Ah, fear — I know thee well.
Ever see those cute little memes re-posted on Facebook pages claiming the words “fear not” or “do not be afraid” appear in the bible 365 times? What a really cool thought — after all, who doesn’t want to believe God gives us a daily reminder to not be afraid? But maybe it’s because I know not to take what I read on Facebook at face value that I’m just not sure how accurate it is. Some of my research says yes and some says no. (That may be my next project to see for myself how many times those words really do appear in my bible.)
But whether true or not, I don’t think it should matter whether it appears once or 365 times. Even if it’s only in there once, shouldn’t that be enough? How often do we really need to hear God tell us something before we finally allow ourselves to believe it and live it? Shouldn’t once be enough if it is the Lord telling us we do not need to be afraid for He is our rock, helper, shelter, and protector?
So why is it so easy sometimes to get caught up in fear? Why is fear so hard to shake?
Fear can be like a parasite within us — readily feeding off of our circumstances and anxieties, growing stronger and burrowing in so deeply it’s hard to get rid of.
This post at Christ-Centered Counseling last week about faith vs. fear and how it relates to marriage really resonated with me. I lived with fear for far too many years while in an abusive marriage and this post was a reminder of how strong a hold fear can have on us.
God tells us not to be afraid and to trust in Him many times throughout His Word:
“Do not be afraid for I am with you.” ~Genesis 26:24a
“When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” ~Psalm 56:3
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” ~Isaiah 43:5
“When you lie down you will not be afraid.” ~Proverbs 3:24
“Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you…” ~Jeremiah 1:8
“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” ~Matthew 10:30
“Don’t be afraid; just believe.” ~Mark 5:36b
“Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” ~John 14:27b
“So we say with confidence, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” ~Hebrews 13:6
Yet fear is such a powerful emotion that when allowed even the smallest foothold into our lives it can easily overtake our very being. Every thought and action becomes absorbed by fear blurring the line between right and wrong, making decisions painstakingly difficult, and causing doubts to loom large in our minds all the while obscuring our faith.
When we allow fear to rule our lives we become paralyzed and life starts passing us by.
In an abusive marriage fear can become a common bedfellow. It lies with you in the dark of the night and rises with the sun each morning. And as hard as you try to stuff it down or shake it off, as hard as you try to cling to those words — Do.Not.Be.Afraid — fear can linger just below the surface of reasoning waiting for the opportune time to rise up and overshadow all that you know to be true.
Indecisiveness and doubt become the norm. You fear the little things because they can be made into big things. You fear doing anything and everything wrong for the wrath that it will bring.
Fear sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear — “don’t mess up or you will pay the consequences.” It becomes your daily companion reminding you of how incompetent you are — how stupid you are for not doing things the ‘right’ way — the way ‘normal’ people do things as you’ve been told all those years.
They say hindsight is 20/20 and how very true that is!
I often think that if I had known what I know now how different my response would have been all those years ago. What I could have, would have, should have done. How brave and courageous I could have been to have not let abuse rule my life and steal so many precious years away from me. How decisive I would have been and shouted, “No, this is NOT okay!” How I should have stood up and walked away.
Yet it’s through the journey that we grow and come to a place where our faith is strengthened. It’s the hardships in this life which stretch us sometimes so thin that we come to see there is only one thing to do — trust and not fear.
It’s by walking through the trials and tribulations in this life that we come to see how futile fear is.
Fear weakens our faith. It tells us we can’t and won’t ever be good enough.
Faith gives us strength and courage to face fear head on and loosen it’s grip on us. Faith tells us we are enough.
How do you choose to live? By faith or fear? It is not easy when you live in an abusive marriage, but only by faith do we gain the courage to face fear head on — and say no to abuse in our lives.
May we all choose faith today and every day. May we remember who we are in the Lord and that He does not want us to be afraid, but instead wants us to walk in His protection, lean on His Word and find shelter in His arms.