I’m Afraid I’m Sc-c-c-c-cared

This is a Piglet quote.  I like Piglet.  Perhaps because he’s vulnerable and very candid about his fears.  There is freedom in that.  Small children are not reluctant to verbalize their fears.  They want to be relieved of them, and they are not afraid to say so.

Truth is, I still get afraid too.  As a child, I had a very vivid imagination.  My mind could conjure up images in the dark, creatures under the bed, spooks in the neighbor’s garage, all kinds of creepiness in the shadows.  The one time that I watched “Night Gallery” (I snuck into the hall…I was supposed to be in bed), it was nearly the undoing of me.  I still have vivid mental images from that one episode.  And I still don’t like the dark, even though I know better now…and that can include the darkness of an unknown future.

As adults, we’re not supposed to fear things anymore, so we conceal them.  We rename them…we call them worry, anxiety, concern.  Illness, death, financial reversal, homelessness, loneliness…these are specters that lurk in the recesses of our minds.  The bottom line is that we don’t like to feel threatened.  David understood this:

My heart is in anguish within me;

the terrors of death have fallen upon me.

Fear and trembling come upon me,

and horror overwhelms me.

And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest;

yes, I would wander far away;

I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah

I would hurry to find a shelter

from the raging wind and tempest.~Psalm 55:4-8

We watch coverage of natural disasters on TV, and we have compassion on those who suffer.  They have lost everything…homes, jobs, cars, all the sweet mementos that gave them joy.  We can’t shake the thought…”What if that were to happen to me?”

A friend loses her husband swiftly and unexpectedly, and she is left with overwhelming responsibility, several children, no job, a pile of bills, no husband, father, lover, friend.  We contemplate that massive amount of loss, and we are speechless.  Except for the nagging question: “What if it were me?”

We learn of a mother whose only son is gravely ill.  Confined to a bed in ICU, strung up with a labyrinth of tubes and wires, she cannot even hold him.  He cries in the night, and is not aware that his loving mother is at his side.  He is not conscious, so she cannot comfort him with her words.  She was not prepared for this aspect of motherhood…the possibility that she might cease to be a mother.  And the whole experience is seared into our hearts as we contemplate, “If this was my child, how would I feel?”

If you have ever spoken to someone who loves the Lord, who has encountered one of these challenges to their faith, they will likely tell you that before they had been sucked into the vortex of that life event, they could not imagine the grace that God would give.  Even though they had been faced with unspeakable things, the upholding of the everlasting arms and the prayers of fellow saints were both very tangible to them.  In the loss of our second baby, in having to let go of both of my parents, in the throes of chronic illness, I have found this to be so.

If we are Bible readers, we are aware of the sufferings of Job.  If anyone could have been overcome by mounting fears, it was he.  Seemingly rapid-fire (we don’t know exactly how much time transpired between each messenger), he learned of loss upon loss, with no time to re-group in between.  We imagine the impending, growing fear with each announcement.  What next!?  In the first few chapters we learn of the subtraction of his home, his children, his worldly goods, his health and his wife (not by death but by her forsaking him in his weakness).  We know Job to be a righteous man…after all, God said so with apparent confidence Himself!  Job states with resolve that he came into the world with nothing, and that he will leave with nothing.  He acknowledged God’s right to give as well as take.  But apparently he did not quite have a handle on this idea, because in the last few chapters of the book, God drives home His sovereignty and supremacy.  That His wisdom transcends all, and that He is trustworthy.  And Job acknowledges that the entire experience has opened his eyes to see God as He is, not as he imagined God to be.

Don’t we often do this?  We are mystified, perhaps horrified by circumstances, and we feel the need to find out “why.”  We ascribe divine purposes to our suffering (or our imagined trials)…we have to have a reason.  Very often we are wrong.  We are not omniscient.  Our confidence must lie in who God is:

He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. ~Deut. 32:4

We may never understand His purposes entirely in this life.  There are times when He grants a bit of a glimpse, as in the life of Joseph; but that is not always the case, and we must not demand an explanation.  We must invest time in knowing who God is, loving Him, praising Him, so that when those trials come we can rest in our Father’s presence, even in the face of inexplicable pain.

I can’t say enough about praising God in the face of fear.  It entirely thwarts whatever purposes the adversary may be engineering in our emotions:

I will bless the Lord at all times;

his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul makes its boast in the Lord;

let the humble hear and be glad.

Oh, magnify the Lord with me,

and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me

and delivered me from all my fears.~Psalm 34:1-4

We must know He has promised never to leave us.  As David penned in the following psalm:

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

I like this text by Annie Johnson Flint:

  1. God hath not promised skies always blue,
    Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
    God hath not promised sun without rain,
    Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
    • But God hath promised strength for the day,
      Rest for the labor, light for the way,
      Grace for the trials, help from above,
      Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
  2. God hath not promised we shall not know
    Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
    He hath not told us we shall not bear
    Many a burden, many a care.
  3. God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
    Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
    Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
    Never a river, turbid and deep.

~Annie Johnson Flint (read a brief but interesting biography here)

The poet who wrote these words knew a life of loss, loneliness, poverty, great physical pain and weakness…so where did these confident words come from?  They sprang from a trusting heart, and a mind focused on the vertical rather than the horizontal.  From that heart and mind came these words:

Is God?’ ‘Does God?’

Man’s ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’

In ceaseless iteration storm the sky.

‘I am’; I will’; ‘I do’—sure Word of God,

Yea and Amen, Christ answers each cry;

To all our anguished questionings and doubts

Eternal affirmation and reply.

In short, know Him, so you can trust Him.

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