When I was kid, I was scared of clowns (why in the world did my parents let me watch “IT?”).
When I was a teenager, I was scared of being locked and trapped in small rooms.
When I got diagnosed with late stage melanoma, I was scared of dying & leaving my family alone.
Sounds intense…and it was. It is. But it doesn’t have to be. I’ve learned, throughout this journey, that while fear might be an instinctual reaction to the thought of possible situation, it doesn’t have to be the all-consuming, controlling, debilitating state we often think it is.
In my experience, here’s three reasons why we shouldn’t waste our time and energy on fear:
1. It probably won’t even happen.
My latest oncology appointment didn’t really go as planned. A chest x-ray showed that one of the ventricles of my heart was enlarged, which may or not be serious. To find out, the nurse said, we need to get a closer look by inserting a camera down your throat and wheh-wheh-wheh-wheh. Of course, I heard nothing else after “run a camera down your throat.” I then made the stupid decision to look the procedure up YouTube so I could have an idea of what would happen. STUPID. DECISION. So, not surprisingly, the rest of the day was spent imagining being stuck on a hospital bed for four hours with a camera down my throat. At the end of the day, I get an e-mail from my nurse saying she had misread the instructions and I actually didn’t need that test. Another simple echocardiogram would be just fine.
Really? You can imagine my reaction.
The National Institute of Mental Health says that 60% of our fears never actually happen. Unfortunately, we often live in the quicksand of “what if’s,” focusing so much on what could happen that we completely ignore that fact that it might not even happen at all!
2. If it does happen, it probably won’t be that bad.
We grossly underestimate ourselves and what we are capable of enduring. We fear the unknown and the not knowing is often so much worse than what we actually experience. We waste time and emotion and energy trying to imagine what the situation will be like, trying to predict its outcomes, instead of resting and embracing what is, which is probably NOT what you’re so afraid of.
Ever heard of scan anxiety? It’s a very very real thing. Cancer patients are always thinking about the next scan, freaking out in the weeks and days before, and then freaking out even more during the days after when we have to wait to get the results. The scan comes and goes and the follow-up comes and goes and guess what? We’re fine. We made it! And it wasn’t that bad. The waiting was so much worse than the event we were so dreading.
3. It does happen and it is awful. But you make it. And you’re so much better for it.
And then, unfortunately, sometimes what we are so, so, so afraid of happens.
I will never, ever forget that day. I was 9 months pregnant and getting out of the shower when I noticed it. A lump–a big one–sitting at the top of my right thigh. In an instant, I crumbled to the floor, tears streaming down my face. It was back and I knew it. I had no strength or faith to offer. I was a complete mess. My absolute worst fear–giving life to my daughter and then dying with cancer–was right in front of my face. My husband was at work but I called him anyway. He heard my panicked voice, grabbed a close friend of ours, and rushed home. I sat on our bed in my bathrobe, waiting. Waiting for this nightmare to be over, waiting for someone to tell me its not really happening…but no one did.
I will never, ever say that God gave me cancer or “allowed” it to happen. Cancer is never, ever God’s will or part of His plan. But in his infinite goodness, he gives us strength to endure. Strength to overcome. And strength to be so much more than we could ever be without him.
It’s been over two years since that day and despite what statistics say, I’m still here. I’m healthier, stronger & happier than ever. The cancer that was in my body continues to bow to the name of Jesus, and the Father continues to restore everything the enemy has tried to steal. This journey has allowed me to access a part of the Father I doubt I would have found until later in life and taught me this gospel we say we live by is more powerfully simple than we know.
For me to say that that we can live without an ounce of fear seems a bit…unrealistic…naive, maybe. But it is entirely possible that with Jesus and the Holy Spirit alive and well in our spirits that we can not let fear take serious ground in our lives. We CAN endure and we can endure well.
If you’re afraid, rest. Rest in what you know is true. Rest in the fact that what you’re scared of probably won’t happen but even if it does…even if the worst happens, the goodness of the Father to intervene and create something glorious WILL reign.
He just doesn’t how how to be anything other than faithful.