I grabbed the phone, corralled my kids into a bedroom, locked the door and told them to crawl under the bed as I called the police. We had just walked into our house in Cape Town one morning to find a broken window, a large rock wedged against our back door — and a burglar in our backyard.
Did he know we were home? Could he see me through the lace window coverings? Was he armed? What would he do when the police arrived?
My heart thumped against my rib cage as I explained the situation to the dispatcher, doing my level best to remain as calm as possible, mostly for the sake of my kids.
By the time the police arrived, the burglar had broken into a granny flat on our rental property and hid in a shower for four hours, only to escape scot-free after the police searched the premises, wrote an incident report, and left.
The broken window in our living room couldn’t be repaired that day, so we went to bed that night with wind howling through the house. Every small noise in the darkness caused my heart to skip a beat. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my pulse to slow down.
I realized I had to do something, or I was going to drive myself crazy. I had watched other friends succumb to the crippling effects of fear, and I didn’t want the same to happen to me. It was obvious to me in those moments that I had a choice: I could let fear reign in my heart and nearly paralyze me, or I could ask God to calm my fears and grant me peace.
That week I started looking in the Bible for verses related to fear. One thing that really struck me was the nature of God’s promise for those who were afraid. On numerous occasions in the Scriptures, the Lord repeats over and over again to His people, “Do not be afraid … for I am with you.”
He doesn’t always promise to take away the trouble or the thing that is causing us to be full of fear — but He always promises His presence. And that alone should give us great peace.
In fact, Jesus promises, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In this world we will have trouble; but in Christ, there is peace.
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During the break-in incident, I thought about the passage where Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). People, diseases, and circumstances may be able to do damage to our bodies or our property in this world — but the most important thing is to be sure our souls have been entrusted to the One who has gone ahead to prepare a place for us in heaven, where “thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).
One night when my son woke up with a bad dream, I prayed that God would give me words to comfort him and help him fall back to sleep. I found Psalm 56:3 in the Bible, and we repeated it over and over together in the dark: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”
Still, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I was terrified. Would she die? How much longer did she have? How badly would she suffer?
During those years when she battled and fought the invisible enemy of cancer, I had to work hard to meditate on what I knew to be true. It takes effort and intentionality to hide these nuggets of God’s Word in our hearts, but when the rubber hits the road, that’s where the comfort is found.
Fighting fear is a battle of the mind. We can easily get caught in the vortex of paralyzing fear, and get carried away in an endless downward spiral of anxious thoughts. Or, we could ask God to help us with Philippians 4:8 — “…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.”
The King of Kings and Lord of Lords has said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). The world gives hardship, heartache and sometimes cause for great anxiety. But Jesus gives peace. So instead of allowing fear to reign, let’s ask God to help us follow the Apostle Paul’s command and “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts …” (Colossians 3:15).
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
Kate Motaung is the wife of a South African pastor and homeschooling mom of three. She has contributed to Ungrind, Radiant Magazine, (in)Courage, StartMarriageRight.com, Thriving Family, MOPS and Young Disciple magazine. You can read more from Kate at her blog, Heading Home or on Twitter @k8motaung.