Last weekend the woman’s ministry at my church hosted its annual SHE Conference. The topic this year was “fear to freedom.” I have enjoyed every year that I have attended but this year was particularly good. It’s not because I had a mountain top experience or even a great conviction. I just felt encouraged. It was a blessing to hear of how other women are working to conquer their fears and are trusting Christ for the freedom He can bring.
It’s not that I don’t have fears or that I’m never afraid. It’s not that I have never struggled with crippling fear that binds. It’s that over the course of my life, and particularly the last few years, the Lord has made me brave. I used to be very afraid but not anymore. Let me tell you why.
I learned to walk by holding onto a little play shopping cart and I became reliant on that cart. I would not let go. I would not walk without it. In fact my dad jokes that he spent the first several years of my life holding me and carrying me everywhere. I was afraid if I didn’t have someone or something to hold onto.
I was afraid of other people. I didn’t warm to people very easily. I hated going to Sunday School and I would cry for my mom the entire time, every Sunday. I didn’t want to be touched or talked to. I just wanted to be left alone.
I never spent the night away from my family. While my friends got together for sleepovers I stayed home where everything was familiar and safe.
I was very afraid of dogs. I don’t know why because we almost always had a family dog and I don’t remember ever having a bad experience with one but I couldn’t go to anyone’s home if they had a dog. And if I did, because I had to, I would scream. I remember going to one person’s house and climbing to the top of the couch and screaming while their dog excitedly tried to get to me. It was what you would call an irrational fear.
As I got older I struggled with social anxiety. Before going anywhere I always felt sick to my stomach and often dry heaved before leaving the house. The thought of being around people was so overwhelming and uncomfortable that I could barely stomach it.
As you can see, I was generally a fearful person. I didn’t like trying new things or going new places. I was always afraid of the unknown, of making mistakes, and of getting hurt. I naturally put up a wall around myself out of fear of getting too close or too attached. I didn’t truly enjoy much in life because I was often living in fear. I was always cautious, always aware, and always thinking about the next thing.
Looking back, I can see how the Lord, in His goodness and grace, slowly brought me out of my constant fear. When I was 13, I saw an ad in the Brio magazine (published by Focus on the Family) about their annual 2 week long mission trip. This particular year they were going to Panama City, Panama. At first sight, I felt in my heart that I was suppose to go and then the more I read about it, the more I knew that the Lord was telling me to go. This was totally out of my comfort zone. I had never spent even one night away from my home. I had never flown in a plane. I had never been without one of my parents or siblings. I hated being around strangers. But here God was telling me to go on a two week mission trip to an entirely different country with 800 strangers! This was not me at all. I loved and knew the Lord in my own immature way, but this was just insane. However, I knew without a doubt that He wanted me to go so go I would. Over the next year I raised the funds, bought everything I needed, and physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually prepared for this once in a lifetime experience. When the day came to get on that first plane, I was a mess. I cried and cried because, at this point in my life, this was the hardest thing I had ever done. I cried all the way to the airport and I cried saying goodbye to my family. I was nervous, anxious, and afraid of what lay ahead for me. But the Lord gave me strength and courage throughout those two weeks and I had an incredible experience that I will never forget. To this day I am still friends with some of the girls I met on that trip and I have some wonderful memories of sharing the Gospel, loving on and ministering to Panamanians, and seeing the Lord work in many ways. My life was changed.
Then when I was 15 I started taking college classes through a duel-enrollment program at my local community college. Having been homeschooled, this was an entirely different environment from what I was used to. It was not a safe and comfortable environment. I saw things and heard things that I had never seen or heard before. I was surrounded by people I didn’t know and couldn’t relate with. I remember in one class talking with the 18 year old freshman sitting behind me. Once he found out how old I was he never spoke to me again. I could see the shock and a little disgust in his face. That was just one more note in my “I-don’t-care-what-you-think-about-me” chapter of my life book. There were many more to come.
When I was 17 I graduated high school with 30 college credits under my belt. At this time, a lot of changes were taking place and my family was up and moving to the Houston area of Texas. I, however, was not going to be moving with them. I had applied and been accepted into Criswell College in Dallas and I was determined to go. I had no job, no driver’s license, no car, and no place to live but I knew that it was the Lord’s will for me to be at Criswell so I trusted that He would make a way. And He did. It was last minute and not exactly ideal but He gave me a place to live where I could take public transportation to and from school. And over the next few years of college He continued to provide for my every need.
I remember the day my dad dropped me off at the place I was going to be staying and unloading all of my things. I remember saying goodbye to him and then turning back to my room to start unpacking. I remember being afraid, feeling lonely, stressed out, and unsure of the future. I still didn’t have a job and I only had $1000 in my bank account from summer work. Every semester was a new challenge of trusting the Lord to provide for what I couldn’t pay. And every semester I saw Him take care of me. Those first few years of college were really tough on me emotionally as I continued to miss my family and continued to learn how to do this whole “growing up” thing. It wasn’t easy for me and that’s partly because of my fears and my immaturity at the time. But the Lord never failed to see me through, even when I wasn’t deserving of His help.
Most recently, though, has the Lord truly freed me from chains of fear, anger, and depression. And He has taught me how to trust Him and He has strengthened my faith beyond what it has ever been before. If you have read this blog at all in the past two years then you know what I am referring to as I have written about this before. I have mentioned my time in counseling where the Lord freed me of my uncontrollable and crippling anger. He revealed so much about myself and about Himself during that time. I have also written about my miscarriages and how the Lord worked through that pain to draw me closer to Him. It has been through these circumstances that I have experienced Jesus in the most intimate way. My heart, my soul, has become so directly intertwined with His; nay, engulfed by Him that it can never be undone. One of my greatest fears was realized THREE times in a year and yet here I am; strong, faithful, free. This is so not because of myself but because of Jesus. Because of Jesus I can live through the greatest pain and the biggest fear and come out stronger, and better, and less fearful. And now I can honestly say, “why live in fear? Why be afraid?” Jesus is better. Jesus is good. Jesus is faithful. Jesus is bigger. My costume feels afraid and my costume has doubts but my costume will one day die. Who cares what happens to this costume when my soul lives free. My soul trust Jesus.
Now, I am almost 25 years old and I have been out of the country many times, all to do mission work. I am no longer constantly fearful or worried. I no longer have social anxiety that keeps me from enjoying life. I have a bachelor’s degree and I am married to a man who knew how to break down my walls and see my heart and still love me. I have a son who teaches me to think less of myself. And I am now 22 weeks pregnant with a baby girl and with each passing week I thank God for His grace. Sometimes I still fear and have thoughts of “what if” but has God not had a hand on this child? Did He not see my three babies that I lost? Does He not hold all things together within His sovereign hands? There is no room for fear when there is a God like that.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of hthe Spirit of life ihas set you2 free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on sthe things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as wwe wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I’m not afraid anymore.