I was thrilled and terrified at the same time-my first donkey ride (and, let it be noted, also my last!) I must have been only five or six on that hot African day when my friends offered me this fantastic opportunity. But, as I bumped along on the back of the donkey, the thing that I feared began happening. With each bounce, I began slipping off the donkey's back.
I clung more tenaciously to the neck of the donkey, but to no avail. I was sliding off.
Within minutes, my worse fears were realized. If it were not for the iron grip I had around the donkey's neck, I would fall and crash to the ground.
I yelled for help. I cried.
For years later, those watching the scene would remind me about it with teasing and laughter in their voices. Why? Because the small, old donkey was just standing there and my feet were only a couple of inches from the ground.
They could see a perspective I couldn't see. And, it wasn't very terrifying. All I had to do was give up my tight clasp around the donkey's neck and I would be just fine.
Sometimes when we are overcome with fear, we just need to zoom our picture out a bit, to see a bigger perspective. Oftentimes, the very things we fear aren't really that bad.
But, what if they are?
What if the worst happens? What if that fear that has you paralyzed does come to pass?
You do lose your job. Your parents do get divorced. Your significant other does reject you.
A virus you heard about that was happening across the world does come to your hometown.
A pandemic is declared.
Your life is disrupted.
The time you thought you would have with your friends at the end of your senior year is suddenly not there.
The musical or tournament you prepared so hard for is postponed or cancelled.
The SAT testing you thought you would take to get into university is cancelled.
The "small world" that you counted on so that you could fly to see loved ones at anytime is suddenly shut down and you don't know when you will see them again.
Your college choice suddenly seems up-in-the-air because you don't know if you will be able to get in that country.
The risk of working in the healthcare industry suddenly became much more significant.
And, people really are dying.
Thirty years ago, I read a book by Marion Bond West titled The Nevertheless Principle. Although most Bible translations don't use the word "nevertheless" now, Marion had noted that in her Bible translation it was often used to state God's faithfulness even when the worst happened.
In her book, Marion narrated the story of her husband's journey with cancer and his eventual death, leaving her on her own with four children. She detailed the heavy weight of fear that sat with her daily, until she was able to release it as she learned what she termed The Nevertheless Principle.
She began to see that even when her very worst fear turned into reality, nevertheless, God was still with her. He was still good. He still loved her. He was still taking care of her.
Since reading that book so many years ago, I've thought back to that concept over and over. And, to be honest, throughout my life there have been many times when my fears have turned into reality.
Nevertheless, God is still God.
Nevertheless, He will never leave me nor forsake me.
Nevertheless, His grace is bigger than my fear and pours over me, reminding me that I am loved no matter what the future holds.
As the old saying goes, "we do not know what the future holds, but we do know Who holds the future."
When our fears begin to paralyze us and some of them begin to become realities, we need to look at them from a different perspective. We need to "zoom out" so we can see a bigger picture.
Because the truth is that when we know and understand that a loving Creator is by our side, then nothing can destroy us. When we have received the sweet gospel that He has provided, we know that we will be in His presence, regardless of whether it is in earth or in heaven.
Seeing God's loving and powerful arms around us can give us comfort, peace and even joy during uncertain times.
We don't have to cling so tightly to the stability and predictability that we long for.
We don't have to have a desperate clutch on the neck of our security.
Because, who knows? Maybe if we let go, the fall won't be as bad as we expected.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’ Daniel 3: 16-18 Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the sheepfold and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habbakuk 3:17--19 For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. Psalm 31:22 (KJV)
What are your favorite verses or quotes during times of fear? What songs do you listen to when you began to be paralyzed by anxiety? When have you had experiences that what you fear didn't happen? And, what about the times that your fears became reality? Did you see God's love and comfort? I would love to hear your comments!