Although my sister was an excellent student, she loathed going to school and had very pronounced separation anxiety before the term even appeared in medical books. Leaving our mother in the morning for another day of school was almost more than she could bear. Leah made a beeline to the nurse's office if anything unusual occurred at school, such as wild bus rides, parties, concerts, standardized tests, picture day, etc. She hoped that her sick stomach and pallor would be convincing enough to excuse her from classes, and she could go home. Sometimes anxiety worked to her advantage; other times, it did not.
One morning in second grade, she meekly walked into the classroom and abruptly met her greatest fear: a substitute teacher. The woman might as well have been Frankenstein or Godzilla, for Leah feared she was up against a force to be reckoned with. Instantly terrified, as much as a second-grader could be, she thought, this will never do!! Quickly, she had to devise a plan to escape the scene of terror.
She was always a bit of a scrawny weakling, but this particular morning, she mustered all her physical and intellectual strength and quickly formed a plan of defense using the only weapon she had—her book satchel! On this wintry, cold morning, she pulled from every available resource, including Mother Nature. In a fight-or-flight moment, Leah clutched the handles of her satchel with a death grip that even the teacher could not release. It appeared that her little fingers were frozen to the handles! All ten were locked onto the handles, with white knuckles and “frozen” fingers firmly cemented in place. In a moment of brilliant success, my sister pulled the wool over the teacher’s eyes. Surely this was bound to get her a health pass home!
Wild-eyed and alarmed, the substitute teacher sharply silenced the other students. This is an emergency! Be quiet! We have a real crisis here—Leah’s hands are stuck to her handles! she announced. Silence fell over the classroom as all eyes watched the pathetic drama.
Then it happened. The school nurse walked into the classroom. She knew Leah very well from her frequent visits to the health room. Nurse Nancy calmly took Leah to the sink and ran warm water over her hands for several minutes. “Just relax your hands and let go,” the nurse said. Immediately my poor little sister could do nothing but relax and release her grasp on the handles. She was busted. Her death grip failed, and she was left to face her fears that day and endure a school day with her greatest fear.
One of my favorite sayings is, always let your faith be bigger than your fear. Just as Leah clutched her satchel handles for dear life to protect herself from her fear, we can allow fear to overtake us as we tightly hold onto any vice or defense to control the scary things around us. We clutch our schemes and plans as tightly as my sister clutched her book bag handles. Such plans often fail, and we find ourselves on our knees, pleading with the Lord to help. Our pitiful attempts to avoid the things we dread prevent us from facing fear and stepping into a new place of freedom and strength.
Think of the great men of the Bible who exemplified courage and faith. Although each had times of discouragement and fear, with God’s help, they faced their fears. Jesus, Moses, Joshua, David, Paul, Stephen—these were men who experienced betrayal and terror that most of us will never know. Yet they did not rely on their strength to defeat fear. They were not handle-clutchers maintaining a death grip on their abilities to overcome enemies. Instead, they faced their fears with faith in a God who had remarkable ways of relinquishing their fears and bringing them to victory.
He still does. In Isaiah 41:10, the Lord said, “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.” Whatever fear we may face, faith in God proves bigger, for whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4 NASB).
© 2022, Chris Werre