January 27, 2012

Paralyzing Fear

I have heard the phrase used before... you probably have too.  I have heard people use the term when describing a situation in which they felt stuck, completely stuck.  They were "paralyzed by fear."
I had never truly understood what was meant by that.  Yeah, it sounded like a nice, poetic description.... but, really?  Were you actually paralyzed?  I mean, come on.

Open mouth, insert foot (or nervous fingernail). I get it now.

Last weekend, we decided to head back to visit Cole's parents to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday.  After work, we loaded up the car and hit the road.  An hour out of town, traffic STOPPED.  While we always expect slow traffic in this particular stretch of the trip, we had never seen it like this.  Seriously.  We didn't move for an hour.

(Apparently, since we had had somewhat of a winter storm over the course of the week, local officials were requiring chains or traction tires.  And, apparently, three large Semis were not complying - thereby holding up ALL traffic.)

When traffic began to inch along, we took the soonest opportunity to take an Exit, and find an alternate route.  Our trusty GPS lead us to cross the Columbia River and continue our trip on the Washington side of the Gorge.  And the weather was b.a.d.

By now, it was nearly 8pm.  The roads were dark and windy. (Note: did you know that "windy" and "windy" are two different words?  One refers to the wind that blows - ie, a windy day; the other being an adjective referring to winding - ie, the winding road.  There, now you know.)

Then, the freezing rain began.

So, there we were. Driving through unknown, dark, windy roads... with the big, scary, dark, cold Columbia River to our right and ominous (read: this could become a landslide at any moment) cliff face to our left.  I felt completely stuck.  I didn't want to turn around, because the roads were bad from whence we came.  I didn't want to drive any further, because the roads seemed only to get worse.  One false move and we'd be free-falling into the freezing river.  We inched along at a slow 30mph.  Though, in those conditions, I felt like we couldn't drive slow enough.

My poor fingernails. The palpable fear manifested itself squarely in the pit of my stomach.  I thought I was going to be ill. My muscles began to ache from the way I sat, completely tense. And I wasn't even the one driving.

Then, Cole asked me to pray.  Nothing crazy, just pray.  As the words spilled over my lips, the conviction grew in my heart.  I heard Him gently say, "Don't you know that I love you?  Don't you see that I am in control? Remember, what I have been teaching you? That at all times, in all ways, in every circumstance, I am at work to achieve My perfect purposes."

"I know, I know... even the wind and the waves obey Your command.  But I'm scared. It's so dark out there.  And what if I don't like Your Plan? What if Your Plan hurts?"

"I know you're scared, but I love you. Remember, My Perfect Love drives out all fear.  Do you trust Me?"

"I thought I did. I thought..."

"Be still, and know that I AM God."

"But.... I want to be in control."

"Be still..."

"But worrying is easier..."

"Be still..."

I'd love to tell you that, all of a sudden, I stopped worrying.  I stopped imagining our car's slow descent into the icy water below.  I stopped chewing my nails.  But, I didn't.  It took a while.  But His still, steady voice was there... "Be still, and know that I AM God."  Be still... be still... those words slowing chipping away at the suffocating fear built up around my heart.

Up until this point, it had been one of the quietest car rides of our marriage.  The radio was off and neither one of us had said much to the other.  It was almost as if we were both afraid that simply talking might jar the car enough to send us into an uncontrollable skid.  Or maybe Cole was just concentrating and I was too busy chewing my nails.  ANYWAY.

Then, in a Maria VonTrapp moment, I started to sing. (because that's what you do when you're afraid, right?)   I started first: quietly, softly, and quite off-tune, as it is very difficult to sing when your vocal chords are constricted by anxiety.  Cole joined me soon after.  We sang of resting in God's sovereignty, we sang of trusting in His faithfulness, we sang and we sang until every ounce of anxiety had left my voice and my heart was believing the words my mouth was singing.

"Be still..."

And, ever so slowly, the fog lifted.  The roads grew bare.  The freezing rain stopped. We had reached the Summit. We were nearly home.

The remainder of our trip passed smoothly, and we chatted quietly about the weekend ahead.  With every turn that brought us closer to home, I breathed a silent prayer of thanks. We had made it.  He had carried us through.  Despite my doubt, despite my fears, He was faithful to make clear the path before us.  I marvel at His Grace in His relentless faithfulness, His relentless love.

I know that there are things far greater than roads in which to fear.  In fact, looking back, my fear begins to look downright silly.  Perhaps, this will serve to remind me - during the next time I begin to feel my heart constrict with the fear that suffocates - that the One who created me will sustain me.  His plan is always perfect. And, even if something had happened that night - whether an accident or worse - His plan would still be perfect.  He would still be glorified.

In all areas of life, it is so easy for me to slip into the habit of being fearful. (I've written about it here and here.)  It is as though I get struck with spiritual amnesia in regards to God's faithfulness.  How easy it is for me to forget the countless times that He has provided, that He has protected, that He has comforted!  What a wonderfully patient Savior He is, failing never to remind me of His perfect faithfulness in the midst of my unfailing doubt.

When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul. - Psalm 94:19


  1. I loved reading this Laura. And I am so glad that you made it safely home. thank you for sharing what God is teaching you!

  2. This is a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing Laura. I've struggled with a lot of fear lately, and I need this kind of reminder all.the.time! Glad you made it safely there and home again!


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