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Fear-Colored Glasses: Beating Fears of Danger with Eyes of Faith

Jerusha Agen Fighting Fear 11 Comments

road-snow-forest (989x1280)The back end of the car slid out of alignment with the curve. Then skidded left.

My mom gripped the wheel as she tried to straighten the car.

We were sucked into a spin.

Gravity slammed me into the passenger door, pulled me away, then smashed me into the door again. I was weightless. Yanked against the seatbelt like a ragdoll by a force more powerful than anything I’d ever felt.

“Jesus!” The cry tore from my lips—my heart’s cry for salvation from death as we spun across the lanes.

I closed my eyes as we smashed into something hard.

A crunch.

Then silence. Stillness. Calm.

I opened my eyes, expecting to see glass shards of the windshield scattered in my lap, my mom bloodied behind the wheel.

But we were fine. Not a scratch marked either of us.

Though the incident felt as if it had spanned twenty minutes, our multiple spins probably took only seconds.

The car sported a large dent where the guard rail stopped our spiral, but, miraculously, no traffic was close enough to us on the freeway to be hit when we lost control.

We were able to get back on the road and continue the rest of the way to church, where we were headed for the Sunday service.

I worshipped and served at church that day with a new attitude. I had a fresh perspective on life—how fleeting it is, even for me, as young as I was then.

I had a new perspective on God and my relationship with Him. I had experienced a miracle firsthand. I had tasted His mercy and protection more tangibly than ever before. I felt I would never again live oblivious to His love, power, and providence in my life.

road-snowy-winter (1280x867)Since that experience years ago, I’ve had several more minor accidents or near-accidents on snowy or icy roads. All have added to the apparent reasonableness of my fear of driving in slippery conditions. Ironically, the worst of my accidents, which I’ve recounted here, wasn’t even due to a winter storm. There had been no precipitation the day before our drive to church that Sunday, so the patch of black ice took us completely by surprise.

This winter has been a particularly treacherous one for travel in the Midwest where I live. Nearly every snowfall has been preceded or immediately followed by rain, forming icy layers under and over the snow and often translating into my greatest driving fear—black ice.

It’s easy to say, “Ever since I had that accident, I lost my confidence as a winter driver.” Or to think, I’ve lost control on icy roads so many times, I know how dangerous they are.

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with staying home if you don’t have to drive in poor driving conditions. A recognition of danger and avoidance of unnecessary risk is wise.

I have to admit, though, that I struggle to make a decision on driving in nasty conditions based on wisdom rather than fear. After all, I’ve seen and heard what happens to people who venture to face slippery roads. I’ve felt the loss of control, the dreadful conviction exploding in your stomach that you’re about to die and you don’t feel ready.

road-aerialview-snow-winter (863x1280)When I’m unexpectedly caught in difficult driving conditions, those feelings return. I imagine losing control even when I haven’t lost it, because the memories are puissant and my imagination far too overactive.

Perhaps you also have experienced situations that haunt you, that make you fearful to face anything similar. Maybe you avoid certain situations out of fear, rather than wise caution.

Last week, we talked about how fear of danger is not healthy. The Bible is clear that we are not to harbor such fear, but to trust God even in dangerous circumstances.

So how do we get to that place of dauntless faith when we’ve already tasted the danger we now fear?

The problem isn’t really the experiences we’ve had or our memories of them. It’s how we remember them.

When I face a scary driving situation and respond with fear, I blame it on those times I could have died in similar conditions. But those same memories of my past hold a life-changing truth I’m not seeing.

I didn’t die.

I wasn’t injured.

Because God showed up.

Even if I had been severely hurt, or if you’ve had an experience far worse than mine in which you were injured, abused, or nearly died, the antidote for fear is still the same.

God preserved you. He was with you. He used that experience in your life.

He had mercy on you. He loved you. He revealed His power, forgiveness, compassion.

The list could go on and on, but usually I don’t see these aspects of my frightening experiences. I instead remember only the danger and my fear.

road-ice-snow-sunshining (1280x960)But the Bible gives us a better example in Psalm 77, where the writer Asaph meets his fears and despair by looking back—not to see the negative aspects of his experiences, but to see God in them, His unending faithfulness to those He loves.

When Asaph is deeply troubled, he says,

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

   yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

 I will ponder all your work,

   and meditate on your mighty deeds. – Psalm 77:11-12

He then proceeds to do just that, recounting for multiple chapters the great acts of mercy and love that God performed for His chosen people.  Asaph speaks of passing on this history to future generations, “so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God” (Psalm 78:7a).

Asaph’s words as he sets out to review the past make his point of view clear:

Your way, O God, is holy.

    What god is great like our God?

You are the God who works wonders;

    you have made known your might among the peoples.

