I’m 9 years old, lying in my bed with the blanket of darkness wrapping me snuggly. Many children are afraid of the dark, but not me. It’s the fear of something more sinister that has me paralyzed beneath the covers: demons. I’ve heard stories about them: people seeing them, hearing them, watching objects around the house be moved by them. I peek open one eye towards the door. I’m sure that any moment the form of a demon will appear in the doorway, and a chill runs down my spine. My only small comfort is the form of my sister, Melinda, curled up in the bed beside mine. Her presence brings temporary relief, and I fight to fall asleep in that moment. It’s this way every night. My fear of going to the bathroom at night and walking the halls in darkness surrounded by the spirits of darkness. My steps racing up the stairs to my bedroom, unable to simply walk in the darkness. My cover pulled high over my head, fighting to shut out any hint of demonic activity. At least in the day, I have the company of my family to chase any fear away. In the darkness, I’m left to battle the fear alone.
I’m 13 years old, sitting under the teaching of my Gaga (Dad’s mom) as she proclaims God’s truth about fear. God says time and time again,
Do not fear.
Do not be afraid.
Perfect love casts out all fear.
My spirit is convicted, and I cry out to the Lord confessing my fear. That marks the beginning of months of nightly fear, confession, and begging the Lord to take this fear from me. I constantly remind myself that, He Who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. I speak the words again to myself: do not fear for I am with you, I will never leave you or forsake you. But the fear still comes, creeping down my arms and legs, and numbing my mind. The next night, I decide anew, I.will.not.be.afraid. And I force my legs to walk slowly up the stairs in the dark. But the exercise in self-control still does nothing to still the panic of fear demanding my legs to run.
I’m 14 years old, and it’s a supremely dark night, with not even a sliver of moon showing itself through the windows. Once again, I flip off the light at the bottom of the stairs, determined not to bolt up to my room. I force my steps one by one by one up each stair. There are sixteen of them. I’ve reached around number 7 when the fear shoots through my body afresh, and I stand paralyzed. My mind cries out the Lord, desperately pleading, Please Lord, I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to sin against you in this fear. Please help me not to be afraid. In that moment, my eyes sealed tightly shut, my mind is filled with an picture of Jesus. He’s dressed as a shepherd in shining white robes, and the light surrounding him surrounds me too. Saying not a word, He reaches out His hand to me, and grasping mine in His, walks me up the stairs. The light of His presence fills me with comfort and serenity. That night I sleep in perfect peace. And each night after that, when the fear starts to grip my heart again, the Lord brings that picture back to my mind. It’s my constant reminder that He is with me. Really, and truly with me. And His presence makes the presence of even demons irrelevant.
Just before I moved to Africa, I was looking at cross-stitch patterns on Amazon. Curious, I clicked on one and the image of a shepherd, with a baby lamb tucked in one arm and many more gathered at His feet, filled my screen. Tears filled my eyes as I realized the similarity of that picture to the one in my mind all these years. It wasn’t exactly the same, but similar enough to bring back to mind all the promises the Lord had given and fulfilled night after night. Mom ordered it for me that week, and my whole first year in Uganda I worked on it stitch by stitch until it was finished. Today, it hangs in my room as a reminder of my Lord’s faithfulness and enduring presence.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
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.”
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18