Haunted by Fear

I love fall. Doesn’t everyone? There is something so amazing about cool weather, crisp air (I keep hearing we might experience this sometime soon) and changing leaves. I also love the beginning of the holiday season. Some people aren’t into Halloween, and I get that. But since we are right in the thick of costumes and Halloween candy at the grocery story (bought mine last week and can’t stop eating it) and decorated front yards I thought I’d write about something we sometimes love to feel this time of year: fear.

Some people hate scary movies and scary costumes. I now fall into this camp. But when I was little IMG_1084(and by little I mean ages 7 through about 24) I absolutely loved Halloween. There are some obvious reasons for this. I loved picking out a costume and dressing up, trick or treating with my dad and cousins, and let’s be honest, I loved that feeling of being afraid. As a child, and even until a few years ago, there was something thrilling about turning out the lights and torturing myself by sitting through a terrifying movie or suffering through a scary novel. I don’t know what it was for me. I just loved being scared…..that is until it was time to go to bed. Then I’d stay awake for hours, terrified, replaying whatever it was that scared me over and over in my mind, completely miserable and regretting every single second of that horror film. Yes – I did this even in college, and as a married adult for a while.

I think it’s easy to love that feeling of being scared when its something you impose upon yourself – because as bizarre as it is, in that situation we are completely in control of our fear. We can change the channel. We can shut the book (even if we feel like a scaredy cat while doing so). We can even shut our eyes tightly and cling desperately to whomever is in front of us all the way through the Bricktown haunted house if we don’t want to experience the fear.

I still love the innocent and childlike version of Halloween, but now I can’t stand feeling afraid. I dread flipping through the channels all October because it’s highly likely I’ll stumble across a slasher film. I don’t want to see scary movies, and as a teacher my one true fear at school is a student showing up to class on Halloween in a scary mask. This happens and I won’t let them into the classroom. They call me a baby and laugh at me. And I’m totally fine with it.

When it comes to Halloween I do not need to be cool. I still love little kids and dressing up. I think trick or treating is awesome and I can’t wait to do it with our daughter. I’ve just realized that I have a serious aversion to self-inflicted fear.

It’s hard to pin point exactly when this shift occurred, but I know it has something to do with me growing up. I know there is no correlation between the enjoyment of scary movies and age, and that most people can probably enjoy or at least tolerate scary things a bit more as adults because they can separate reality from fantasy and are smart enough to know that most things in a horror film (probably) won’t happen.

But that’s just it. Somewhere around the age of 25 I decided to become a more “engaged” citizen. I started to turn on the news, pay attention to current events, and start forming opinions about things. What I realized is that today the news actually sometimes does seem like a horror movie. Watching or reading scary movies and fiction became a lot less fun and exciting for me when I started getting scared by the events going on around the world, and even in my own city on a daily basis. I try not to let it really impact my own daily life, but I have to admit that some days this is a serious struggle, and real fear about life in our world takes over.

I really never used to be a person who worried. But with age and the realization that there is actually a lot to worry about, I seem to find myself struggling more and more with anxiety, worry, and fear. I don’t like admitting this, but it is something I’ve realized over the past few weeks that I am not alone in. I go to a weekly study of married women all in their twenties, and every week the message always circles back around to the same thing: we all feel anxious, worried, and sometimes unable to contain our fear over the things that we cannot control.

Outside of my study this is something I’ve had many conversations over coffee about. My friends who are parents suffer from relentless fear over what might happen to their children. My parents struggle with the fear or what might happen to their grown-up daughters and future grandchildren. I struggle with fear every time my husband travels or when I think about the world I’ll be raising a child in ten years from now. When we look around at the world, it is just flat out impossible (for me at least) not to worry. In fact, a good friend of mine recently said to me, “isn’t it crazy not to worry? Everyone who is smart should be worried.” This wasn’t even a conversation about a particular threat, just the general, abstract worry about the horrors around us and the possibility of suffering.

Thankfully, through all of these conversations both in and outside of my bible study, I’ve always been led back to Scripture and truth. Yes, we all worry, because we are human, but when we take a step back and remember what is actually true, we remember that though there is in fact a lot we could worry about; but doesn’t mean that we should. I think it is easy to think that we are facing problems that no generation has ever faced. We believe that we should be more afraid because the world is somehow in more peril than ever before. But in fact, we are just as much under the watchful eye of our Lord and Savior as the world was generations ago. Everything we are afraid of has actually been conquered. How can I worry and fret and feel such anxiety over events that I know are controlled and allowed by a God who is sovereign and powerful, able to solve all of the world’s problems and meet all its needs, much less my own? Well, the answer to that is that I continue to fall into fear because I continue to take my eyes off of Him and focus on the scary things on the things I see going on around me. I always manage to remember that the world is fallen, but I continually forget that we have a savior. He is loving and compassionate. He is all knowing. He is powerful. He isn’t going to let the darkness overtake us.

The study I mentioned earlier is currently reading Experiencing God’s Attributes by Warren and Ruth Myers. Every week the study takes me back to exactly who God is by focusing in one of his attributes, and every week I’m reminded how small I make God and how big I make the world’s problems. As I apply each week to my life (So far we’ve talked about God’s greatness and majesty, His knowability, His ability and power, His love and compassion, and His holiness and moral perfection) I realize that knowing who He is should banish all fear and erase all anxiety. Nothing is out of God’s control. I have experienced his power and protection personally, so I shouldn’t forget it so easily. So this fall, I’m prayerfully working towards a life without fear. Now when I see news coverage of viruses, terrorists, or any other thing going on in the world, I can confidently turn off the television and submit my thoughts to Him. I’m also working on committing a few verses to memory to help settle my anxiety and remind me who God is during those times that fear creeps back in. I’m also still working my way through that bag of Halloween candy. Something tells me I’ll conquer that before I conquer the fear…..but I’ll keep trying.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued in my faithfulness to you.”  Jeremiah 31:3

“The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long and dwells between his shoulders.” Deuteronomy 33:12

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