You with your arm redeemed your people,

    the children of Jacob and Joseph. – Psalm 77:13-15

Remember-the-deeds-of-the-Lord-graphic (1280x960)What if we had this perspective? Instead of excusing our fears with past experiences, we could instead explain our faith by those same circumstances, because in and through them we tasted God’s faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Our future generations and a watching world could then learn of the awesome God we serve. And we could shed those fears that hold us back from serving Him in complete freedom and faith.

Let’s try it. Beginning today, let’s look back with new eyes. Then in those frightening memories, we will see not fear and danger, but our merciful God who is worthy of real faith.

Have you had a frightening experience that makes you fearful? Have you conquered that fear? Please share!

Comments 11

  1. Greg Holland

    It’s good to remember that the most common negative command in all of Scripture, and especially from Jesus’ own lips, is “fear not”!

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      Jerusha Agen

      You’re right, Greg! We are commanded throughout Scripture to not fear. God wants us to have His peace and courage, not fear! Thanks for joining the conversation today!

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  2. Sally

    God has been challenging me on exactly this recently. I’ve had two occasions in the past where I’ve drifted off the road while driving, although thankfully each time I corrected before having an accident. Both times was when I was on long distance drives, on country roads and I simply lost concentration, even though I hadn’t been driving for long. Because of this I decided I should never drive long distances, or at least if I had to, I should stop every hour. But God has been reminding me that he can heal me of this. I shouldn’t allow my fear to limit me being able to live life (although, of course, I need wisdom, too, as you said)! I recently had to drive 1.5 hours (anything over 45 minutes is ‘long distance’ to me!) and prayed that God would help me. A friend came with me and we talked the whole way and I didn’t struggle with concentration at all. I realised that both times I’d gone off the road I’d had no one to talk to. Now I know I CAN drive long distances…I just need to be wise and either invite a friend if my husband can’t come OR take my breaks which is smart anyway. With God’s help, I am conquering my fear of long distance driving!

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      Jerusha Agen

      Wow, Sally, what an encouraging example of how God can and does enable us to overcome our fears! I’m so thankful that God preserved you in your near-accidents and is now giving you the courage and wisdom to face and conquer your fear in this area. Thank you so much for sharing your story so we can all be encouraged by it and strengthened in our battle against our own fears!

  3. Beth Sanders

    Okay, I have to admit that it wasn’t so much the title that pulled me into reading this blog post — it was the opening paragraph! 🙂 Jerusha, you have such a talent for writing scenes so vividly! In fact, the experience you described reminds me of the opening scene in “This Dance.” Could it be that you wrote that scene based on your own encounter with black ice? 😉

    But on a serious note, you made some really good points about the fears we all have based on previous experiences. For me, I struggle to get past a hurtful experience in which I very innocently offended some people. Because they didn’t deal with it properly, they let their anger and frustrations build up until it exploded. Even though that happened several years ago, I still have fears of offending others. I tend to analyze the conversations I have, the emails I send, etc., until I’m a nervous wreck inside.

    I love what you said about REMEMBERING God’s mercy and faithfulness to us, even in the “bad” experiences. What a powerful way to overcome those fears lingering from the past! Even in the ordeal I mentioned above, I could sense God’s presence and strength with me during that time. And now, I believe that He is using that experience to not only grow and shape me, but also to minister to others through me. What a great God we have!! Thanks so much for sharing these insights, Jerusha! God bless!

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      Jerusha Agen

      Thanks so much, Beth. You’re very astute–I did indeed write a fictional take on this real-life episode for the opening of This Dance! It was interesting to tell the same experience again for this post, this time from my own point of view. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing about your painful experience in the past. I can understand how that would leave you scarred and almost paranoid about future interactions! How wonderful that you can look back on that situation and see how God sustained you and worked in that circumstance. And it’s so exciting that you can see how He continues to use that experience for good in your life and the lives of others!

      Even now, you are using that experience for good as you share it with others here to encourage us all. It’s inspiring! Thanks for joining the conversation!

  4. Katie Sanders

    You pulled me right into your tail spin, Jerusha! I felt as if I were in the car with you, experiencing the fear and the adrenaline. My eyes were probably the size of dinner plates as I read your story. Funny thing, though: it gave me a serious case of deja vu. You and Nye Sanders went through extremely similar accidents! Hmm . . . 😉

    After suffering three concussions within 16 months, my fear of hitting my head again is quite strong. I’m being as careful as I can to avoid another accident; but I need to work on trusting God to take care of me—even if He allows another concussion. During the (ongoing) recovery from my last bump, however, I listened to a series of videos that impacted me. The videos documented Steve Saint’s recovery after an injury that has left him an incomplete quadriplegic. (He doesn’t like to call it an accident; he believes God allowed it for a purpose.) Steve’s humility, faith, and willing acceptance of this new chapter pointed to Christ, and deeply moved me not to pity myself.

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