I described fear to a friend recently as a “wildfire”. She agreed, adding her own image: “Fear is like cancer”. The point we were both making was that fear doesn’t stay contained. It isn’t as localized as we think. Right before we turn out the lights on one fearing thought, ON flash the lights of another fear we hadn’t considered. And on and on it goes until you’ve been lying awake, lost in torment, for four hours in the dead of night.
When my recent, month-long battle with fear really intensified, a friend encouraged me to write down Scriptures and promises that I could memorize and meditate on and yield my mind to. That day, I began to hide God’s Word in my heart like it was my lifeline. It became to me like the strong cord that we harnessed our little boy Eli to when we took him rock climbing last week. I banked my life…literally…on God’s promises. I took that paper scrap of handwritten scriptures everywhere I went, for a month. I tried to learn the discipline of chasing down every thought until I caught it, and commanding it to yield to truth. “Take every thought captive unto the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
One heavy-hearted and teary morning, after waking up to a day that held some troubling uncertainties concerning our baby, I heard the Lord ask me: “Will you still worship me? Will you still believe that I am good?”
I answered, “Lord, I want to believe that You are good. Help me worship You… “
So I dragged my body over to the piano, just sat there with my hands trembling in my lap, and wept. I tried to sing, but I couldn’t get any words out. Maybe that was all God wanted that morning, maybe that was my sacrifice of praise- just merely getting myself to the altar. The sacred altar (for me, a piano) at which I pray, I rejoice, I confess, I intercede, I worship, I surrender. I threw myself upon the altar without so much as a word to sing.
It was then that I began to see that God was growing my faith in Him. This battle with fear was not a waste of time or a big spiritual FAIL on my part.
God will never waste your sin and your struggles, friend. Don’t you waste them, either.
That morning, a battle plan was birthed. As fear would unsheathe its sword, I would make haste to the altar and begin to worship God. The battleground was holy, not deadly. I was on the winning side, and I knew it… but I had to fight.
At 4 AM, a week before Abel was born, I journaled:
“All of this imagined grief, pain, loss, testing… is a beautiful, gracious gift of God to act out the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and to tear robes in grief-stricken worship upon the altar of holy imagination.”
I didn’t pull away from the questions: “What if I am like Job? What if my Heavenly Father allows unthinkable suffering into my life? “ I leaned INTO these questions, shamelessly journaling through those long weeks and dark midnights of fear. I longed to claim the words of Psalm 34 as my own testimony:
“I sought the Lord,
and He answered me.
He delivered me from ALL my fears.”
I wrote in a letter to my baby three weeks before he was born,
“something about who you are, down to the core, down to your very name meaning ‘breath’, is already causing me to depend on God more. You’re not even born yet and the very nature of your name reminds me to look upward, to remember Who the giver and sustainer of life is; Who indeed is holding all things together.
Last night and this morning I have wondered: is it uncanny to name you ‘life is a breath’? Is it setting myself up for a lifetime of suspicion and worry?
Then I remembered Abraham and Isaac. I considered the holiness of God I long for, and the closeness I yearn for with Him, and I realized that if a son named ‘breath’ drives me to my knees more often, then that is a good thing.”
I won’t go into detail here about the particular type of suffering that is childbirth. But it is suffering indeed, as God said it would be. It is an “entering into death, to bring forth life”, as another friend puts it. It is interesting to see childbirth this way, in light of what Christ accomplished on the Cross. He truly did enter into death, to bring forth my life. (Galatians 2:20) He endured suffering for the joy set before Him. (Hebrews 12:2) He continued entrusting Himself to the One who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)
I didn’t plan on uttering “Thank You” during the final contractions.
But as we worshipped and prayed and I tried to narrow my focus and keep a tight reign on my thoughts during each contraction, that’s what came out. I’m so glad Jesus embraced the pain of the Cross for me, leaving those of us who labor to birth a child an example of how to embrace suffering for the sake of JOY.
“Thank You, Jesus, that You didn’t come down off the Cross when the pain got worse…Thank You, Jesus, that You stayed on the Cross
Thank You, Jesus, that You endured
For the JOY set before You…
Thank You, Jesus, for the JOY set before me…..”
A contraction comes like a wave. There is a warning that it is rolling in before the climax of intensity crashes over you. In those warning moments, you can get in a good position physically and brace your mind for the task of facing it. Our minds are the control centrals of our bodies- if we let our minds run frantic and wild, our bodies will follow suit. If we keep our minds under control, our body will follow suit. How does man live? By every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. I literally lived on His Words. By holding onto the Words of Life, I didn’t drown under the waves of unspeakable pain, but stayed afloat.
Why is it that so many martyrs are recorded as having died with their lips moving, as they quoted Scriptures, or sang hymns of worship? Because when our hearts and minds hold fast to God,
the reality of Truth triumphs over the reality of pain.
One of the scariest things I dealt with was fear of the unknown. We women don’t know what our labor will entail, and we don’t know the outcome. We don’t know if we will hold our baby right away, or even bring that baby home. Well, I can honestly testify that God brought my heart to a place of complete surrender to His perfect, trustworthy plan, despite the unknown. Of course, I prayed for mercy, for a short labor, for a particular midwife to be with me, for the baby’s head circumference, for a sound mind, for a heart of worship, and God answered every single prayer… but the best thing He did was deliver me from all my fears. He helped me CHOOSE trust, and reject fear, like the Psalmist in the Scripture below.
“You are with me, so I will fear no evil. Your rod and Your staff comfort me, even though I walk through the darkest valley…” Psalm 23:4
He disclosed His heart for me in my vulnerable state:
“You tend Your flock like a Shepherd; You gather the lambs in Your arms; You carry them in Your bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:11
…and He beckoned me to come to the Rock of refuge, during every single contraction, and in the moments of respite in-between contractions.
“Be to me a rock of refuge
to which I may continually come!
You have given the command to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.” Psalm 71:3
Now, with an abundance of homebaked goods gracing our countertops, a continual stream of loving visitors, painted pumpkins on the stoop, fresh decks of cards on the dining table, and crispy nostalgia weather down our collars, the best part of Autumn is this new sweet baby boy to cuddle and nurture and love. He is only 17 days old today, and he is neither wise nor experienced, but he has been used of God as a vessel of glory. I now know in the depths of my being that “NO weapon formed against me shall prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17) “What Satan intends for my demise, my Father intends for my good.” (Genesis 50:20) When I face what feels like defeat, God “surrounds me with shouts of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7)
God commands me and you: “Do NOT fear, for I have redeemed you! I have called you by name… you are mine!” (Isaiah 43) and I promise you, if you think you can never be free from the bondage of fear, YOU ARE WRONG! He would not have commanded something unless He intended to provide the grace to obey.
Match your imaginations with Truth, with Scripture, with worship, and just wait for your divine delivery.