I remember when I was little being afraid a lot. It was conditional fear. “This bad thing will happen if I don’t do this.” It was obsessive. It was rooted in a false sense of control. I remember my mom telling me that she read in a book that 98% of the things we fear will never happen. That fact gave me peace. It was concrete- something I could hold. I remember calming myself with that information when fear reared its ugly head and the statistic often made my fear recoil. In fact, the things I feared as a child never happened.
But what happens when the thing you fear is not irrational, but rational? What happens when the thing you fear has happened before and there is no calculated or determined reason why, therefore no way to prevent it from happening again…
like the death of a baby.
I’m four weeks away from giving birth to my fifth child. I want him to live. I want to hold him and nurse him and watch him grow. I want to marvel at the unique creation he is and I want to know him. I have had that marvelous experience now three times. But my mind, my fear, reminds me of another reality. My fear reminds me of the days I cried over ashes and couldn’t get out of bed. My fear reminds me of what can happen in an instant and how when someone dies inside of you, in a way, your heart stops beating too.
The last week has been filled with nightmares- strikes of lightning, drowning, car accidents, kidnapping. Call it fear, call it warfare…my enemy is haunting me as I move toward these questionable days ahead, these end days I have traveled before, yielding both life and death. It feels as though the waters are rising and I need something to hold onto, something unquestionable, something trustworthy. The 98% statistic means nothing to me now…now that I know what it feels like to sit in a graveyard with the 2%. I need truth, not information. I need an impenetrable rope as I hold on for dear life in these choppy waters of waiting.
I didn’t have this rope when Anna died. Or perhaps I had it but, but when the worst happened to me I assumed my rope had snapped. When I was living in the 2%, my worst fears coming true, I assumed my God had failed me. But here is what the years have proven to me: the rope had never let me go. The rope is, in fact, the strongest and only source of real rescue. There is no margin of error with Jesus. In a world filled with terror, an unavoidable margin of death and pain, He is 100% all the time. He is not a statistic to gamble on.
I will never forget the moment these words from Jesus took root in me…a rope, a chain of rescue from my heart to His.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
When I wake up in the middle of the night panting from imagined terror or when the unthinkable in fact happens to me or the ones I love, when the enemy is hot on my trail…I can have peace, and all because He has overcome the world. The resurrection of Jesus from the grave broke the code on every measure of evil and dangles a rope, the rope, to us all. Peace is therefore the climate of the heart that is able to see who the real enemy is and rejoice in the One who has already overcome.
The answer for me, right now, today, is that I can face my fears with confidence because I already know the end of the story. I already know that victory and rescue are waiting. Love is waiting. Hope is waiting. The light that no amount of darkness can penetrate is a lantern in every opaque night ahead of me. The goal is not “do not fear”, but rather, face this present fear with courage, hope and trust in the 100% totality of Jesus and let the peace of Christ transcend all my human understanding. One of two realities will always be true…Jesus will either extinguish my fear or hold me in the storm, and in both cases, my chant is clear, my confidence is singular…He has overcome! Peace is not a feeling. It is a reality you come to know when trembling in the arms of the One who is peace. Peace is a person.
A couple of nights ago, my dear friend Karla sent me a message in the middle of the night. She had a dream that I was asking her to pray for me and her prayer was that God would protect me from fear. The next night, instead of trying to pretend it wasn’t there, wasn’t hunting me, I turned and faced it- my terrifying adversary. I pulled out my weapons of truth and recognized my need to cling to the rope. Chris prayed for me that evening and my sleep has been terror free ever since. In coming honestly to Jesus, I allowed Him to chase the fear away. He chased it down with peace.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1
The psalmist is essentially proclaiming, I know this rope won’t break. How can I fear the tumultuous waters when I know my rescue is eminent, my God’s grip is tenacious!
There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grieving over the loss of someone’s baby. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not in some way touched by the panic and pain of the way death steals from the ones left behind. And there is not a day when I do not remember my sweet baby girl without some measure of ache. And in all this I pray there is not a day where my life’s anchor is ever again a flawed statistic, but a God who can be fully trusted. Peace is not the fruit of circumstance but the fruit of trusting in the one whose peace flows from the cross where His blood was shed, the peace and power that surges from the empty tomb
“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
So, whether four weeks brings about a new baby boy to hold, or just another day to be held myself, I will know pee because I am determined to trust in the One whose name is Peace. My God has overcome. This world cannot overpower the One who overpowered it. And this, this reality, this is my stronghold, my certain rope in an uncertain world.
I am watching my fear retreat. It is backing into the shadows- the light is here. My grip is tight on this rope, this man, this God, and I will not be overcome.