What Are You Afraid Of?

“Ships in a Storm on a Rocky Coast” by Jan Porcellis.  Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship. – Louisa May Alcott

One day a voice entered my imagination from nowhere.  It was kind, but firmly challenging.

“What are you afraid of?” it said.

I was sure it was supposed to be from some scene in my books, so I wracked my brain to figure out what scene it belonged in and what character was saying it.  No context came to mind, so I tucked it away to ponder later.

But since then it’s come back many times – often at random, when I’m thinking about something else entirely.  For a long time I puzzled at the context.  Usually when I get an idea for my books there’s at least some context!  This single, detached phrase was maddeningly vague.  But I don’t like throwing out ideas, regardless of how little I understand them.

One day last week, feeling ill from pregnancy, I was slogging through dinner preparations when that voice came haunting my imagination again.

“What are you afraid of?”

What if this isn’t a character at all?  Maybe it wasn’t meant for one of my characters, I thought.  What if it was meant for me?  Maybe God was trying to prompt me on something.

All right, I thought back, reluctant to square up to the challenge.  I guess right now I’m afraid of this morning sickness getting worse.

“And isn’t your God big enough for that?” the wiser side of my mind countered.

Well, yes.  Yes, He is.

“What are you afraid of?”

I sat down at the dining table and buried my head in my arms, inwardly groaning.  This is going to take a lot of soul-searching, isn’t it?

If I knew and trusted that God was big enough to carry me and do what was best in my life, even through worsened morning sickness (if that be His will), why did I fear it?

Because I am afraid that God’s best for my life is all horrible things.  Because I fear that if I give Him an inch, He’ll take a mile.  Because I worry that if I honestly say, “Take my life and let it be / consecrated, Lord, to Thee” that my life will become hell on earth.  This is why, for so many years, I could not honestly pray, “Lead me where You will, Lord.”

I thought I had countered that unbelieving fearfulness a long time ago!

Oh, grief, I thought.  No wonder this is my character Catherine’s hardest spiritual struggle!  It’s one of my most pernicious ones.  Just like I’ve struggled with Thraunya’s pride and Kevin’s illusion of control.

Catherine struggles with feeling like God is harsh and cruel because her parents got taken away from her at a young age.  I don’t have such an “excuse” for feeling like God doesn’t really care about my life and will trample it if given permission.  My life hasn’t been hard…and as much as I’d like to think I’m strong, I sometimes feel like even little trials collapse me.  I’ve often had the nagging anxiety that God was “fattening me for slaughter” and planning to totally destroy me after all these years of “easy living.”

What an unbiblical way to think!

First of all, God doesn’t need “permission.”  He’s not waiting for me to say, “I’m all yours!” to teach me what He needs to teach me and take me where He knows I need to go.  If a trial is what I need to wake me up from sin or teach me something important, He will drag me through it kicking and screaming because that’s what good parents do.

If you’re “holding back” from God, He’s not waiting to pounce on you with disaster when you do relent.  If you are truly His child, and you need a lesson, He will teach it!  If He needs you to serve Him in a certain way, He will use you!  Plain and simple.  He doesn’t discipline or use His submissive children only – what a silly thought to entertain.  You are in His family, He leaves no child behind, and He intends the best for all His children.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.”  It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? – Hebrews 12:5-7

If I surrender myself totally to Him, He will still call on me to walk through trial and despair at times, but my focus is changed.  What kid thinks their parent is cruel?  The kid who says, “Do what you need to,” and submits, or the kid who makes the parent drag them kicking and screaming?  Which kid has the happier life?  Which feels more secure?

God is better than any earthly parent, and even a good human parent is loving, generous, kind, and cares about their child’s suffering.  They’re not going to force them to go through useless, unnecessary trials!  We parents minimize any chance our kids will suffer, don’t we?  Why would God do anything otherwise?  He loves us.

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.  Are they not in Your book? – Psalm 56:8

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! – Luke 11:11:-13

Why don’t I listen to my own experiences?  Over and over again I’ve found that God’s lessons are gentler than I ever expect or deserve, and that my life is enriched and beautified because of them, not destroyed!  He knows how to give us good gifts.  Our Lord Jesus died for us so that we might have fullness of joy, pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11) and life abundantly (John 10:10).

It’s no wonder “little trials” can overwhelm me…it’s because God is using them to teach major lessons!  There is no shame in being overwhelmed, as I’m slowly learning.  It’s when I come to lean on Him the hardest, which is what I should be doing all the time.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

So many times Jesus says to His followers, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

It is Him in our trials and troubles, working change and beauty in our lives.  He is leading us, not passively waiting for our “cooperation.”  And He will see us through every hard moment He knows we need…and not a single moment more.

Right now, right at this very moment…what are YOU afraid of?  And how is God big enough to take such a fear and turn it into something good?

P.S.  Despite learning it’s partially for me, I’m 90% sure this question is also for Catherine. 😉

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  1. Kessie

     /  October 25, 2014

    Wasn’t it CS Lewis who said something like, “We want God’s best, but we’re afraid of how painful God’s best will turn out to be”? I’ve struggled with the same fear, although God didn’t have to call me out on it quite the same way. I was mostly afraid that He would ask me to give up writing. Fortunately, out of all the things He’s led me through, he never required that of me.

    • Yes, that Lewis-y quote is exactly it! Exactly HOW much pain will it take to get there…? Hahaha.

      Have you ever read “The Hiding Place”, about Corrie ten Boom? I glanced through it once (I need to read the whole thing!) and at the end there’s a part where someone asked her to fix a watch (clock?) like she always used to do. She told that person that she couldn’t do it anymore – that it was a skill God had given to her for a specific part of her life and now He’d taken it away. I freaked out and got really upset. For a long time that quote ate at me. What if God someday took away my writing?? Finally I realized that if I wasn’t willing to let go of my writing if God required me to, there would be no joy in it because it wouldn’t be done for God! What would be the point of doing something not done for God? My writing is for Him. So I came to accept the idea. I don’t really expect He would ask me to give it up, though. 🙂 But if He did that would be best!

  2. Ahhhh! This is so great! And could’ve been written by me! – meaning I think those exact thoughts all the time – so you are NOT alone in this. 🙂 <3
    Thank you! I will be sharing this one.

    P.S. You really should get yourself some Zofran. It works like a charm for nausea. 🙂

  3. Working and keeping up with the family budget is my least favorite and most feared thing. I hate it. Over the last several weeks, God has really put it in my face so to speak and challenged me to decide if it is the budget I cling to, or Him. One of the biggest helps has been the recent preaching on prayer and seeing that God says to pray to Him for our daily bread, but only after we’ve prayed “Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done”. Praying that first has helped remove the anxiety from my heart and given me courage to face what I don’t want to do. 🙂 God is good. Thank you for your honesty!

    • That’s so good, Abby! Thank you for the reminder about prayers for needs AFTER prayers for God’s will to be done. I feel like most of my prayers lately consist of, “Please help me, because I can’t do anything right now.” It’s been rough this past month or so.


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