He ping pongs from one window to the other, practically hyperventilating in his fear. The clouds are still moving in, the thunder rumbles in the distance but the thought of what is to come has sent him over the edge. Too nervous to eat, he begs to check the radar so that he can see how big the storm will be. He begs to go down to his bedroom, but can't stay there because he must continue checking the windows, watching the progression of the storm. The sky turns green. His fear is a tangible presence, a scent in the air that rips at my nerves like no storm ever has. He cannot be comforted, either by prayer or by my arms around him. We give him large headphones to block the thunder. The power goes out. Worry is a beast that claws at his insides, refusing to be distracted by snacks or movies on the battery run DVD player.
The power comes back on, the storm passes. He continues to pace, reporting on the advancing blue sky as if fearing that if he does not keep tabs on it, it will retreat. He begs to know the wind speed. He asks again to check the radar. Fear takes its time in loosening its grip on him. Slowly it retreats, but I know that each day he lives life with his eye on the sky (and the radar) waiting for the next storm.
I am exhausted from over two hours of this emotional upheaval. I want it to stop. I want to say "Peace, be still," and have it be so. But how can I do for my child what so often I cannot even do in my own life?
In my life I often struggle with fear. Fear that holds me back from doing what I should be doing or what I want to be doing. I am a champion worrier. I have been for years. I look to the horizon and I see the clouds. Aspergers. Finances. The shadow of loneliness. Flickers of failure. I begin to focus on the possibilities, the 'what-if's', the sense that something that I'm not going to like might be forming on the radar and I WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S COMING!
Gates and I have a verse that we will often say together when he's afraid of something. The verse is Psalm 56:3 and simply says "But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you." Time and time again in the Bible we are told not to fear, not to be afraid. I'm not a Biblical scholar, but I don't think God expected us never to experience fear. We're human, with human emotions. I think the key is in that verse. WHEN I am afraid (not 'if'), I will put my trust in God.
I have a hard time with that. Put my trust in God? Rest in the assurance of His care? Oh, no no no! I have to keep my eyes on the horizon! What if the storm moves in and God isn't paying attention? Doesn't He know that I need to know how big it is going to be?
I love the story of Jesus calming the storm (Luke 8:22-25). I can imagine the disciples in the boat, watching the storm roll in, glancing over at Jesus asleep in the boat. Worry begins to creep in. What if God isn't paying attention? Yeah, that's His Son and all, but...what if? Or, what if God plans on plucking Jesus out of a capsizing boat, saving him at the last moment but not them? The waves get higher, water begins spilling over the sides. How can he SLEEP through this? "Master, wake UP! We're going to DROWN!" Jesus awakes, speaks the words and the storm stops. I imagine the disciples continuing to scan the sky, a bit uncertain that it is really over.
Could you have done it, if you were one of them? Could you have sat in the boat with the waves washing over the sides, trusting implicitly that the One who was with you was fully aware of what you were facing? Could you have remained calm when the world around you was in turmoil?
Can you do it today? Can I? Can I lay aside my worries about what is looming on the radar and simply say "Lord, I am afraid but I will trust in you." Can I stop my frenzied preoccupation with my fears and let God do what He wishes with my life? I have learned that preoccupation with what I am afraid of crowds out all ability to do anything else. Just as Gates couldn't concentrate on anything while the storm raged, neither can I accomplish the work God has called me to do if I am busy worrying about the storm that is raging.
Storm clouds of insecurity are dotting the horizon. What if all of my words are for nothing? Does any of this matter? Will God use the words I thought He put into my heart? I can only rest on the words of Paul in Philippians 4:4-9:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Stormy weather lies all around us. But the God of peace is with us.