When I Am Afraid

The raging fires jumped over the mountain and toward our home within seconds. We watched the news updates about pending evacuations as we hurriedly packed our bags, and suddenly the news anchor seemed to panic, nearly shouting, “Everyone . . . EVACUATE NOW!”

Our two college-aged daughters and I ran to our three cars and headed down the mountain. A drive that normally would take five minutes to make it off the mountain took us twenty minutes, while we’d learn later that our neighbors, who left just a few minutes after us, had to wait in gridlock on that mountain for hours.

As a mom, I longed to have my daughters in my car with me and wished we hadn’t worried about saving our cars from the fire. Like a mother hen, protecting her chicks in a prairie fire, I wanted my “babies” with me. There was a moment when I thought I might be separated from them, as a police officer directed the chaotic traffic. I was terrified, remembering when I lived in California and stranded motorists were killed in their cars trying to evacuate in a fire.

We finally made it down the mountain safely and sheltered in a friend’s home outside the evacuation zone. Sadly, over 350 homes were destroyed and two lives were lost on that summer day in Colorado Springs.

In the midst of this pandemic and these uncertain times, I’ve thought of that fire evacuation often.

Now, our daughters now live far from us with their own babies. Separated from us by several states, they now have their own families to guard and protect. I’ve so longed to be near them and to hold my grandbabies. There have been nights when I couldn’t sleep as I worried for my daughter who is a doctor, working at her hospital and coming home to her little ones in the midst of COVID-19. I worried about my grandchildren (three under three years old) as COVID began to hit little ones as well.

Spring 2020 has been a lot like a raging fire, filled with fear of the unknown. Perhaps, like me, you have been separated from loved ones you wish you could shelter with and protect. Or, perhaps as a leader, you’ve been separated from the people you serve, and you worry about how this will impact your ministry and calling. I know I have. It seems that fear has become as contagious as the virus.

So, from one worry-prone person to another, here are four practical ways to overcome fear and worry in the midst of turbulent times.

Turning Worries into Prayers

As a woman who has battled anxiety since I was a little girl, I have found that when I turn my worries into prayers, it calms my anxious heart. I know that is easier said than done, but I’ve found this to be the most effective way to keep my thoughts captive as fear tries to overtake. So, when I worry that my daughter and son-in-law (both of whom are doctors still seeing patients) will get the virus, I pray something like this: 

Lord Jesus, I cry out for your protection over Christie and Brandon as they take care of their patients. Protect them and their babies from this raging fire of the virus. Help me to surrender my fears to You. Thank You that You are in the fire with them and promise never to leave or forsake them.

Praying Scripture

Our younger daughter was only three years old when our family lived in China. She faced many strange illnesses and at one point I thought we might lose her. Fear crippled me to the point of hopelessness, but I clung to Psalm 91 and prayed it often over little Kelly: 

Father God, Thank You that You promise that whoever dwells in the shelter of You, the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say that You are Kelly’s refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust. Surely You will save Kelly from this deadly pestilence, and under Your wings, she will find refuge. Your faithfulness will be her shield and rampart!

Just a few weeks ago, I found myself praying that same prayer in the middle of the night when Kelly’s own baby boy, Wim, was seriously ill with a high fever and cough. I encourage you to pray your favorite Bible verses during these uncertain times.

Borrowing Hope 

I have found during these days that it is incredibly calming to talk over the phone with those older than me who have faced so much in their decades of life on this groaning earth. I borrow their hope when it seems like our lives will be changed forever. 

My beloved mother-in-law, Roselan, was born in 1932 and lived through poverty and a plague of grasshoppers destroying their Nebraska farm as a little girl. With courage, she has faced the Great Depression, World War II, and the Korean war when my father-in-law was deployed for two years. She shared with me recently that she remembers during high school when some of her friends contracted polio and there was no vaccine. Imagine the fear that gripped the world over that debilitating and crippling disease that forever impacted many lives! And, Roselan is a survivor of stage-4 lymphoma and a recent widow. Through those more recent trials, I’ve watched how she has remained steadfast in her faith and trusts in her faithful God.

Choosing to Remember 

Sometimes when the fires of today are raging around us, it’s easy to forget that God is faithful and in control. Sometimes we have to look back at past seasons of His faithfulness to remember His faithfulness today. The psalmist shows us how to do this in Psalm 77 as he poured out, in the first half of the psalm, all the trials and heartache he was facing, and then pivoted at verse 10, saying,

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” (NIV)

As I journal, I have been choosing to remember “the deeds of the Lord and the miracles of long ago” during these dark days. I encourage you to do the same in your own journal or prayers. 

  • I remember that Kelly met her dear husband only because of our fires that summer of 2012 (a beautiful story for another day). 
  • I remember that God protected Kelly when she was sick in China and her baby boy just a few weeks ago.
  • I remember that God was with Christie while she served in a hospital in Africa at just twenty-two years old, with danger and disease all around her.
  • I choose to remember that God was with three heroes of the Bible as they were thrown into a raging fire, when just moments before they said,

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Dan. 3:16–20).

Dear women, in the midst of the “even ifs,” let’s turn our worries into prayers, cling to praying Scripture, borrow the hope of those who have gone before us, and choose to remember His past faithfulness as a reminder that He will continue to be faithful until the end! 

And may we join the apostle Paul, who most likely scribbled these words during his house arrest in Rome centuries ago:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38–39).

About the Author

Judy Dunagan

Judy Dunagan is an acquisitions editor for women's books and Bible studies at Moody Publishers. She has a heart for discipleship and making God's Word and prayer come alive in everyday life. She is the author of the book The Loudest Roar: Living in the Unshakable Victory of Christ. Judy and her husband Rick live in Colorado. Connect at Judy.Dunagan.com