My little girl pulled away from my grasp, her tiny hand slipping from my fingers. She ran toward the crowds of rushing people. Toward the oncoming traffic. The eighteen wheelers bearing down on her, getting closer. I tried to catch up, but she was already too far away. I screamed to my older children to help me catch her.
Then I woke up.
My little girl is no longer as small as she was in the dream. She knows better than to run into traffic now. What’s more, she was safely asleep in her bed. Still, my heart thudded in my chest. It was only 5:30am. In our new quarantine life, I had another thirty minutes or so to sleep. But thanks to that dream, I was up for the day, unable to shake the fear that gripped me.
I hadn’t felt this fear for a while. It reminded me of the way I used to live, back when I was mired in a pit of anxiety. A miscarriage had tripped a wire in my brain, and I found myself retracing neural pathways I thought I’d left behind. I spent a few years in the clutches of fear, waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop, trying to anticipate what shape it would take, attempting to catch it before it hit me.
During that dark season of my life, my fears morphed based on various triggers. Often, I was terrified of losing one of my children. I went to great lengths to make sure they weren’t run over by a truck or drowned in the lake, that they didn’t choke to death or fall from a window. And when those fears faded to the background, I worried instead about my own well being. I imagined a cancer diagnosis. I feared for my marriage, and for the future of my family.
The fears took their toll and after spending a night in the emergency room with chest pains, I began to recognize that anxiety would ultimately hurt me rather than protect me. If I didn’t have heart disease or cancer yet, the lack of sleep and continuous stress would send me in that direction. Fear was stealing my health and my joy, and if I let it, fear would ultimately steal my life. I had to fight it.
I’m thankful that I’m not in that place anymore, and yet in this time of uncertainty, when the media is filled with frightening reports about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to let our minds run away with the what-ifs. Even before the pandemic led to mass shelter-in-place orders, I could sense the familiar anxiety trying to make a comeback.
I recognized the fear, and I also recognized the source:
The enemy of our souls wants us to be afraid. He’s trying to steal our joy.
For me, the most powerful way to combat fear is to state the truth. And the truth is this:
The lover of our souls longs for us to experience his perfect peace.
He wants us to live joyfully in the midst of this.
When I was in the thick of my battle with anxiety, I found that many of my fears were based on lies. In order to overcome them, I wrote down each fear, or the specific lie I believed, and acknowledged it. Then I found a truth, strengthened by scripture, that directly contradicted the lie.
Here’s an example from those anxiety-ridden days.
It’s my job to keep my children safe. If something happens to one of them, it’s because I lapsed in my responsibilities. I have the power to prevent harm from coming to them.
I need to care for my children the best I can (within reason), but God holds the future. He is in control of life and death. I cannot predict or prevent all possible harm, and it’s not my job to do that.
A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. (Job 14:5)
Your eyes saw my unformed body; All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139: 16)
Here are some examples of lies we might believe during the current pandemic and the truths that help fight against them.
This pandemic will change life as we know it. This is a disaster of epic proportions. We will never recover from this.
God knew this was coming. He’s going to see us through.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
I (or one of my loved ones) might get sick and die from this virus.
The likelihood of this happening is still small. The majority of people who catch COVID-19 have a mild case and recover. But even if you (or one of your loved ones) die, we have this hope:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
I have never been more compelled to spread joy and love than during this period of widespread fear. We must be responsible, yes, but that does not include fear mongering. We can smile and wave to neighbors and those we pass on our necessary forays out of the house. We can be patient with those who are handling this differently. We can reach out to those who live alone with a phone call. We can take advantage of the extra time with our own household.
We can show love from a distance in thousands of little ways, remembering the ultimate truth:
Alison Treat is a recovering perfectionist, saved by grace. She loves to read, hike, swim, and ski with her husband and three kids in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She writes about freedom, her own and that of others, in her historical novels and on her blog at http://alisontreat.com.
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