What Fears Are Shaking You?

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This snake and I surprised each other on a West Virginia trail!

My husband and I were enjoying the day in West Virginia with a hike. There were many sunny spots on the trail, but this one in particular stopped me in my tracks. The snake directly in front of me was enjoying the same day by soaking up the summer sun.

Of course, the snake was bigger in my mind’s eye than in reality. I am not embarrassed to admit that I have a fear of snakes. I know this because of my reaction. I didn’t scream or run in the opposite direction as I was taken by surprise. I simply froze in place and began to shake uncontrollably.

Rational thinking does not change my response nor eliminate my fear of snakes. I know that snakes exist in the mountains of West Virginia. I understand that most likely I will not encounter a snake. In over 25 years of visits and hikes in West Virginia, we have seen only a handful of snakes in their natural habitat. Despite the statistics, stepping on a snake is my number one fear when we hike. Fear doesn’t have to make sense.

For many years, I was not interested in hiking the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area of West Virginia. I can trace my reluctance back to a casual comment from my husband’s grandmother. In her younger days, Grams picked blueberries (huckleberries) in Dolly Sods and occasionally would see a rattlesnake or two. Since 2015, my husband and I have explored Dolly Sods with day hikes. It is now my favorite place to hike when we are back for the yearly family reunion. Fear affects my choices.

Snakes are not my only fear. As an empty nester in a later season of life, the unknown future can instill fear. Will our money run out in retirement? Will our health hold up? Fears are a part of life. Yet, we don’t have to be afraid of fear. Fear doesn’t have to control us.

Fear is real, but God is even more real as we recognize His presence and lean into His reassurance. Fear doesn’t have to define us. Fear doesn’t have to steal our joy.

Scripture shows us how to handle fear in our lives.

Seek God.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4).

Trust God.

 When I am afraid, I will trust in you (Psalm 56:3).

 Live out your identity in God.

 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

And a personal reminder for me: Stand and not be shaken.

I have set the LORD always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8).

 

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Sharing Burdens One Card At A Time

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Death leaves tangible voids in life. It hurts to see others hurt. We long to keep the tears from falling, but it doesn’t work. The grief of loss overwhelms and we join in with the tears. We use euphemisms to convince ourselves and others. “Time heals everything.” “It gets easier with time.” We know it is a lie as the pain still feels raw and grief erupts from deep inside.

We feel helpless so we pray. We feel powerless, so we pray some more. We want to comfort in the moment. We listen with hugs and empathize with silence. Words would betray us, if we think we can truly understand the intensity of their loss. We feel inadequate and long to do more, to just do something. But what?

At first it stirred in my heart and later was confirmed with the young widow. It was the comfort I could extend that perfectly suited my personality. I committed to sending a card once a week for a year. I have two more cards to send out as we are almost to the one year anniversary of her husband’s death.

The cards are not meant to be a reminder of her loss. Instead, the cards are a reminder that I remember her loss, I am thinking of her, I prayed for her, and I love her. Some cards were long as one would expect from a writer, others were one-sentence short, some funny, and others simply sweet. God answered my prayers and used these cards at just the right time in the widow’s week. Her burdens were shared one card at a time.

My sister-in-law, and really our entire family, will make it through the year. Sending cards helped me to work through my own grief, one card at a time. The gift of comfort I could share was a box full of love expressed through those cards. God’s gift will always be the comfort that fills the voids of our lives. His joy and His hope carries our burdens and ushers in our healing.

 

Proverbs 14:13

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.

 

Psalm 56:8

Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record?

 

 

What Do You Do With Fear?

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There is a reason why fear is a four letter word. It hangs in the air. It expresses what you can’t put into other words. But what do you do with fear? It is always there. Sometimes, you don’t even notice it. Other times, you trip over it. On those rare occasions, it knocks you to the ground, making you gasp for air.

But what do you do with fear? Do you go there, cracking open the door? Will it suck you in and lock the door? If you face it head on, will you be able to find the escape route out again?

The more important question is what does God do with our fear? God conquers fear! God shows up and the fear begins to subside. Fleeting moments of peace are felt but can easily slip through one’s grasp. Eyes are opened to recognize the smallest gifts of God’s unconditional love.  Answers to prayers that weren’t asked yet miraculously appear.

The shaking stops as you believe God’s promise that the sun will rise and set, again and again. Life can go on despite the real threat of fear. God enables us to stand in the midst of any circumstances and praise God for the simple reason that He will always be present in our lives.

I choose the strength of Jesus Christ over the emptiness of fear.

Psalm 56:3

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

 Isaiah 43:2

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.