When the Cares of This World Darken My Day
It’s four-thirty in the morning. I have been up for an hour, oscillating between fear and trust, anxiety and hope. I’m Peter in the boat, calling out to Jesus, wanting to trust Him, but doubting and falling.
This is where my recent call to fearlessness will face its most threatening challenger to date.
This is where I find out whether I can conquer not just my baseless, self-created fears (fear of judgment, fear of failure) but my legitimate ones too (fear of pain, fear of unanswered medical questions).
You see, I’ve been fighting an infection for nearly two months now. I won’t get into the details, but suffice it to say that this has been both painful and burdensome.
Like the waves rocking the boat on the sea, the level of this pain and burden ebbs and flows. Some days I feel totally fine, and I’m able to believe that all is well. Others, like this morning, the pain is acutely present, and I can no longer hide from my anxiety.
It is in these moments of deepest fear that I find myself, like Peter, sinking beneath the waters. I was no longer able to stay in bed tonight, so I got up and tried to pray, but every time I began, my anxiety would instantly take over and crowd out my prayers. It’s all the what-ifs.
What if I can’t see a doctor today? What if they can’t figure out why this keeps happening? What if I have to have another surgery? What if this doesn’t end? What if, what if, what if?
My husband came and prayed with me and anointed me with oil, but as soon as he went back to bed, I began to worry again. So I started to sing. I sang every worship song I could think of that described the fear I’m facing and His ability to conquer it. Beautiful Lord. Oceans. Good, Good Father. And it helped. Though I couldn’t pray these words through my fear, I could sing them, and He stilled my heart.
I determined that I would stay there—I was in the bath at this time—until either my pain and fear had both subsided enough to go back to bed or until I received a directive from Him to do something else.
I’m typing this now, so you can probably guess what happened.
You Are the Peace That Calms My Troubled Sea
I was reminded of a scene from my novel, Songs in the Night, which I hope to publish later this year. In it, one of the main characters, Lisa, is recalling her childhood spent on a fishing boat with her father, Charlie.
Like Lisa, I grew up with a father who was a commercial fisherman, and I spent nineteen summers fishing with him off the northwest coast of British Columbia. But there was a major difference between Lisa’s experience and mine: her father was faith-filled and comforted her through the most challenging of situations. This was not my experience, though. I knew no relief from my fears and anxieties.
Here’s an excerpt from a scene where Lisa remembers Charlie, comforting her on their boat.
She thought about the storms she’d experienced on the boat with Charlie. They were different, certainly. There had never been any hail in the Pacific Northwest during July, but they got their fair share of gale-force winds and rain over the years. Yet she couldn’t recall ever having been frightened by them. On the contrary, she’d rested better on the boat than she had anywhere else, even in the middle of the fiercest storms she’d faced. Once, during the week-long voyage from Vancouver to Prince Rupert, she’d slept in past noon, a feat that had eluded her before and since.
As long as the engine was running on the boat, and her father was at the wheel, she felt safe and secure, and could find rest no matter the circumstances around them. When the engine shut down, however, and they would drop anchor for the night, then her anxieties crept in. It was too quiet and still, and she fretted over every little sound coming from outside, every wave that bumped up against the boat. It was harder for her to relax during those times, but Charlie would come down below and make her hot cocoa, read her stories, and sing to her until she fell asleep. Her father always protected her, always made her feel safe. With his gentle voice and his calm demeanour, he could make all the troubles of the world vanish without a trace.
As I thought about this passage, I realized how different this was from my own experience. I was afraid of everything and was anxious all the time. I trusted my dad, and I knew that he would do his best to protect me, sure, but when the storm was raging all around me, I freaked out.
And I see that what is happening today is no different. I think of that other storm the disciples faced, the one where Jesus slept in the boat while the waves pounded against it. They were terrified and woke Him up, wondering why He wasn’t doing anything to save them. He didn’t do what they expected Him to do when they expected Him to do it and they were dismayed. Their faith wavered in the face of such present danger.
It’s easy for us to look back on such stories with the benefit of hindsight and think that we would have acted differently. Surely, we might tell ourselves, if I was in the boat with Jesus, passing through a violent storm, I would have trusted Him.
But this morning, I’m not so sure about that. At the slightest test of my faith, I’m reduced to a fear-filled puddle of tears and dread. Wake up! I call to Him. Don’t you see what is happening to me? Don’t you care if I drown?
And His long-ago spoken words echo through my heart: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
The light that shines and shows me the way
This is a new kind of challenge. I’ve spent the past seven months facing down my fears and bravely stepping around them as He leads me into the works that He has planned for me.
But I haven’t faced anything like this before. My fears to this point have been easier to overlook—they’ve been fears of having hurt feelings or of revealing too much of myself. My faith in Him is strong enough to know that those fears have no place in my heart, and like the wind, those fears have died down when he rebuked them: “Quiet! Be still!”
But now my fears cripple me, and they’re not so easily quieted. The pain is real, it’s tangible, it’s staring me in the face, refusing to let me ignore it. Some of the things I may have to go through to have the source of this pain healed may be even more painful, I cannot deny or ignore that.
But I sense that this is a new test of my faith, a chance to grow in Him, to give Him my heart, my fears, my anxieties, and trust Him with them. To be able to sit still with Him in this boat, waves crashing down on me, certain turmoil imminent, and know that He is God. To know that even the wind and the waves obey Him. To know that Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).
*The title and headings for this post are taken from the song Beautiful Lord, by Leeland.