Close up of bundles of colourful silk threads. Text over the top: The fear that terrible things will happen to me. Faith in Grey Places.

The fear that terrible things will happen to me

This post is the third in a series about my biggest fears. Most of which come out of, or relate to, my relationship with God. This week it’s the fear that terrible things will happen to me.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Philippians 4:8 (NIVUK)

I made some recent progress with this one which I’ll get to later, but first I’ll dig into how it manifests.

Ironically, I only realised fairly recently that I have this fear. My negative thought processes had become so normalised that I didn’t even realise they were there. When I did begin to notice, at first I thought it was just about finding reliable tradespeople. Because I have a long list of people I will never hire again. But then I noticed that I also see each appliance in my home as ticking silently towards a time when it will die and wreak havoc in its wake (hot water tank, I’m looking at you).

I grant you, these are small matters in the grand scheme of things. But because they’re frequent, they’re front of mind. Give me half a chance to think about the future and I’ll be quick to tell you it’s only a matter of time before I’m hit with a severe health condition. And I chastise myself for living a lifestyle that relies so heavily on my senses and my mobility.

Daily, I read the news and count myself lucky that I don’t have to wrangle with either our benefits system, our legal system or our education system. I’m thankful I don’t have the tribulations of having kids and, despite the many faults of my country, I’m desperately glad that I don’t live elsewhere. All of this comes from fear. 

And then of course there’s the question of faith. I’ve always believed that good work comes at a cost, that sacrifice is a part of the Christian walk. But somewhere in my head this played havoc. I figured that if I try something new, then I’ll be bankrupted by an expensive legal case. Or if I work with survivors of sexual assault, I’ll be sexually assaulted. If I work with survivors of FGM,… you get the idea. I’m not exaggerating, these thoughts go through my head.

I wasn’t helped by all the persecution narratives in the New Testament. The church does not present Paul as an outlier, but as a role model. So what “thorn in the flesh” can I expect?

Curiously, I’m not afraid of losing my husband. He is undoubtedly one of the best things that’s ever happened to me and a daily source of joy and comfort. I would undoubtedly be poorer without him, but I also see that as simply beyond my control. Therefore all I can do now is to just enjoy the time I have with him and be grateful for it. Which I am. 

Last Spring, I was faced with the prospect of having to pay a £10k bill that was neither my fault nor my responsibility. The whole episode hung over me for ages and I held back spending on non-essentials, including landscaping a giant mud patch in our garden. Then I had a moment where I thought, “Hey, I’ll get the work done on the garden once this thing gets sorted.” Suddenly, my garden wasn’t weighing me down, nor was this potential bill. Instead, I was imagining that it might be OK and I had something to look forward to. I realised that I need to imagine good outcomes and anticipate them, not just brace myself for, or resign myself to, bad ones.

I also had an unexpected encounter with God not too long ago. I was imagining a scene from my as-yet-unwritten novel. It’s set in another world that’s on the cusp of an industrial revolution and there’s a woman, Lucia, who runs a silk business. She makes a point of running her business ethically, but she’s only able to do so because she buys her silk at a knock-down price from the king of another country. This guy respects and trusts Lucia, but he’s not someone who’d give her a free pass. 

So I was imagining this scene where, just after a long saga has concluded and they’re both pretty tired, the king realises that, deep down, Lucia is afraid of him and he asks her why. At which point, she bursts into tears and says that no matter how successful she is, or how established she becomes, everything she does is dependent on his willingness to support her. And at the end of the day there is nothing to stop him from pulling the rug out from under her feet if he so chooses. The king takes her hands in his and says that he doesn’t want her to be afraid of him doing something like that.

And it was like God said to me, “I don’t want you to be afraid that I’ll do that either.”

Reader, I cried.


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Photo by Beth Macdonald on Unsplash

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