Free From Fear: The Tunnel and the Bridge
If you asked me a couple of years ago if I would consider myself a brave and fearless person, I would say I absolutely was as a child. No question about it. I was as fearless and courageous as ever a little girl could be. I could tell you story after story of my adventures (usually that involved a dear dog or horse as my sidekick). When I was little, I had a lovely downstairs room and when it was dark I would take my "ghost gun" and creep around the rec room pretending to shoot ghosts. I was not afraid of the dark at all. At four years old, my grandparents took me to the Salem Witch Museum (Ok, it was historical and they were sweet Christians so I give them grace) while we were visiting Massachusetts. During the tour, an announcer asked the large group if anyone was afraid of witches and I yelled out "I'm not afraid of witches". Because I wasn't. I was brave Dawn, rider of horses in the Andes Mountains and around the pyramids in Egypt. I swam anywhere, jumped off cliffs, and skied without a care in the world. But something happened as I got older that made me shrink back and begin analyzing everything - I was tormented by a spirit of fear.
If you have ever been to Israel, you probably visited the City of David. It is so peaceful and such an archeological treasure. On a visit a few years ago, my husband and I decided to walk Hezekiah's Tunnel. It is very historical and since we were there in mid-July we thought it would be fun to get wet. As we walked down the path to where the Gihon Spring gurgles and rushes and then disappears into a dark corridor, I suddenly felt nervous. Then when a father and his child went on ahead and the child was screaming (for fun or fear I don't know) my really fearless husband jumped in and started to disappear into the corridor. First, the water is ice cold. It is from a natural and ancient spring and was absolutely freezing. Second, the child who was screaming, is still screaming only now the screams are echoing from wall to wall and are louder than the sound of the water. I was trying to keep up with my husband and it was dark. Almost completely dark, cramped (it is a tunnel and pretty narrow), the frigid water is rising (now it was almost mid-calf) and my flashlight would not work. So you know what, I turned back. Yes, I just could not take the screaming child, narrow tunnel, rising arctic water and the dark. I just did not have the courage to do what even children do (that'll preach). My dear husband was very gracious and we ended up walking around the water feature to explore another dry passage way and had the entire area to ourselves. It was still a great time but that moment came back around just a couple weeks ago.
Not all fear is bad. God implanted in our subconscious the ability to recognize healthy fear; like getting too close to the edge of a cliff, or standing in front of an oncoming train. We should also have the fear - which is actually an intense honor and reverence - of God. But that's not the same as scary, life-controlling and even paralyzing fear. When I became a mom, I realized that I was now responsible for another life; a precious human being depended entirely on me. At the time (25 years ago), I was a baby Christian with no solid teaching, no knowledge of how to fight the devil and so little by little the enemy began taking ground. I became afraid to fly on airplanes (I did it, but I'm sure my pulse was in Fitbit cardio zone throughout the flight), afraid of car accidents, afraid something would happen to my children. I would allow imaginations of what was about to happen (a car crash, my horse plunging off the side of a trail, my children being lost) to permeate my thoughts and this eventually formed pathways of how my mind began to operate. It was tormenting and caused anxiety and stress deep inside my life.
It is really amazing how we can function, even highly function, with disfunction in our lives. I am a Spirit-filled Christian and yet deep down I struggled with fear. I learned little things over the years that gave me some victory, had hands laid on me, read and believed that I could be free from fear, but it wasn't until I read this one verse that I realized I could be free: "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I hold the keys of death and hell." (Rev. 1:18) Jesus, not the enemy, was the one who had control over my soul. I belonged to Him and the enemy could not control, manipulate, scare or kill me (except by my own willingness and negligence) because Jesus has the keys. My fear of death began to diminish. The word of God is living and active and it was alive and quickened to me. Then I read; "But to the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and sexually immoral and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars. their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death." (Revelation 21:8) The cowardly. The Greek word is deilos and is an adjective meaning timid or fearful. It's the same word used in Mark 8:26 when Jesus asked the disciples why they were fearful due to the storm (and the storm was not just a regular storm, the word used indicates an earthquake, shaking, terrible storm). The fear I had was not only displeasing to God, it was a sin. And being afraid was listed FIRST among what we would classify as the "big sins". Allowing fear to control my life and dictate my actions or inactions was contrary to the word of God and a dangerous sin.
Just a couple of weeks ago, on our way back to Montana, my husband and I stopped at the swinging bridge just outside of Libby. We had never been before and although I have been on many swinging bridges in my life, this one was particularly stunning. You walk about a half mile down a pretty trail, over the train tracks on a concrete walkway and then meander down to the rushing, sky-blue Kootenai River. The swinging bridge really does kind of swing, and although it looks very secure it is suspended high above the river where the water roars and the winds careen through the canyon. First, my husband and dog start walking across the bridge. I just took pictures and a video because my dear dog low-crawled the length and it was pretty funny. He was very brave and I was impressed. But when it was my turn, something happened. The bridge started to swing due to our walking and coupled with the wind and water I felt the same fear as I did in Hezekiah's tunnel. I just can't and why should I? Dumb bridge, who really cares if I cross it. So I didn't. I just walked back and waited for my husband. When he came back he said something I didn't expect; "So, you're not going to cross it? Like Hezekiah's Tunnel?" Now he wasn't at all being mean or taunting, I really think it was the Lord speaking through him because something hit my spirit and I said; "You're right. No, I AM going across." So I did. I walked all the way across and back (even stopping to look down a few times) but the secret to the bravery was the Holy Spirit and word of God within me. The whole way across and back the words of my Lord came up from my heart and into my mouth "Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust, I will not fear..." (Psalm 56:3-4) And while it wasn't necessarily enjoyable, the Holy Spirit took my spiritual hands and walked me from one side to the other of that bridge saying to my heart, "I am with you." (Mathew 28:20) "I promise you I will keep you from all evil ."(Psalm 121:7) "I will not allow your foot to stumble and will always have the angels watching over you." (Psalm 91:11-12)
There comes a point in life when in order to change, we have to hate what is tormenting us - we have to hate our sin bad enough that we will make the effort to become free. The Holy Spirit comes alongside of us and helps us; the actual Greek word parakletos indicates one who gets in a ditch with someone to help them out. This is just the helper we need! He helps us by getting in our mess with us, teaching, comforting, and leading us into all truth. First, I write down His words and replace the pronouns to be personal for me and then I memorize entire Psalms and scriptures and declare them over myself. We must declare out loud the truth of what God says about us over ourselves so our soul and spirit can hear it. Next, I repeatedly cast down all imaginations that try and pop into my mind. I declare out loud "I take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ". (2Corinth. 10:5) I do this over and over and over as my mind is being renewed and washed. We also need our friends and family (my totally brave, not-afraid-of-anything hero, military husband) to pick us up and encourage us to be brave. (Or as one of my kids says, "Power through, Mom.") The enemy wants to console us in our fear, rationalize it, and coddle it so eventually it will control and destroy us. (Remember the words of Job 3:25 that the thing we fear will come upon us.) But Jesus came to give us the good news that we can be forever free from fear because He came to set the captives free and open the prison to those who are bound. (Isaiah 61:1) This is the good news! If we have His Spirit and believe and act on His word, then we will have the courage to cross any bridge or go through any tunnel without fear and for His glory.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9