It's the breathlessness in my lungs, it’s my heart pounding in my throat, it's the headache and sore neck, it's the tears and my hands holding the weight of my forehead, it's the panic attacks and the sweaty palms... It's fear.
We all have fears. Things we are afraid of. Little phobias. But I believe that a phobia isn’t the same as a fear. My momentary startle of a spider isn’t the same as the fear of my husband dying. My claustrophobia doesn’t compare to the fear of a future pregnancy ending in death. Dislikes are different from deep rooted fearful strongholds. Fear is something that I do not fully understand even though I am well acquainted with it.
Many people believe the opposite of fear is courage. But this simply isn’t true. Fear isn’t the absence of courage, for many people who are courageous are still afraid. The opposite of fear is certainty. Think about it, fear dissipates as soon as we have absolutely no grounds to believe in it. When we open the closet and see there are no monsters, we have no more reason to be afraid. If you could be guaranteed you would never get cancer, or that you would never default on your loan, that your car would never break down and your parents would live wonderfully healthy lives, and that your children would all outlive you, what would you have to be scared of? Certainty dispels fear. But let's be honest, there is very little, in this world, we can be certain of. Brushing your teeth won't save you from cavities and wearing your seat belt won't keep a car crash out of your future. Prenatal vitamins don't equal a healthy baby.
So yeah, I'm fearful. I'm fearful because I have lost a child and feel as if I can’t trust my own body. I am fearful because I have a husband, parents, sisters, and friends whom I cannot live without. So I'm scared. I wake up in the middle of the night to look at the baby monitor and stare until I see my son’s little chest rise and fall. I beg my husband to drive safely as he leaves for work and I pray over my parent’s health daily. I know that you know how I feel. Fear is just as universal and powerful as pain is.
The only humans to ever experience life without any fear were Adam and Eve. For they were created from and into a perfect world. But then they are also the only humans to know what it feels like to go from no fear, to absolute fear. And I pity them. For I will only know what it feels like to be freed from fear when I enter heaven. I wouldn’t trade places with them for the world. And part of me appreciates that Jesus himself doesn’t even know what it was like to live in the Garden of Eden. Even God’s own son had to live in fear before he was fearless.
I would like to think that Jesus was never afraid, for he is God. But he is also a man, born into the very same world I was; so I believe he did have fears. Maybe he feared he would lose his beloved parents, which he did. And I know he feared the cross. In Matthew 26, Jesus begs God to keep him from going to the cross. This makes me believe that fear, although created by sin, wasn’t withheld from Jesus. My savior also walked in fear. So when I pray prayers from a fearful place, I don’t feel so alone, so misunderstood, and out of place. Jesus and I both have prayed out of fear. And God, our heavenly father, listens to those prayers. And guess what… He doesn’t think less of them. They matter to Him. My prayers to keep my husband safe on the road as he drives, are just as important as my prayers to heal a friend. My prayers to keep my two year old son’s heart beating, are just as important as my prayers over our finances. And my prayers to keep my parents alive for a long time matter to God as much as my prayers for my pastor and my church. It’s easy to think that fear belittles prayers and that God doesn’t respect prayers prayed out of my lack of trust. God himself tells us to “be strong and courageous.” But I think He means to be strong and have courage in the places we are able. And in the places of our lives that we aren’t, He will cover the gaps.
Maybe fear even goes so far to penetrate God himself. I have wondered, does God fear he might lose some of his precious children to sin. Is he afraid that some of them will perish eternal deaths? Does fear make God weep as it does me? I know God is nothing like me, but I am something like Him. Could my fears be founded on love? Is love that powerful? I believe it is.
The only certainty the Bible gives us is salvation. An eternity of fearlessness. But on earth, I need to recognize that fear will always be part of my life. I believe that up until the moment Jesus breathed his last, he was afraid. Afraid to leave us.
Maybe God has a purpose for fear. Instead of a counter-spell to courage, fear is meant to produce faithful determination in me. My fears cause me to pray and read my bible. My fears cause me to trust. My fears deepen my relationship with God. God doesn’t care if my prayers stem from fear. He just cares that I talk to Him. He cares that I am honest about the fearful condition of my heart. When I think of Jesus as a man who also feared, I no longer want to be fearless. I want my fears to drive me to Jesus.
Jesus is my only certainty. He is the only one who can dispel my fears. And the wonderful thing about Jesus is, he doesn’t tell me to not be afraid anymore. Because just stopping to be afraid is impossible. Instead, Jesus asks me to be courageous in my fear. He encourages me to try to have more children. He breathes life into my hopes. Somehow he enables me to cry and smile at the same time. God didn’t instill courage in us so that we would no longer be afraid; He gave us both fear and courage to propel us towards himself.
I feel as if I am hanging on a painful cross. I can barely breathe. I am afraid. But Jesus hung on a cross before me, and he is teaching me what courage alongside fear looks like. It’s taking pregnancy tests for them to possibly be negative. It’s choosing to rest instead of watch my son sleep all night. Courage is putting that double stroller back on my amazon wish list.
Certainty is knowing my God will be with me through it all.