[Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of articles on conquering fear that will appear in June.]
Some of my earliest memories are of being afraid. My parents were military and liked to socialize at the officer’s club on base. They began leaving me alone when I was seven. They gave me the phone number of the club and assured me that they could get home quickly if needed. What might be considered criminal child neglect today, they rationalized as practical and economical.
When my brother was born, my parents taught me to feed and change him. I became an 8-year-old baby-sitter who was sometimes home alone with an infant until 2 a.m. Because we lived in a desert, the thought of snakes, tarantulas, or poisonous lizards getting into the house probably terrified me more than the thought of a human intruder. I never slept until my parents came home.
That was the beginning of my fear of being alone at night, a fear that only intensified as I grew older. Unfortunately, neither did it stop after I became a Christian. I was ashamed of being afraid, but I was still afraid. When my children were seven and four, my husband began to travel out of the country on business for weeks at a time. Suddenly my quiet neighborhood seemed more fearsome than the darkest jungle. I tried to ward off potential intruders by turning on all the outside lights and staying up all night. One day a neighbor said to me, “Your husband must be gone. I noticed you had all the flood lights on.”
Obviously, I wasn’t fooling my neighbors—or any would-be housebreaker.
When I read Psalm 91:5, I understood exactly what the psalmist called “the terror of night,” but I knew nothing of the freedom he spoke of: “you will not fear the terror of night.” I desperately needed that freedom. Finally, exhausted by lack of sleep and frayed nerves, I decided to stop staying up all night in order to protect myself, to stop praying generic Tiny Tim prayers (“God bless us every one”), and to start clinging to the biblical promises about God’s protection. In order to do that I first had to learn the promises. I did a concordance search on fear, peace and trust, the antidote to fear. I studied some especially comforting passages, such as Psalm 27, 34, and 91 and jotted the references in my prayer notebook next to my request for safety.
Determined to get some sleep, each night I repeated verses about God’s protection. I also reminded myself that God “grants sleep to those he loves” (Ps. 127:2). At first I lay stiffly in bed, hearing each creak of the house settling before I drifted into an uneasy sleep. When dawn’s light filled the room, I’d breathe a sigh of relief (as if all danger disappeared with sunlight), turn off the flood lights, and fall deeply asleep. Although results weren’t instantaneous, I was sleeping!
The more I studied the Bible, the more I realized that it was not God’s will for me to live in fear. One verse offered the tremendous promise of “no fear” (before it became a tee shirt slogan), but it also puzzled me. John wrote that “there is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). I knew that I couldn’t perfectly love God; no one can. So how could I have “no fear”? Finally I saw what John is saying: when I accept that God perfectly loves me, I will not need to fear circumstances or people or the future. Fear can be cast out when I realize and meditate on the extent of His love for me.
I also found that freedom from fear was more than just a comforting promise. It was a Person. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Slowly but surely, the truth that Jesus is my peace began to set me free.
© 2012 by Vicki Huffman
Vicki Huffman is the author of two Christian non-fiction books and a Christian-based novel which are available in various forms through the author (email Mentoring Moments) or amazon.com. To read the first chapter of her novel A Secret Hope at no cost, follow here.