Bath bomb in hand, I placed one foot into the warm water. Hot, but not too hot. Dropping the purple bath bomb into the tub, I smiled as it fizzed and filled the air with the comforting scent of lavender. I settled in for what was supposed to be a relaxing, pain-relieving bath. It had taken quite a bit of convincing in the form of a bath bomb to actually get me and my self-diagnosed OCD self into the tub in the first place, but I had high hopes that this would be the answer to relieving my chronic pain, if only for a little while. I picked up my newest Barnes and Noble find, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and easing further down into the warm, lavender-scented water, I began to read the chapter labeled “Fire and Light.”
One paragraph in, I knew something was wrong. The temperature in the room rose to a suffocating level. Sweat began dripping down my face as my breathing grew labored and my heartbeat echoed in every part of my body. I tried to continue reading, but the words on the page were meaningless. I could read them, but I couldn’t comprehend them. Looking up, the room began spinning. I knew I needed to get out of the tub, but I couldn’t move. Time moved in slow motion. I was so scared.
“Ashlee?” my sister called from the adjoining room. “Ashlee? Are you alright?” “No,” I whispered just loud enough for her to hear. The bathroom door opened and Emilee poked her head in, eyes shut tight to give me as much privacy as she could manage while still trying to help me. “I’m coming in. Give me your towel and I’ll help you out.” Holding the towel in front of me, Emilee managed to lift me out of the tub until I was on my feet. Immediately, pain shot through both of my legs, leaving them tingling like I was being attacked by a swarm of fire ants. I cried as my legs gave out and I collapsed into my sister’s arms. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed, but yet, I could still feel the pain as it besieged my legs.
Fear. That is the emotion that filled my heart and my mind as I tried to get my legs to work to no avail. My heart raced. My body shook. And tears raced down my face, falling onto useless pale legs.
Fear is an emotion we all endure. Many of us experience it on a daily basis. So, what exactly is fear? According to Psychology Today, fear is necessary to our survival. It is a vital response to danger, both physical and emotional. In other words, without fear, we would be helpless in defending ourselves from legitimate threats. For example, let’s say you’re walking down the street alone at night. Coming directly towards you is a man in a hooded sweatshirt, walking at a brisk pace. What do you do? For most of us, our hearts start racing as images of guns, knives, white vans, and kidnappings race through our minds. That’s fear. This fear-response thus causes a fight-or-flight response. Basically, we have two choices: prepare to fight off the potential attack with the pepper spray we have in our bag and our mad self-defense skills (fight), or cross the street as far away from the stranger as we can and continue safely home (flight). That is the benefit of fear. It alerts us to, and prepares us for, potential threats.
But, as we all know, fear can be suffocating as well. We fear losing friends and family; we fear being late to a job interview or to an important examination; we worry about money and finances; we worry about our marriages, our children, our families; we fear never finding the “perfect” guy and remaining single our entire lives; we fear losing our jobs, our homes, our livelihood. And the list goes on and on and on until we cannot breathe, cannot think, cannot function. Here’s the problem:: The more room we make for fear in our lives, the less room there is for God.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Too often, our lives are so full of fear that we so easily forget about the God who conquered all fear when He conquered the grave. When I was sitting in that bathtub, unable to move my legs, and the pain was so severe, how easily I became so consumed with my fear and forgot about my God. I forgot about the excellent One who hung the moon and the stars with only a finger. The One who has walked the depths of the sea and explored the fields of the earth. I forgot about the One who designed the heavens and the earth and brought them about with just the sound of His voice. I forgot about the One who made the lame walk, the blind see, the sick be healed, and the dead be raised to life again. In my fear, I forgot that I need only cry out the name of Jesus, and the King of the World will hear me and He will help me.
“Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NKJV).
The next time I am afraid, I pray that instead of allowing the waves to crash over me and leave me gasping for my next breath, I will instead lift my eyes to the heavens and cry out to the God who saves. I wonder how much different our lives would be if our first response was to battle fear with praise? What if instead of allowing our minds to feast on fear, we brought our worries to the foot of the throne of heaven? I bet our lives, our worlds, would be so much freer, so much more joyful, and our burdens would be so much lighter.
May we realize that God is not a God of fear, but a Giver of Peace. Sweet Jesus did not come to this world so that we may waste away under the burden of fear. He came and died and conquered the grave so that in Him we would find peace and joy and courage. Today, may we surrender our all-consuming fear at the feet of our all-consuming Savior.
“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel;
‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the LORD you God;
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior’”