"...fear hath torment...."  (1 John 4:18)

I feel like God would have me write about fears and phobias today.  Of all the different mental hang-ups we can have, it seems to me that few are as scorned and belittled by the world as phobia.  A phobia is simply an irrational fear that limits our movement throughout the "real world."  For myself, some fears I struggle with are social interaction, highway driving, and crossing bridges.  I came face to face with the reality of my limitation yesterday.  My husband is currently hospitalized in a large city which is quite a distance from where I live.  I planned ahead, had all my maps in order, packed, and took off to visit him, yet by the time I was about 80 miles from home, I was so panicky and teary-eyed that I just turned around and went home.  I don't know why God's presence and reality did not assure me enough to keep me on the road.  I certainly was praying.  But the simple reality is that I was too scared to go on.

I made the trip about a week and a half ago, and while I struggled with the freeway driving, I made it.  I'm trying to identify what was different this time.  All I can figure is that I have been under new stressors ever since.  You know, the "big" stress experiences include things like losing your parent or your spouse to death.  During the past 10 days, my husband came close to dying and has been much sicker than when I visited him a week and a half ago.  I'm also searching for other things that might be different, such as the dietary supplements I'm on now as compared to then. 

Anyway, the Bible says in Revelation that all who are "fearful" will "have their part" in the lake of fire.  Yet the Lord, as a loving Father and gentle, caring Shepherd, repeatedly says "Fear not."  I don't hear him saying that in a condemning way.  I'm wondering if our "part" in the lake of fire is simply our experience of hellish torment during the episode of fear and panic.  I know that doesn't fit with classic doctrine.  Sorry.  I wonder, though, if God doesn't want us to use our heads instead of taking every word in the Scriptures literally and interpreting them the way the theologians of the past always did. 

Whatever the case, I am going to continue to believe that He is all good, all wise, and all powerful.  I choose to keep believing that He answers my prayers according to His perfect timing and in a way that will do me and all those who come into contact with me the most possible good.  If that is so, here are some possible reasons why He didn't lift my fears enough for me to go on to the city.  First, perhaps He is letting me experience a level of fear that will make me a more compassionate counselor and healer in the future.  Second, perhaps He is choosing to keep Bobby and me separate from each other a little longer so that we will focus our love and faith on Him instead of on each other.  I suppose it is even possible that He kept me away because it was an unsafe time for me to be there.  I simply don't know, but I choose to hang on to what faith I have and believe that it's OK.  I won't blame myself or take on guilt because I can't make the trip at this time.  I will instead seek God for an answer and keep hanging on. 

I wrote my sweetie a letter in which I told him my absence is not caused by my not wanting to be there but simply because I was too fearful to make the trip.  Will he understand?  I don't know.  He's not understanding much of anything.  I know this is not a very helpful article.  Does it help for me to say, I understand?  I have surfed the web looking for information about how to deal with and overcome phobias, and most of what I find is a rather callous "Buck up, Coward!" sort of approach.  Force yourself to do it.  "Do it afraid," to quote my beloved Joyce Meyer.  I'm sorry, but I think people suffering with phobias need a little more compassion than that!  (Although I still love Joyce.) 

I think it depends on the level of fearfulness.  A very mild phobia can be overcome by forcing yourself.  I tried to reprogram my mind about a certain bridge in our area.  I spent 10 minutes at a time for 7 sessions just thinking thoughts like "The bridge is safe."  "Other people cross that bridge every day."  "God is protecting me as I drive across it."  Etc.  Did it work?  Well, I drove across it a couple of days ago (first time in many months) and was left with the feeling that it was indeed worth it to drive the extra 20-30 minutes it takes to avoid it!!  (LOL) 

Do we really think God is so petty that He removes His love from us when we struggle like this?  How can that be?  I'm doing everything I know to do.  It must be related to brain chemicals or something I can't otherwise control. 

I realize this article doesn't give you any helpful advice.  One idea is to look up those "Fear not" scriptures and really meditate on them.  Another idea is that when you are facing the dreaded thing, whether it's a doctor with a needle, a trip to the grocery store, or whatever, to take the time to get alone, get on your knees, and pray specifically out loud for God to help you as you do the thing.  I have crossed the bridge better at times when I stopped at the Sonic right before the bridge, went into the restroom, and prayed on my knees before crossing it.  You can try singing praise songs, as that sometimes helps.  I once sang through a blood test.  I think I sang while being given the anesthesia for a c-section 23 years ago.  Singing can really help. 

And if you would like, send me an email at bwoodwrites@gmail.com, and I will be honored to lift you up in prayer for help.  I think it pleases God when we pray for each other, maybe even more than when we pray for ourselves.  I've heard people with healing gifts say they can pray or lay hands on others and the person gets well, but when they are sick themselves, they have to get prayer from someone else.  God wants us interconnected like that.  He doesn't want us trying to go it alone, and He also doesn't want us looking down on each other or judging each other for our illnesses, weaknesses, and limitations.  Hang in there!  Hang on to Him!  Remember He said,

"Fear thou not, for I AM with thee, be not dismayed for I am thy God.  I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." 

(Isaiah 41:10) 

God bless you!

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