I used to feel very uncomfortable around “missions” people. You know who I’m talking about. The people who move to third-world countries on purpose or who run mission teams at church or people who try to get you to think about going on missions trips. I avoided these people because I assumed that they’d either pressure me to do something I didn’t want to do, or they’d take one look at me and label me a bad Christian for not wanting to be a part of their particular missional interest. My fear was so thick that I subconsciously avoided listening to God.
About five years ago, our friends Jake and Anna were visiting and Anna said something that stuck with me. I was sharing some of these Africa/leprosy/boil/missionary-related fears with her.
She said, “Shame and worry are not from God. You’re His daughter. If He wants you to move to Africa, you’re going to want to move to Africa. God loves you, Scarlet. Wherever He leads you, He’s going to give you joy in it . . .”
King David thought the same thing. He wrestled lions and battled giants, which, on the surface, seems harder than moving to another country and he said in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (ESV).
I don’t know why I’ve always had the idea that living for God meant kicking and screaming my way through a miserable life. Paul wasn’t miserable as he was stoned and beaten for God. I’m sure it wasn’t his favorite, but he counted it all as joy.
After Jake and Anna left, I stood in the kitchen of my little apartment and said, “God . . . I’m scared to talk to You . . . I’m scared to want You . . .”
Everything in me wanted to end my prayer there. Everything in me wanted to look at my phone and get affirmation from strangers on Facebook. Everything in me wanted to shout upstairs [to my daughter], “Ever, let’s go to the park!” But I forced myself to stand still. I forced myself to feel the fear and look to God.
I continued, now through tears, “God, I don’t want to be close to You, because I know that as soon as I am, You’re going to take my daughter. You’re going to test me. You’re going to take Brandon away. Right?”
And the Holy Spirit responded with gentleness. He responded with His Word. He responded with “The Cure for Anxiety” as my Bible’s subheading calls it.
“Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink: or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” (Matt. 6:25–26.)
Well, I guess I’m worth more to You than the birds, but look at Job. He loved you and You let Satan take everything he loved. I read again . . . “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matt. 7:11).
It’s hard to explain the big meaningful interactions I’ve had with God. They tend to have a major you-had-to-be-there feel. But as I stood in that kitchen, enveloped in the agony of my fear, I felt God reach in and brush it away effortlessly, like when you gently blow a stray hair out of your face and back into place. In that little, weirdly shaped kitchen, God poured the truth of His Word into my soul. In those minutes that I didn’t run from His presence, the words I’d read and known and twisted into condemnation were clear. “How much more will your Father in heaven give good things?”
I stood in that kitchen and cried in His arms. I can’t remember what my then-three-year-old was doing up in her room, but I was standing on holy kitchen linoleum as the Lord reassured me, that I am loved, not because I am good, but because He is good. I am scared, but He is good.
“The Lord is good to everyone; his compassion rests on all he has made,” (Ps. 145:9).
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows,” (James 1:17).
God doesn’t delight in hurting His children. His wrath is not poured out on His beloved. When He looks out at His broken people living in this still-so-broken world, He is full of mercy and compassion. And when we walk through the pains of death and trauma and our crippling imaginary concerns, He isn’t the enemy. He isn’t the aggressor. He’s the Comforter.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows,” (2 Cor. 1:3–5).
When the Holy Spirit gave me the grace to see God as my Good Father and Comforter in this world broken by sin, I stopped running away from Him and started running to Him. When the gospel made clear that God has already given me His own Son, I stopped being afraid of the “scary” situations that bring me close to Him.
What does the gospel say about your fears? What does it say about the irrational ones, like sinkholes in the Target parking lot? How does it speak to the rational ones, like pet scan predictions? And does the gospel have a word for the fears you feel you'll have for life, like the possibility of losing the one you love most?
Growing up in the green room of SNL, being born to a fire-eater and adopted by a SWAT cop, having internal organs explode, and adopting a deaf girl from China, Scarlet Hiltibidal has been given some strange life experiences—and lived in fear through most of them.
But life changed for Scarlet when she learned to hold the gospel up to her fears. She realized that though she can't fix herself or protect herself, Jesus walked into this broken, sad, scary place to rescue, love, and cast out her—and your—fear.
Seeing life in light of the cross will help you avoid fear, overcome fear when you can’t avoid it, and live beyond fear when you don’t overcome it. You don't have to be afraid of all the things.