When Fear Knocks on Your Door
“O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction …” Jeremiah 16:19 (KJV)
Clad in snowflake pajamas, with a failing top knot and smudged eye makeup, I waited for my morning shower water to heat up. As it reached the perfect temperature, the doorbell rang.
I shut the water off and shuffled to the foyer. Through the door’s glass, I eyed a large man standing on the porch. He wore khakis and a golf shirt with the county sheriff’s logo.
I cracked open the door.
The man showed me a sheriff’s badge and then an FBI badge. He really had my attention when he explained that the FBI had put him on a special task force to inform individuals of their presence on a recent 8,000-member ISIS Kill List.
“How’d I get on the list?” I asked, then listened intently.
“We don’t know. Maybe it’s your job.” He looked at me in all my morning non-glory as though he, too, failed to imagine me qualifying for the list.
“I’m a bookkeeper for an engineering and surveying firm.”
“Does your company do federal contracts?” he asked.
“No, we’re a very small company. But I am prior military and go to the Veterans Administration clinic. Maybe they hacked the V.A.?”
He nodded an uncertain confirmation. “Could be that, but we really don’t know.” He warned me to be vigilant and aware of my surroundings, especially when coming and going from home. “They have your name and home address, but it’s highly unlikely anything will come of this.”
He gave me two business cards with his various cell phone numbers handwritten on the back. “If you feel you’re in an emergency situation, by all means, call 9-1-1. They have your address flagged and will come swarming.”
I hurried to the office and addressed the pile of work in front of me. Then I searched the internet for information on the list. To date, there were no reports of anyone on the list being killed.
The first week after the notification, I fell into hyper-awareness and hyper-vigilance. I’d checked the wood line and scanned the street each time I let the dogs outside.
As I drove, I ran scenarios through my head; doing the same at home.
Cricks and creeks in the house became amplified, especially at night.
I prayed for God’s protection and His peace settled on me.
God reminded me of the Hebrews in Egypt and how He protected them, even in the midst of the storm, (Exodus 5-15). He also reminded me of how Jesus calmed the storm with the disciples in the boat, (Matthew 8:23-27). Each time he stayed there with them. He protected and sheltered them. Each time He did not take them out of the problem but protected them in the midst of the problems and He brought calm to the situation.
During the following weeks, as I pressed to rest in my God, my fortress, I settled into a healthy amount of awareness and vigilance. There is only one way off a kill list, so I resolved to remain in the refuge that is my God and trust him for protection.
Lord, help us to rest in You when fear sets in and our circumstances overwhelm us. Give us Your perfect peace in the midst of the storm. Lord, teach us to turn to you first and lay our concerns at your feet. Amen!
When Fear Chases Me
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV)
My eyes popped open and my heart raced when my phone buzzed at 1 a.m. Good news isn’t usually delivered at that hour.
I hopped out of bed and grabbed my phone to read a text: “Mom, police have my dorm on lockdown and are running up and down the hall shouting. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m scared.”
It was Ashley, my daughter who was a college freshman at the time, more than seven hours away from me.
I tried calling her, but the reception was so bad neither of us could make out what the other was saying. Texting was my only option, so I asked a series of questions trying to get a better handle on what was happening.
My hands were shaking. My heart was racing. And I felt intensely helpless.
When she was a little girl and cried out in the middle of the night, all I had to do was run upstairs. I could sit on the edge of her bed and rub her back. I could let her see me. Calm her with my touch. Be there to whisper reassurances.
But that little girl had grown into a college girl living very far away from me.
I couldn’t sit on her bed, and she couldn’t see me. I couldn’t calm her with my touch. I couldn’t whisper those reassurances with my voice.
All I could do was text her.
And that felt completely inadequate in light of the situation.
Scary images assaulted my mind with all the possible scenarios a completely shaken mama conjures up in moments of frightening uncertainty. I sank down to my knees and begged God to clear my head and give me the words to text that would help.
This was one of those times I wished God would appear in a way my eyes could see and give me clear, step-by-step instructions saying exactly what to do.
But I couldn’t see Him. And no Spirit Finger wrote instructions on my wall. Instead, I felt this gentle nudge to pay attention to what He’d already given me that week: A set of verses a friend texted me and that I’d passed along to another friend, which includes our key verses today.
Psalm 91:1-2, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”
I love that these verses give us a script to say out loud, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Quickly, I texted Ashley these verses and instructed her to say this out loud over and over until she felt some relief from her fear. And you better believe I was saying it out loud over and over as well.
Isn’t it interesting the two words God is called here are refuge and fortress?
A refuge is a quick place you duck into to find shelter. A fortress is a place built intentionally for the purposes of exceptional security. The Hebrew word for fortress is metsudah, with one of its definitions being an “inaccessible place.”
God is not just a quick refuge from the storm, but He’s also the place where fear no longer has access to me.
Fear can’t catch what it can no longer reach.
It’s not that bad things won’t happen to my kids or me. We live in a broken world where broken things happen every day. But as a child of God, I don’t have to live with fear taunting and terrorizing me.
We still don’t know all the reasons why my daughter’s dorm was on lockdown. Thankfully, she and her friends were safe and we all eventually got some sleep that night. I understand that other middle-of-the-night calls don’t turn out so well. I’ve sadly lived through those times too.
But I’m determined to make some imperfect progress when I’m processing fear.
I now know I can feel afraid, but I don’t have to live afraid.
I can say out loud, “Dear God, You are my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” And then close my eyes and picture Him lifting me to a place where fear can’t hold me.
Fear and Worry
Do you struggle to get through the day because you’re consumed with worry?
If you do, you’re not alone. There’s an endless supply of things to worry about, both in world affairs and in our personal lives. It can consume us and distract us from living in the moment and from being in tune with God’s voice in our lives.
Have you ever stopped (in the midst of all your worrying, it’s hard to do!) and considered how obsessive worry impacts your relationship with God and His will for your life?
While you wrestle with anxiety-filled thoughts, you are consumed and robbed of the gift to live in the present moment. And it’s in the present moment that God does His work—and that’s where He intends you to be. When your worry super-imposes the “future” on the “present,” it empties today of its strength.
Worry Produces Fear and Anxiety
Worriers often live in a continuous cycle of fear and anxiety—the paralyzing by-products of worry. This continuous cycle is like running on a hamster wheel. You can’t get off even though you’re completely exhausted! This kind of worry goes well beyond healthy concern and places you in a constant state of painful uneasiness. The anxiety disturbs your mind and there is complete turmoil in your thinking. Thoughts become obsessive to the point where you cannot function or even think about anything else.
Is Worry a Spiritual Battle?
Scripture says that God has not given you the spirit of fear. He has not given you this obsession to worry, this fear, this terror… somebody else has: the devil. He would like nothing more than to distract you from God and who God wants you to be. Many are tempted to worry, but when you fall into that temptation and continually worry, then you sin. Worry is sin!
Recognizing that obsessive worry is a spiritual battle makes all the difference. First, it reminds you that you won’t win the war on worry in your own strength. As a believer, you have Christ. He never worries, and He asks you to bring all your worries to Him.
Philippians 4:6-7 says:
“Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Thankfully, God has provided a way out of obsessive worry—it is through Jesus and through prayer. When you turn your worries into prayers, it’s not that your worries go away, but they are transformed from “destructive worry” to “constructive concern.” You’ve now handed over your heavy worry load to the Lord, and He has control over everything.