Fear has been like a constant shadow in my life. It seems to disappear at times, and reappear in a new guise–kind of like Alfred Hitchcock. Viewers used to make a sport of “catching” him in cameo roles in nearly all his movies. “There he is boarding a bus!” (Or walking a dog, or sitting at a table in a photograph, or standing in a crowd.) And sometimes, you could only see him by his signature shadow or dark silhouette.
That is how fear has been in my life. Subtly (or not so subtly) appearing in moments of my childhood, teenage years, adulthood, and now motherhood.
For all the joy I felt when I discovered I was pregnant, a greater amount of fear came crashing in with it. For a while, I woke up every morning terrified my baby would die. I thought to truly rejoice would make me vulnerable. Vulnerable to pain. And I feared the more excited I got about this child within, the more devastating the pain would be if something happened to her.
I hate this; how fear is always sneaking into the picture. Always showing up somewhere new to make me a slave again. There’s no other way to describe it. Fear paralyzes me, making me more like a Kohl’s mannequin than a living person. (See how when I was at last physically pregnant, fear was turning me “barren” again?)
Fear Causes Barrenness
Can fear (really) make you barren?
Well, no. Not in a physiological way. (Though people will keep telling you if you “just relax,” you will get pregnant. I wholeheartedly disagree.) A medical study linking especially “fearful” people to being “unable to conceive” has never been proven or even done to my knowledge. Every day, both fearless and fearful women discover they are pregnant. Faithful and faithless. If fear prevented pregnancy, no market would exist for the myriad of contraceptives on every shelf, at every pharmacy across the nation. The majority of people are fearful; so if that were true, nearly no one would be having babies! We may even go extinct.
But fear does cause barrenness—in another form. Fear causes a barrenness of the soul, which is far worse, because no doctor can give you treatment for it.
Fear is like those little suckers that grow on your tomato plants. They look like growth, but any gardener will tell you to pluck them off immediately(!) because all they do is steal the nutrients from the plant—making it fruitless. And, like fear, they keep popping up in new locations. So you must keep pinching them off, or you plant will never bear fruit.
Jesus said, “… I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…” John 15:16a
Of course he is not talking about tomatoes. Nor is he talking about having a bunch of kids either. What makes you “fruitful” is abiding in the Vine, remaining connected with Jesus. He says, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” So when you disconnect from Christ, and let fear be your new master, it doesn’t matter if you can garden like Martha Stewart, or give birth to the Brady Bunch clan—you will be barren. The fear takes over and make you like a dry bush. You will not be able to see the good, even when it comes. (See Jeremiah 17:6)
Fear always does the same thing: robs you. Depletes you of all your energy. Fills you with constant dread. That dark shadow creeps up again. Maybe it changes from dread about finances, to worry about your parents, to distrust with your spouse, to anxiety over your kids (or not having kids), to being consumed with fear about your health, or being paralyzed about something God is calling you to do. Fear is crippling. And consuming.
Dismissing the Shadow
It seems like fear is always sneaking onto the set wearing some new costume. But we are not fools. We can see the shadow, and know who is casting it. Let me make this plain: Fear does not come from God; fear comes from Satan. In fact, the enemy of our soul delights in making us fearful. But is this how we should live?
“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
I remember a phone conversation with a pregnant friend during my pregnancy-fear battle when she said, “I had no idea how much Satan would bombard me with fear once I got pregnant!” She explained how older mom’s say it’s no easier as your child gets older. There is always something to be afraid of. SIDS. Kidnapping. School-shootings. Car wrecks. Every new phase brings on new fear. But then she said something so freeing I will never forget, “That’s why my husband and I decided we have to say ‘No,’ to fear now. Right now. While our child is still in the womb, we are deciding not to let fear rule us. We don’t have any guarantees about our child. We only know he is from God, so we give him back to God and say, “God, he is yours. We offer him to You.”
It was true. Like her, I had no guarantees from God about my child’s life. I have none now. But I have a God who is bigger than my fears. Stronger than my weakness. Aware of all my needs. Faithful in all His promises. And who tells me not to fear. Ever.
Dear brothers and sisters, let today be the day you dismiss the shadow by crying out:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For You are with me…” Psalm 23:4
The True Light
We can spend today afraid of what may lurk in the shadows. Or we can invite the Light of the world, and watch the darkness flee away. For, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (1 John 1 :5) We have to choose. If fear makes us barren–then faith in a loving, light-bearing God surely makes us fruitful, alive, even powerful! Let’s abide in His words today, for they are truth and they are light when fear’s dark shadow falls on us:
He says, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27) “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9b And, in [My] presence, “sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11) So, “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:25)
So we say in confidence, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:2) For, “In Your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)
And He says, “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)
So do not be afraid, for “the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:8)