Pete and Pat went on a fishing trip. They rented an old cabin by the waters’ edge and after a long day of fishing they retired for the night. They had just fallen into a deep sleep when all of a sudden Pat sat straight up in bed screaming. “Pete, Pete, I’m suffocating. Open the window! “Quick, quick, I can’t breathe.”
Pete stumbled out of bed in the darkness of the night. He tried with all his might to open the window but he couldn’t get it to budge. “It won’t open, Pat! It just won’t open!” “Break it!” Pat screamed. “I’m suffocating!” “I have to have some air or I will die.” Pete picked up his old heavy boot and shattered the glass.
Pat breathed a deep sigh of relief and they both settled down for a good night’s sleep. The next morning, much to their surprise, Pat hadn’t broken the window at all – but the dresser mirror.
For nearly 18 years I too experienced a reoccurring, suffocating sensation. In various degrees, paralyzing panic, robbed me of God’s peace! I was a Christian. Why did I have such faithless fear?
Amy Carmichael observed, “Have you ever thought how infectious fear can be? It spreads from one person to another more quickly and certainly that any of the fevers we know so well.”
I was raised in a loving, Christian home, but both parents, in their efforts to protect me, taught me to fear. Then, after years of infertility, I too became a mother and through my best efforts to protect God’s precious gifts, my fears multiplied and intensified to a chilling choke hold.
Author, Dr. Susan Jeffers, describes two layers of fear. Maybe you can relate to some of these situational fears: Storms, small spaces, heights, the fear of drowning, driving, or of riding in an airplane. How about snakes, spiders, mice, rats, bats, germs, cancer, financial loss, or the loss of a loved one? Each of these situations prompts our innate protective response … but each of these situations can be paralyzing when irrational, unhealthy fear controls.
Not only was I paralyzed in fear, but my fears affected the entire family. I was easily frustrated, irritable, and angry when family members didn’t accommodate my rules of protection. Our lives were swallowed up by the fear that dominated my mind.
Depending on the day, I was unable to travel, eat in a restaurant, or sleep in a motel. Our vacations were tempered by my unhealthy perceptions of cleanliness and safety. Often self pity and shame kept me from experiencing God’s joy and peace and patience. Much of the time, I was exhausted and weary with worry.
It’s true, Satan tries to exhaust us but God wants to exalt us by turning our fear into faith, hope and trust in Him.
The second layer of fear involves the ego. Oh, we must be careful. An acrostic for ego is “Edging God Out!”
Our “ego” fears embarrassment, rejection, or making a mistake. Decision making can be a painful process not only for the fear filled – but for those who live with us. Dr. Jeffers refers to the internal “chatterbox” that keeps us confused and disoriented, and magnifies our insecurities.
Several years ago, on a Sunday morning, my husband asked me if I would like to stop at McDonalds for breakfast before church.
My first response was “yes.” So he swerved to the right lane preparing to exit.
The chatterbox began … “What are you thinking? McDonald’s hamburgers and French fries, that’s what makes big fat thighs.” Who knows what Egg McMuffins will do to you?”
I spoke … “No, let’s not stop at McDonalds.” So he swerved to the left lane.
The chatterbox … “Cheryl, it isn’t fair for you to worry about calories when he might need something to eat before he preaches, how thoughtless you are!” “Well, I could probably drink a cup of coffee, if you’d like to stop.” So he swerved back to the right lane. After changing lanes several times we turned into the McDonald’s parking lot only to discover a policeman pulling in behind us with lights flashing.
That policeman suspected that my husband, a District Superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene, had been drinking and made him get out of the car and walk a straight line.
When fear rules, even the most insignificant decisions become monumental. We must claim God’s promise, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!” His Word also instructs us that praising God silences the enemy! Command Satan’s imps to be still in Jesus’ name!
Our “ego” fears rejection, failure, and disapproval. I face these, as I stand vulnerable before you. Oh I still care what you think and sometimes He causes me to tremble … but glory, honor and praise are due our Lord Jesus Christ, for He has set me FREE!
Prior to God’s healing power in my life, Satan, the voice of fear, was either accusing me or excusing. Fear was like the rodents I detested, gnawing holes in my heart. It rotted every relationship and robbed me of peace, patience, love and joy.
Fear condemned my efforts to serve the Lord and created a vacuum of disobedience and debate when God was calling me to push through the boundaries of my discomfort.
Fear bred and fed all my insecurities. I was intimidated by other Christian women who had peace and confidence. One author wrote, “Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.” I was weary with worry ….lonely and jealous, self conscious, negative, and judgmental. All of these are ways Satan temps us to ”edge God out!”
Fear distorted my views of Jesus Christ. Oh, He was my Helper, the One who rescued me when I was frightened, but I failed to revere Him as my “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
On August 18, 1990, I crumbled to my knees and whispered, “God”. A deep hunger and thirst for righteousness consumed me. For five days I had no desire for food or sleep. His Words became Light and Life to me.
“Come now let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson they shall be like wool.” “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of wicked.”
God’s soothing words continued, “I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for Me?” The room seemed to fill with a warm glowing light that caused my heart to throb and tears to flow. His kind instruction continued,
“Submit yourself to God. Cheryl. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you are a sinner, and purify your heart, it’s double minded.” Hebrews 12:10 says, “God disciplines us for our good that we may share in His holiness.”
God’s voice of discipline was firm, yet filled with love. “I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of [fear] and give you a heart of love. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
“For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind.” There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.”
That day I was sanctified, cleansed of SELF: Self absorption, self centeredness, self consciousness, self deception, self denial, self government, self interest, self pity, self protection, self reliance, and self seeking.
I was filled with God’s precious Holy Spirit! Oh, the love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control … Gifts of our Awesome God! Treasures of His inheritance flowed over me.
The greatest adventure of my life is to declare that God’s perfect love has released me from fear and its’ torments. I am free - yes FREE INDEED!
Free from the sin of idolatry. In all the light of Jesus, He revealed to me that I was more concerned about being safe, controlling my environment, and protecting my children, than I was about knowing and pleasing the King of Kings!
From the moment I surrendered my all to Jesus Christ, I was filled with courage to love, laugh and enjoy the abundant life. Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we can have the mind of Christ, the mouth of Christ, and the mood of Christ.
Not to discount the vital importance of professional and medical treatment, my panic attacks were spiritual attacks. Like Jeremiah I prayed, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed, save me and I will be saved, for YOU are the One I praise!” God’s healing power flowed over me!
Oh, I still have a wave of anxiety when a mouse crosses my path. I am a slow decision maker and I continue to hover over my children and grandchildren, but I have a peace and blessed assurance that Jesus is in control and with His strength I can handle it! Whatever IT is!
Today … the Lord continually works within me, renewing my mind, sanctifying my thoughts and desires. He fills me with courage to obey His voice. His Word is such a joy I can hardly explain it. Prayer is sweet communion as His Holy Spirit makes my spirit holy and full of love while I intercede for others. My deepest goal is to exalt the Lord and glorify Him forever!
Psalms 34:1-4 is my prayer and praise. “I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be on my lips. My soul shall boast in the Lord. Let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Come glorify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together. For I sought the Lord and He answered me and He delivered me from all my fears!” Blessed be the name of the Lord!
Breathe in His goodness and let everything that has breath … praise the Lord!
By Cheryl Roland, NEI District Women's Ministries Director