Updated: Aug 2, 2022
True story. When I volunteered in South Africa, the flat I was given was indeed more than adequate, except for one major problem. There was a huge hole inside the bedroom cupboard approximately 1.5’ x 1.5’. South Africa is a destination where my snake phobia can really thrive. Snakes there are not to be trifled with. They are all deadly. What if a huge mamba slide into my room during the night and silently found slumber under my bed? I mean a large one could easily shove the cupboard door open from the inside.
Now a month into my two year commitment there, this problem loomed large, huge in fact. I was so preoccupied with this issue my fear was consuming me. At home here in Canada having a squirrel get in to my house might be one thing, but this possibility was totally something else. When I mentioned it to others, they would just smile and this baffled me. Was I imagining the possible danger that might be lurking under my furniture?
Time for action. I’d had enough. I boarded the local combie (mini-bus) on Saturday morning and headed toward the main road where I’d often passed what looked like a hardware store. Stepping up to the counter I was determined to leave with a solution. I expected there might even be some suppressed grins as I began to explain my predicament to the clerk. With measurements in hand, I asked if they might have a scrap of heavy plywood to cover the gaping hole. They did. Being a thick strong piece, I then further inquired as to how many long nails I’d need to secure it in place. They said probably 8 would do the trick. I purchased 12. They tried to then sell me a hammer but I had a plan and didn’t require one.
I rode the combie back home and immediately and joyfully went to work with a large rock in hand I had spotted along the driveway into our compound. Just acting on my plan made me feel so much better. A weight had been lifted. I was gonna sleep tonight…and I did!
Everyone I met there in South Africa had a snake story. My fear was real and I still feel somewhat justified. But here’s the thing-was finding a huge deadly reptile in my flat a likely scenario, or were my terrors being fueled by my own paranoia and lack of sleep night after night? Was I creating a mountain, growing it exponentially of my own accord?
The “what if’s” of life can be like that-debilitating. There may even be some justification for our fear as I felt there was for mine, but I eventually learned I’d had the solution the whole time. I just had to act on it.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let requests be known to God; and the peace that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds though Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-8
Please note that the word surpasses is used. That’s more than passes. To surpass means go beyond. I often neglect to ask my Father for protection. I don’t tell him how afraid I am. I allowed my fear to grow instead of my faith. No wonder the hymnist wrote, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, what needless pain we bear…” If I’d simply acknowledged my fear, justified or not, when it first rose up from the enemy and I’d asked, declaring my praise and thanksgiving, I would have been able to sleep with my heart and mind fully guarded and protected. It is so true that our worst battlefields are in our own minds.
As we grow older there are real legitimate fears. What lies ahead we do not know. But challenges, physical or otherwise, can grow into monsters assaulting our mind with fierce power. Worry can cripple us with real consequences-diminished sleep, limited focus, erratic behavior and terrifying thoughts.
Yet we have the weapons to be the victor through Christ. We don’t need to go down that horrific road. It’s up to us to act moving into that protection. Faith is a verb I say. “Faith” it through. It demands of us an initial demonstration, a first step. So many times there are promises made available to us that we forfeit. Yet faith requires that we first step out in order to claim them. It requires movement and action by me. Peter had to take a step out of the boat. Noah had to take the first step carrying his lumber and crude hammer. Esther had to boldly step forward and request an audience with the king to save her people. Young David had to step out from the crowd to declare that he would slay Goliath. Faith doesn’t just fall upon us from heaven. We must demonstrate that we possess it. This is how we claim it.
When my ordeal was over and the terror subsided, I began to realize the peace and security I had forfeited. With grateful praise, I gave it to my Father asking him to protect me while I lived and worked in rural South Africa. An interesting thing happened. People walk everywhere there, much more so than we do here at home. Often fires were started for safety to force the serpents out and away. In many places I stayed, there were very well-travelled paths through the long grass. I had always avoided these paths taking the long way round and again the local folks chuckled at me each morning when they saw me do this. But one day after arriving home from work, I found myself mindlessly following the others chatting as we walked through the tall greenery towards our homes. I did it the next morning…and then again at the end of the day, and the next day, and the next until I smiled at myself whispering a prayer of thanksgiving safe and feeling oh so secure as I walked along alone on the now familiar path. Unable to see down through the lush verdant growth to my immediate left or to my right to whatever danger might be there, I knew my Father was walking beside me each step I took. Funny how the fear simply dissipated when I gave it to him…