Safe in his arms
February 24, 2011… an early morning I will not forget. An early morning I thought God had forgotten me. Little did I know that He was right beside me, allowing His sovereign plan for my life to be played out.
Waking up to a figure standing over my bed, I instinctively asked, ‘What do you want? Seconds later I was grabbed out of my bed which sent a feeling of numbness throughout my body.
The words, ‘I will kill you if you scream,’ froze every part of me. I could hardly breathe. The minutes that followed felt like hours.
As I was held tightly around the neck, my bedroom was ransacked. The sweaty dagga smell heightened the reality. This was not a dream.
After my belongings were packed into a bag, I was thrown back onto my bed and a T-shirt was shoved into my mouth. He threatened to rape me. Things from this point become a bit blurry, but somehow we landed up at my door. Adrenalin kicked in and I managed to push him out the door. He ran away and the screams that I could not generate during the incident, came out with all the energy that was left. My non-stop hysterical screaming was an expression of the internal fear inside of me. The effects of this fear were to follow in the months to come
Fearfulness became my new uninvited friend and constant companion. In the months that followed I was paralysed with a crippling fear. The truth of the Biblical promise, ‘Do not be afraid for I am with you,’ seemed so far out of reach.
Although my experience is not as extreme as some of the horror stories we hear, it is something that left me with sleepless nights, an addiction to sleeping pills and the disobedience of blaming God for what happened to me and questioning His authority.
The constant checking over my shoulder and the relentless anxiety exposed my disbelief. The verse in Romans 8 that tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God, was just head knowledge and I was struggling to believe this in my heart and apply it in this circumstance. I was overcome by fear.
The sleeping pills and sleepovers were my way of avoiding facing the fear that was eating me up inside. The sleeping pills became a crutch and the sleepovers became an escape. I used anything to run away from the reality of dealing with my fear.
Although I believe that God had saved me some years before, my faith was being tested. It was a test that would bring me to my knees and show me more of God and His character. I knew God in my head but my heart did not trust in His word. I had a huge disconnect between my head and my heart.
Paul Tripp explains it like this: 'When there is disharmony between my confessional theology, the things I understand and communicate, and the theology that forms my responses to the difficulties of life in a fallen world, then the Gospel gets deluded and I experience fear, anger, panic and discouragement as a result.'
My fear was paralysing. It had captivated my mind.
It inhibited me from moving forward.
‘Fear dominates our mental and emotional framework to the extent that it occupies the horizon of our vision.’ [Chris Castaldo]
God, in His gracious mercy, guided my path to meeting a lady at our Church who, in His is providence and faithfulness, He was going to use later in my life as well. (That is a story for another day.) She was a woman I did not know very well, but she had experience in counselling women in crisis and had a passion for pointing people to truth using Scripture to work through sin issues and struggles.
Talking about what trapped me inside was one of the most difficult things I had ever done. Not talking was one of my weaknesses. Hiding and pretending were my default. If it was not for this counsellor’s patience, generous heart and listening ear, I would not have been able to work through the effects of that traumatic day.
I am grateful for a godly woman who played a significant role in my spiritual growth. My heart issues were exposed. My view of God’s character had been distorted and because of this, I blamed him for all that had happened.
When worldly fears surpass our trust in God, we become deluded.
We become rebellious. We run away from God.
After much wrestling with my heart issues and her perseverance with this stubborn learner, my fear was slowly transformed through the renewing my mind. I learned to see God as He is and focused on what the Scriptures profess to be true.
The sleeping pills became less and sleeping in my own bed became more frequent as I worked through the fears that had ruled me for months. Trust in God’s promises started working its way into my heart.
Three years later, just as I thought my fear was under control, break-in number two took place. Again I woke up to a stranger in the room. It was as if history was repeating itself and it felt like I was back where I had started; fearful of man and what he could do to me.
Although this felt like round two, there was a difference. This time I had a choice to make. Was I going to repeat how I dealt with my fear the last time or was I going to approach it differently using my knowledge and love for God?
Instead of fearing man and the harm he could do to me, I chose to fear God. Not fearing Him in the adrenalin scary way, but fearing him in obedience and reverence. I chose to trust that He knows what He is doing and He does all things for our good, even the scary things that happen while we are asleep. That is easier said than done. There is no once-off magic spiritual pill. It requires constant renewing of our minds.
Fear is an ongoing struggle that I and many other Christians will face until
eternity. Fear is not a sin. Failure to trust God is. Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.’ [Exodus 20:
Fear lies to us. It imprisons us. It says God is weaker and smaller
than our fear. It portrays God as impotent.
God cannot lie. God’s word never lies. It gives us truth. It liberates us. It says God is bigger and stronger than my fear. It shows that God is omnipotent.
Overcoming fear begins and ends with me abiding and resting in God and His Word. The Israelites had to do this in the wilderness. This is a daily choice.
Overcoming fear is a day by day, sometimes moment by moment awareness of who my Father is and that because I am His, ‘neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.’ [Romans 8:37-39] In all things I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me.
Overcoming fear requires me reading and re-reading and trusting God’s promises. It means believing He is who He says He is and trusting that He can do what He says He can do. It means holding on to the truth that He holds our lives in the palm of His hand.
'If my meditation is on the difficulties of life, they tend to loom larger and they begin to form another gospel that I preach to myself - a gospel different to the God of Scripture and who He says He is and who I am as His child.' [Paul Tripp]
Fear opposes faith when it is rooted in unbelief. But faith overcomes
fear when it is rooted in God and His promises.
Through these traumatic experiences, God has grown me and has taught me much about Himself. I still have much to put into practice and much to believe regarding who God is. But with the help of the Holy Spirit and my church family, I can truly say that the fear does not control me as it did before.
He did not forget me. I forgot Him.
There is much I need to remember so that I don’t forget.
Psalm 139 reminds me that God is everywhere. He knows my rising up and sitting down. Where can I escape Him?
Romans 8 reminds me that nothing can separate me from the love of God.
I have to remember that God is eternal, and even though we will face trauma in this life, we have an eternity to look towards if we have repented and have put our faith in Jesus Christ.
God is omnipotent. He has unlimited power to rule sovereignly over our lives. Nothing and no-one can thwart His purposes, which are always good and will always display His glory.
Believing these attributes of God changes our heart and mind-set. Fearing God and his character slowly results in us being delivered from the snare of fearing man and his destructive ways.
Fearing man cannot coexist with fearing God. They are mutually exclusive. I am slowly learning this.
‘When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? [Psalm 56:3-4]
I am also slowly learning that because my heavenly Father never slumbers or sleeps, ‘I can lie down and sleep in peace for He makes me dwell in safety.’ [Psalm 4:8]
Hayley is an independent redhead who is dependent on God's grace everyday.
She grew up in the coastal town of East London but is currently living in Johannesburg where she is a Primary School Teacher.
She loves coffee and the outdoors and has a particular heart for orphans.