This post is the first in a series of posts called, “A Six Point Battle Plan Against Fear.”
“For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7
We have a serious problem.
Those words from my husband Fred’s gastrologist slammed into my brain with the brunt force of a freight train at full speed. In those few seconds, I sensed my life had shifted into a new reality and would never be the same. The life I had just one minute ago was gone and a new one had emerged to take its place. The fear grew into full-blown terror, and I struggled to stay focused on prescriptions, referrals, and who to call.
As the doctor began to outline what he saw in the endoscopy he had just finished, I remember hearing the words “cancer,” “serious,” and “life-threatening.” I held up my hand and told him to stop. I needed a piece of paper and a pen as I struggled to hear the rest of what he said and wrote down every frightening word; esophageal cancer, malignant, very serious. As I helped a groggy Fred get dressed, my mind raced with what we were facing, what it would look like, and how this journey would look.
Just a few days before the May 2 bombshell diagnosis, I became fascinated with a verse of Scripture I read many times before but this time it did not leave me. I researched it, thought about it, and became obsessed with it. “They insulted God, saying, ‘Is God really able to give us food in the wilderness?’” (Psalm 78:19). The more I read about this Scripture the more curious I became.
The Psalm is by Asaph. He recounts God’s faithfulness to the Hebrew people in the wilderness to take care of every need and how they continued in disbelief. Despite all they saw, they did not trust God in times of difficulty. It was easy to be judgmental of the Hebrew people’s lack of faith until it was me asking that question in the desert wilderness of cancer.
Esophageal cancer is a wicked form of cancer. This cancer is deadly, aggressive, and often hides in the diagnosis of reflux or GERD. We had appointments at Mayo and our journey in this wilderness of cancer had begun. Fred and I have walked through a cancer diagnosis with many people over the years and now it was us. As fear began to seize my heart and mind, I struggled not to be controlled by it or to make decisions based on it. Fear was a stronghold that I would need to walk with God to break if we were going to navigate this well.
Scripture tells us not to be afraid over 365 times.
We are not to live in it, invite it in for dinner, or give it a home or a social security number. Fear does not come from God but from the enemy who subtly asks the question, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?” God does not give us a spirit of fear. What God does do is give us the spirit of power, love, and self-control. If you ever wonder where fear comes from, it comes from the enemy.
In Genesis 3:10, we see that Adam and Even disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit and began realizing the consequences of their disobedience. Through this first act of baited disobedience Satan shrewdly took the complete trust they had IN God and turned it into a fear OF God. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God they hid from him and became fearful of his presence. They feared the Creator who loved, cherished, and provided for them in every way. Welcome to fear.
Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7 that not only does God not give us the spirit of fear, but he gives us good things to counter the fear he knows we will feel. God gives us power over fear and then adds the beautiful element of love and self-control as an antidote to the fear that poisons our soul. The paradox of this scripture is stark. We see a not/but pattern. He does NOT give us the spirit of fear BUT power, love, and self-control. God knows we will struggle, and he gives us three good weapons to battle this fear; power, love, and self-control.
We just passed the one-year mark in our journey in the wilderness.
It has been a journey full of heart-stopping miracles, a few disappointments, and a great deal of learning to handle fear. We both have a new normal that looks very different than our pre-cancer normal. God saw how hard I was struggling, and last February, he gave me a six-point battle plan against fear. I see his hand so clearly in all of this.
We are now dealing with a world-wide pandemic that threatens our health, economy, and way of life. If we have ever needed a battle plan against fear, it is now. As Jesus followers, we must lead the way in faith, service, and even though we feel fear, we will not be ruled by it. Tap into the power, walk in faith, and rest in Jesus’ faithfulness.