When I was a young girl, I was scared of the dark. This was a particular frustration for my mother. Our only bathroom was at the top of the stairs, which also happened to be where the only light switch for the stairs was. So she knew that if I had to go to the bathroom, she would need to stand at the bottom of the stairs promising me that if I turned off the light at the top of the stairs, I would make it safely down the stairs, free from anything that might be lurking in the dark distance between us.
As I’ve aged, I’ve learned that there is nothing in the dark that isn’t there in the light. There are no monsters under the bed or in the closet. There is no cold, bone-thin hand that will reach for mine as I pull away from the light switch.
Of course! Today I walk freely around my home at night in the dark free from anxiety. I don’t expect anything worse than tripping over the cat or stepping on a LEGO.
And yet, I’m still afraid of the dark. More precisely, I suppose I’m afraid of what I can’t see. In spite of my greatest assurances that everything is fine, there’s that quiet whisper…”What if?”
What if the car needs repairs and we don’t have the money to fix it? What if that pain in my chest is more than heartburn? What if I don’t recognize that my child needs mental health care? What if I can’t handle the next storm that threatens to take down my home?
This is the same whisper that I believe Eve heard in the Garden when Satan said, “Are you sure…?” It’s the threat of uncertainty. Certainly, monsters are real. We hear about them in the news. Some of us have been married to them, have dated them, have been unwitting friends of them, have been victimized by them. And, yes, bad things can happen. We can face the diagnoses of a fatal illness. Events can financially devastate us. Natural disasters can lay waste to our lives.
So…Are you sure?
Of course, you aren’t! However, there comes a certain comfort in knowing and believing – truly believing – that the One in whom you place your life has it covered. When I was very young, I trusted my mother to keep me safe. I believed that as long as she was at the bottom of the stairs and I could see her, either I could safely reach her or – if something came out of the dark behind me – she could reach me in time to protect me.
Seeing her didn’t keep me from running down the stairs out of fear that something could creep up behind me! Similarly, my faith in God isn’t always strong enough to stay so focused on Him that I don’t look at my life with fear and anxiety. Why? Because…what if?
The good news is that “fear” is not only defined as an unpleasant anxiety, but also as a reverential acknowledgement. The important thing is to have the appropriate “fear” – the fear of God, the confidence that He cares deeply for us, that he is in control and that His plans for us are good and not malicious or duplicitous as the enemy would encourage us to believe.
We can have peace when we understand that each event in our life is just one piece of the puzzle, that God knows how all the pieces are to fit together, and that ultimately the pieces will form a beautiful picture. We should have nothing to be anxious about.
I think this is why it was so important that Christ came to us as The Light, in whose presence nothing can be hidden, there are no shadows, there is nothing to be afraid of.
It doesn’t mean we won’t fear. Fear is an emotion that God gave us, and He tells His children “do not fear,” “do not be afraid,” “do not be anxious” often enough to indicate that He knew we’d be afraid. But He also followed with the comfort that He would be with us. Just as my mother would be at the bottom of the stairs. Fear serves to draw us near to the One who can keep us safe. Fear was what gave Peter the courage to step out of the boat and walk towards the calm that surrounded Jesus.
Because we’re human, and because we live in a sinful world, things will frighten us. How long we allow ourselves to remain afraid, how crippling that fear is, depends on our faith in God. Do we trust Him to protect those He loves? Do we trust that He has a good plan for us? Do we trust that He created the puzzle that is our life and knows exactly where each piece fits? Do we look at Him to shed light on our life in order to dismiss the shadows? Do we trust that there is nothing in the dark that isn’t there in the light? Essentially, do we believe His Word?
My mother died several years ago, but even before that I realized that she wasn’t capable of protecting me from the things I feared. But my God will never leave me. He will never forsake me. He will never abandon me! He knows the number of hairs on my head and has carved my name in the palm of His hand. He loves me. And He loves you. We can trust Him.