As a child I don’t really remember being afraid of the dark. But I sure do remember being afraid of just about everything else.
I remember being scared when our parents left us home alone (at a very appropriate age) and hiding behind the couch. My over-active imagination would run through all the scenarios of what would happen if someone broke into our house while I watched my sisters play Nintendo. Our attackers would go after them first obviously, and I would be able to hit them from behind because they didn’t know I was there.
My imaginary intruders did not stop as I got older and when I started living on my own, I found myself often afraid. When I had an apartment or house by myself, I would call friends to talk me into the house at night to make sure I made it inside safely. I frequently relied on others to calm my fears and to help me to do what should be “normal” activities.
Six months after I got married and moved to Tennessee, Ben deployed for the first time as a married man, leaving me coming home to an empty house every single day. Daytime did not phase me, but nighttime was not my friend. I was plagued by what would happen if someone came into the house at night. I would rush into the house when I got home and lock all the doors. If it was dark and I had to go upstairs for any reason, I would not come back down. Almost nightly, I locked myself in my room till morning.
Here the imaginings changed. Intertwined with fears of someone breaking in were fears of a knock on the door notifying me that my husband wouldn’t be coming home. The fears were unfathomable. This time I was plagued by worries that if someone banged on the door, I would have to answer, but what if it was someone just wanting to break in?
These were always nighttime fears. Daytime did not plague me the way the night did. Morning would dawn. I would unlock my bedroom door and come downstairs unconcerned. The fears continued when Ben would go away for the night or stay out late during grad school and while working. I would worry about him driving over the mountain in New York and not returning home because he drove a little recklessly through that mountain pass.
Children added to the fears and cancer caused them to grow exponentially. I have always feared the worst and been afraid of all the what ifs. And it was not until the worst fear came true and Ben passed that I truly found myself face to face with all my fears.
I have written before about how I “let go” of fear when he died.
The worst had happened, and for a season I felt like there was nothing left to be afraid of.
I still did not like to come home alone after dark and made sure the kids and I were tucked inside whenever possible by the time the sun was setting. But even the silence and solitude of living in the country alone didn’t scare me. My in laws bought us a security system for Hanukkah that first year and for months I was afraid to install it. I did not want the sounds and beeping to instill a new fear in me. I did not want to live afraid again.
As time has gone on, five years to be exact, new fears have arrived. I set my alarm at night not out of fear but habit. I come home after dark frequently and do not feel like I have to enter every dark room with apprehension.
Instead of a fear of the dark, I fear my choices. I fear making decisions and heading down the wrong path. I fear being alone and having no one to count on. And I am afraid of something happening to me that would leave my children parentless. And at times I find myself making choices out of fear.
Joshua 1:9 sits on a shelf in my son’s room as a reminder to not fear the night. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I have found that in fear I do one of two things:
- I retreat. I run away from the unknown for fear the worst will happen.
- I sit in fear. I fear making the wrong choice, so I don’t make any choice and instead sit in indecision indefinitely because I do not want to do the wrong thing.
Neither of these is a healthy place to be. I do not want to be afraid of the unexpected. I want to have a battle plan of how I will attack fear when it comes.
Psalms 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they will comfort me.”
I have learned that when I choose to step back and reflect on the fear, that I must give myself a timeline on when to make a move. Because the only healthy way I can deal with fear is to push through and keep moving forward. And the reality is, I have already lived through some of the worst fears imaginable. And while I would not have chosen that path, God has made me stronger as I have continued to push forward!
What about you? What do you fear? I’m praying that you will learn to face those fears head on like I am trying to do, trusting God to walk alongside us on even the darkest of roads!