anything, convinced me that I was being foolish. With that look he asked “How bad do you want things to get? You can’t go out. You can’t eat or sleep. You’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown.” And here I had thought my fear was a well-kept secret! But one thing was certain. I definitely couldn’t go on as I was.
Faith versus Fear
So I raised my hand, and the fear vanished! It may seem unbelievably simple, but in that moment God took the debilitating fear away! How, I don’t know. It was almost as though he had been waiting for me show that I trusted him. He could step in and do such miracles without involving us. He could just reach out and remove fear even as we sleep. But he chooses instead to use methods that teach us to trust him and grow our faith.
Suddenly, I had a new lease on life, wondering how I could I have forgotten that the Lord was with me, even in the Bronx? After all he is everywhere and in all times!”
Then people must have thought me even more crazy than before! Doors wide open, I pulled the blinds only at night for privacy. Toting my little wheeled shopping bag, outings became a joy! I even drove myself to evening Italian classes!
And during our remaining year there, I discovered how fascinating the Big Apple is. I learned why every true New Yorker feels that “there ‘s no place like New York.” And though I may not totally share their sentiment, I see why they feel that way.
But most amazing of all is that we never again locked our doors during our remaining time there. Yep, unlocked doors – in the Bronx! Not even at night! “That’s insane!” friends said. “It’s too dangerous! You need to use common sense too!
“It’s OK” I assured them. “The Lord is with us, and he even gave us Rocky the Watchdog. The two of them keep watch over us.” And I slept like a baby thinking, Lord you truly are with us, everywhere and all the time. And I felt more than certain that I would never fear again… And I wasn’t, until the day I got Lost in the Big Apple!
Many of life’s difficulties can cause overwhelming, crippling fear: illness, unemployment, death of a loved one, even public speaking. But the Lord is ready and able to help us overcome our fear and replace it with his peace. We just need to reach out with our tiny mustard seed of faith, knowing that God is with us and will help it grow!
Images: Door by Dmitry Zvolskiy. | NY is my own.