For about as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of the dark. As a kid, my dad would say, “Take out the trash” even if it was already dark. At our house, that meant a long walk through the backyard. I had to pass the separate garage. Anyone could be hiding in the shed connected to it or even behind it. I had to go into the alley. I had never even watched the movies, but I was certain Jason, Freddy Krueger, or Michael Myers were waiting outside the backyard gate. And if it wasn’t one of those figments, there might be a garden variety thug. After all, someone had stolen clothes off our clothesline in broad daylight; who might be waiting in the narrow darkness?
But my dad told me to man up and take out the trash anyway. Perhaps that was good; I learned to go out in the dark even though I was scared. I’ve learned that my overactive imagination is just that. I try to let my logical and rational mind be in control when I’m in the dark instead of my 10-year-old tv brain. However, I have to admit that even as a 36–year-old full grown adult, I am still afraid of the dark. I generally plow through it, but my mind still convinces me someone or something is there ready to pounce.
You can imagine my anxiety when my family and I went camping in Indiana a few weeks ago. We got there late Sunday evening and I knew if we were to keep the dog quiet, he had to go for a walk. I couldn’t send one of the kids. I’d have to do it. I had to walk down the road, through the state park, without any street lamps. There was only the moon, the stars, and my flashlight. I was certainly not going to admit I was afraid to my wife and kids, so I dutifully started off on my trek. Surely, if something happened, my dachshund would protect me.
You’ll never guess what I encountered. First, there was the mountain lion that stalked me. I know it was there because I heard it repeatedly snapping twigs just past the reach of my flashlight. Then there was the bear I’m certain I heard growl from within the woods. A wolf pack considered eating my little wiener dog and me for a late night snack. Not to mention my old friend Jason was tramping through the woods (did I mention the campground was on a lake?). To top it all off, a serial murderer had escaped from the prison we passed a couple of hours away from the campground and was hiding in the woods lusting for my blood. All of this was within the first hundred yards of the walk. Frankly, it was enough to make me scamper back to the cabin, taking my chances with a barking dog. But I couldn’t show fear to my kids. I tried to let my logical brain be in control.
Then something very interesting happened. I decided to quit taking matters into my own hands and I started talking to God about my fear. I don’t mean I started thinking about God, I mean I verbally decided to talk to God as if He were walking right next to me. I know you are expecting me to say that I got this amazing sense of God’s presence and knew He would close the mouths of the mountain lions if they were really there. That, however, is not true. I didn’t get that feeling.
Something even better happened. I remembered Romans 8:28 (dare I say, God’s grace brought it to my mind): “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
It hit me like a falling tree; my fear was actually a manifestation of my lack of faith in what God said in that verse. I realized, that for my all my belief in God, I wasn’t believing Him when He promised to work everything out for my good.
I can hear the reactions now, “But Edwin, bad things have happened to Christians. Some have been attacked by animals while camping. Some have been killed by crazies.” Oh, I know. My faith and courage were not borne out of some misplaced notion that God promised to never let anything I might think is bad happen to me. No, my faith was that anything God let happen to me would certainly be for my ultimate good and His glory.
The question in my mind suddenly became, “Am I willing to let God decide what is actually for my ultimate good and His glory or am I going to quake in fear that His decision may not be the one I want Him to make?” That was when the fear subsided. At least for that night, I was willing to say, “I’m doing the right thing right now, I’ll be happy to be used by God in whatever way He chooses.” As all of that fell into place, fear vanished. It wasn’t that I no longer heard strange noises or had visions of attacks. Rather, I had come to grips that if that was what God wanted to let happen to me, then I would trust Him that it would all be good. I was able to have not only a nice walk through God’s nature, but a wonderful talk with the God of that nature.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that means I’ll throw caution to the wind and take late night strolls through a crime ridden inner cities, “Whatever God wants to happen will happen.” I also remember Jesus’ response to Satan in Matthew 4:7, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” However, if at some point in my service to Him, walking in those inner cities at night is what I’m called to do, then I’ll start praying to grasp Romans 8:28 all over again.
I can’t say that I always grasp that point, but for today, I’m not afraid of the dark. How about you?