Lately I feel like I’ve been playing whack-a-mole with fear.
It pops up in the strangest spots and as soon as I’ve put it to rest, here it comes again, showing itself in a place I wouldn’t expect it.
Like at Bible study last week, when I was supposed to be listening to a video about prayer, I found myself wondering what would happen if someone with a gun burst into our classroom and started shooting. Would I be brave enough to cover the sweet little lady next to me with my body? Or could I try to make a run for it and get to the nursery where my babies were having snack time? What would I do if I only had seconds to decide?
I fought off the panic, reminding myself that even though mass shootings are more common than they’ve ever been, it’s still unlikely. I can trust God with whatever happens, and our church has a great building security team.
But then, just hours later, I called my husband to ask what time he’ll be home. When he didn't answer, I tried to imagine where he was. I began to find dread creeping back in. What if he’s collapsed in the basement lab where he works with no one there to help him? What if there was a shooting on campus? What if his experiment exploded and he’s been badly burned? My mind works overtime, asking wild questions like “Where would I live if I end up being a single mom?” and “What kind of funeral would he want?”
Recently after church, I went up for prayer, explaining to the prayer minister how terror and worry have been occupying my thoughts at the strangest times, how I’ve tried to fight these worries back but they just keep coming. She smiled gently, sadly almost, and told me in her service as a prayer minister, she hears a request like mine nearly every week, people wrestling with worst case scenarios and terrible “what ifs?”
She prayed for me, asking for peace to guard my heart and mind. I held onto the image, imagining peace as a little solider, playing whack-a-mole with the worry in my head.
Just a few days later, I found myself telling some friends about my mental struggle against fear as we shared lunch together. And even as they nodded, acknowledging how in different seasons each of them had waged their own battle against anxieties big and small, they began to repeat back that precious phrase about peace as a guard for our minds.
It comes from Philippians 4.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
As my friend quoted that passage, reminding me of the rich promises of peace, she pointed out there are also two things this verse tells us to do.
- Pray. Tell God what’s worrying us. Don’t sit there until the fear is overwhelming but speak our concerns out loud, telling Him what you want and need Him to do.
- Give thanks. Remember all the blessings we have, all the ways we’ve been protected and sustained by God’s Spirit. Fight fear with gratitude for the abundance of things there are to be thankful for.
What a sweet gift. Not only does God promise his peace to watch over my mind, He gives me something to do with my anxiety, work to do in order to keep the worry at bay.
My wise friend also reminded me of 1 John 1:18, which, among other things, tells us that
… perfect love casts out fear.
If God Himself is love and I’m invited to find my life in Him, then fear has to go.
Have the worrisome thoughts stopped coming? Truthfully, no. Just yesterday, I lost track of my littlest as we were leaving the gym and though it was only a matter of moments until I figured out where he’d gone, I found myself beginning to imagine the horror of losing this little child I love so much.
But there, in our truck as I drove back to our house, I began to pray, thanking God for the gift of my two children, for His grace in giving us a home to live in together, for food to eat. By the time I had finished praying, I realized the fear had given way to quiet gratitude, peace was on guard again.
Thanks be to God.
This post originally appeared at Middle Places.