I live in constant fear.

I guess you could say I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. Yep, the girl who hears that someone else has a rare ailment and then starts to wonder if perhaps she has it, too.

But my “disorder” doesn’t really hover much over sickness and disease as much as it does over tragedy. It attaches quickly, instead, to mishaps, disasters, and dangers that others experience. Sad stories draw me in deeply, and then I find myself in constant fear of facing a very similar trial, struggle, or loss in my own life.

In fact, one could easily figure out the things I fear just by reading my gratitude journal each morning. I’m thankful for the things I used to take for granted until I started to lose sight of them at some point in time (a good night’s sleep, a running vehicle, a restful evening, a healthy body, a full refrigerator, working appliances, and money to pay the bills). Yet I’m mainly thankful that my worst fears didn’t come true.

“Today I’m thankful my son drove safely to and from school and work yesterday. I’m thankful my husband loves me and is faithful to me. I’m thankful we’re all home safe and sound this morning, all starting our day together. I’m thankful we both have a job to go to today.”

I constantly hear stories of tragedy striking out of nowhere, turning lives completely upside down. A child leaves this earth too soon, by a random disease, cancer, a car accident, or by someone else’s hands. A husband cheats on his wife, or a wife has a secret affair. Disaster strikes in the form of a tornado, hurricane, or fire.  A teenage child runs away, falls into temptation, turns toward a life of drugs and addictions, or disappears without a trace. A spouse gets killed by a drunk driver headed the wrong way on a one-way street. A little girl hides shame behind her big blue eyes, knowing that man violated her, yet helpless to put it into words.  A young mother loses her husband unexpectedly, leaving her to raise and parent her children alone in her grief-stricken world. An accident claims the life of a family member, taking them in an instant, before anyone even has a chance to blink.

And so I fear.

My husband is late getting home, and my mind starts to wander. My friend’s home gets destroyed in a tornado, and now I live fearing my home may be next in a natural disaster of some kind. I watch kids grow up and then suddenly turn their lives in a different direction, one that leads quickly to destructive habits with lifelong consequences. I fear for my boys every morning as they head out the door, wondering if I’ve done my job well enough as their mom to keep them from finding the wrong group of peers. I wonder if I told them enough how much I love them, both through my words and my deeds.

I watch these scenarios unfold in others’ lives, and I think, “Oh, I could never live through something like that.” Truth is, I couldn’t. I’m not prepared for any of it. Neither were they. It’s only by grace they survive, they grow, and eventually, they might even thrive again. God’s grace is sufficient in our time of need, not before, not just in case.

I can’t keep fearing the unknown when I already know God will meet me there. But what’s healthy about fear is that it teaches me to live more intentionally. Spend money wisely and save appropriately for the future, while trusting that God will meet my needs. Love my husband and my kids. Tell them I love them as often as I can. Take care of myself and listen to my body when it’s telling me to rest. Be thankful for the present and everything God has blessed me with. Draw near to Him on a daily basis, cultivating that relationship, resting in His promises. Spread the good news of Christ, reflecting His love and mercy everywhere I go. Pray for my family first thing every day. Consider often the message my life displays to others, especially my children. Have I shown them that nothing matters more than living for Christ?

If tragedy strikes, my fear of it can’t stop it. But my fear of living with regret can profoundly affect the way I live and love today.  The next time fear starts to grip me, I need to remember how to deal with it in a healthy way rather than letting it slowly eat me alive. I can live more intentionally and embrace each moment more fully.

How can you, my friend, let fear enhance your life today?


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