When Fear Shuts Down Your Ability to Pray
Whew, I was Anne of Green Gables there for a bit, in the depths of despair. The world shut down, I moved to teach online school overnight, and an unwelcome fear and cynical hopelessness snuck up on me. As Anne says of despair, “It’s a very uncomfortable feeling indeed. When you try to eat a lump comes right up in your throat and you can’t swallow anything, not even if it was a chocolate caramel.”
Which is ironic, because I self-medicated against the pandemic by buying myself the Costco-size Sanders dark chocolate sea salt caramels. I seem to be swallowing them just fine.
In despair, my heart clamped shut and I couldn’t look God in the eyes for about a week.
Are you going to disappoint me? I said to him and looked away. This question came in hard, as the due date for my daughter having her baby drew closer and the bell curve of Covid-19 cases grew as fast as her stomach was rounding.
I’ve walked this road before a few times in my life, where I’ve been scared that maybe God wouldn’t be good to me and that suffering would keep coming in waves.
“I’m afraid to suffer,” I confessed to Matt one afternoon.
“We’re all afraid,” he said.
It was not knowing the outcome that had my stomach in knots. How was this all going to play out? My imagination is very good, and I could only imagine the worst-case scenario in every direction.
But I was reading Sara Hagerty’s brand new book, Adore, which I believe God had come on the market just for this time in history. She says:
The best time to adore is when I don’t feel like it, because adoration is not an exclusion of our emotions. Adoration never requires us to shut down our emotions. On the contrary, it invites us to bring them –all of them- to God. God does not want our polished pretenses. He wants our whole selves, and He wants us to come honestly. So He invites us to wrestle.
My fears had caused me to turn away from God, to shut down in despair. But through Sara’s words, I felt the Lord turn my chin and urge me to look at him.
And bring it all.
So I did. I looked the Good Shepherd full in the face and spilled every fear and horrible imagining that I had been bottling up for a few weeks. And what I found was his strength and the warmth of his nearness and relationship. There was no promise about outcomes, but there was his manliness. Can I say that? It’s how I feel when I’m freaking out about something and Matt, in his physical and inner strength, wraps me in his arms, and by his nearness and the smell of him I calm down. God offers that to us, a manly presence. And in his sheltering arms, I am free to feel all the things and come away with comfort and a sense of hope.
If your gut instinct, in the middle of this quarantine, is to lower your gaze in front of God and stop praying, I urge you to do what feels counterintuitive and run to him instead. Bring everything your feeling and let him carry it. He’s stronger and safer than you can imagine.
I’m thankful for Sara’s book as well. Just as Covid-19 was making itself known in the world, I received a leukemia diagnosis. Adoration is a lifeline for me. How thankful I am that He is the Personal-To-Me God and I can hemorrhage my thoughts and feelings and wrestlings onto Him and receive His strength. By the way, I too bought those Costco size Sanders chocolate covered caramels with sea salt and ate the whole container over a period of a week 😉
I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis of leukemia. My husband has been saying that Covid-19 isn’t the hardest thing many people are facing right now. I’m sure you feel that way. It is good to have Sara guide us through simple adoration during this strange and hard time. I pray the Lord will comfort and strengthen you, as you turn to him. (And you’ve made me feel proud that I’m taking a few weeks to eat all of my carmels. They’re just so good!!)
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