Although a bit shy and reserved, I was one of those children nonplussed by the usual childhood fears: monsters, big dogs, bugs, snakes, or darkness. In fact, my brother and I each owned a rabbit, both of which dwelt in a wooden hutch behind our garage. We fed Thumper and Flopsy both morning and evening during the chill of winter, providing fuel that warmed them during hard freezes. Tromping single file, we marched in the pitch of night toward our backyard, my arms stuffed with a bounty of hay and an old coffee can brimming with rabbit feed.
My brother was terrified of the dark, and followed along at my heels, one hand grasping the back of my coat, flashlight in the other, lighting our path. Beyond our garage, past the hutch spread a field bordered by thick woods, filled with occasional sounds of snapping branches as who knows what crept through the brush. In the absence of moonlight, I could scarcely see my hand in front of my face. We had one flashlight though, illuminating the wide eyes of our bunnies, huddled and stunned by the sudden light beams.
I inhaled the delicious night air, and even at that tender age embraced that I was kept by God under the dark and starry skies, frost enveloping the blades of grass which crunched beneath my boots. The coldness of the air burned my lungs in the purest of ways, and I knew, I knew, that God flung this universe into existence with merely a word. I was made alive, trusting my Maker, delighting in the stillness of nature, and I adored him for gifting his majestic artwork, forever on display, in the great outdoors.
Did I have any fears?
A subtle change of tenor, a pitch in the atmosphere, cues and signals of polite, underlying anger. Sudden mood swings in people hatched terror in the base of my stomach, and with that thudding fear came stillness. I developed a skilled neutrality in moving forward, pretending to carry on, to distract from disturbing behaviors, to change course, even while my heart was silently flailing. In grade school I realized that I was sensitive, discerning relational clues that others did not, trying to prevent discord before it unfolded. I read a room, and paid careful attention to the raised eyebrow, clenched hand, rolling of the eyes, a set jaw.
Recently, I unearthed an old grade school report card from the bottom of a box: Kristin is a helper, always taking care of others. This might sound kind and gentle, but those moments were often a heavy weight around my small neck. I was quite alone in my self-proclaimed responsibility to continually smooth and iron out the wrinkly moods of others, circling around and around and around my fear of man.
Last month I had the oil changed in our truck.
As I drove away I thought I heard a clunking noise, but then assumed it was the radio. Two miles down the road, I turned the radio off.
Ca-clunk. Ca-clunk. Ca-clunk.
I seriously considered pushing through. I had a list of errands a mile long, no one else to complete them, plus I was leaving town the next day.
Who on earth keeps driving when there is a terrible sound in their vehicle?
A few miles later I sighed in surrender and reluctantly turned around, coasting back to the dealer, where they dislodged a heavy bolt from the back tire.
No charge for repairs young lady, the man said. It was one of our shop’s bolts, and you most likely ran over it in our parking lot as you left. He tipped his ball cap. You were smart to return. It would have cost you in five different ways if you hadn’t.
I considered his words for days.
Like the odd noise in my truck, there has been a clanking in my life as of late. A return of disturbance, my heart trembling in fear both familiar and inexplicable.
So I am running to safety, burrowing deeper into Scripture, desperately studying it, guarding it, holding the thin page of my story up to the light of God’s Word, examining it carefully through this lens. Am I sinning in my fear?
I dislike cheap answers, platitudes that diminish suffering. It reminds me of our son, Marcus, who plays the piano. When he sits upon the piano bench, hands soft upon the keys, I hold my breath, anticipating the richness that is about to fill the room. He feels the music, he is the music, he loses himself in every note, and it is his passion that makes the piano sing. Others may play the same piece, upon the same instrument, perfectly obeying the sheet music before them, but it feels rote, mechanical, a cliché to my ears.
Our bones and our flesh are designed by God, fleeting and frail, carrying us through infernos then ashes. Our Crucified King knows the depth of sorrow and pain and loss. He never spoke in flimsy platitudes, and neither should we. He engaged raw truth with aching clarity while tortured, hanging on the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsake me? (Mark 15:34)
Feelings are maps, directing us to places that God longs to heal. Do not ignore those feelings. When the ca-clunking starts, it is time to high-tail it back to the repair shop. You might not appreciate the news that you receive, but you will at least have a proper diagnosis called truth and be able to deal in reality. And reality is always found in Scripture, the heartbeat of God.
Why are we prone to persuading ourselves that the opinions of man reign supreme? People without spiritual depth and grit will not lead you to honest answers that heal. God will, through his Word.
So when I tell you that I am abiding in Scripture, understand that I have sought comfort elsewhere, and found it lacking. My Maker knows me better than anyone, and is with me in my fear and anguish. The Bible is a living gift, offering truth and healing, correction and comfort; a balm for our sore and wounded souls.
God’s Word says that he collects our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8).
God’s Word tells me not to trust my heart (Jeremiah 17:9).
God’s Word tells me that God is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
God’s Word tells me that Jesus came to earth not to bring peace, but division (Luke 12:51).
God’s Word says the fear of the Lord is wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).
God’s Word tells me to forgive (Ephesians 4:32).
God’s Word tells me to flee the presence of a fool (Proverbs 14:7).
God’s Word tells me to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
God’s Word tells me to seek wisdom (Proverbs 4:6-7).
God’s Word tells me that Jesus pushed through tremendous fear, sweating drops of blood, willingly obeying his Father (Luke 22:44).
God’s Word tells me that the crowd of Christ’s supporters slimmed as he neared death (John 6:60-66).
God’s Word tells me that there is one way to salvation (Acts 4:11-12).
God’s Word tells me that despite all evil and suffering, Jesus will return and make all things new (Revelation 21:5) .
God’s Word tells me that to know Christ is to share in his sufferings (Philippians 3:10).
God’s Word tells me that as a Christian, I am hemmed in, protected by God (Psalm 139:5).
God’s Word tells me to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
God’s Word tells me not to fear in the midst of persecution (Matthew 10:16-33).
Seasons of deep suffering are inevitable. A sudden and pervasive stripping away of earthly things that we hold dear hurts. While the traumas and the sufferings may never be fully righted in this earthly life, God is still good.
Go to battle against your fears, choosing to bow low in reverence before God, who mercifully sent Christ to bring our dead bones to life (Ezekiel 37:1-10).
Every hardship, ever fear, every moment of suffering holds holy purpose.
Feast upon his Word, trust God, and live.