The Fear Fight
Overcoming takes time — and faith.
by Janice Hughes
Biopsy? No, I could not have heard that word. Surely I had misunderstood.
The doctor directed my attention to the screen before me and traced the outline of a small lump. There was no mistake. Bold black letters at the top of the screen announced my name and age.
The pride of another success in the detection powers of medical science rang in the doctor’s voice as he droned the facts. But he was oblivious to the raging emotional battle within me as I sat calmly and listened.
Thoughts of my sister who had died sixteen months earlier filled my thoughts. I pictured myself enduring every stage that her cancer-infested body went through.
I rebelled at the images. Jagged scars crisscrossed her chest. A few red spots remained from the day the bandage was removed until the day of her death. Her left arm swelled to twice its normal size and became her only constant complaint.
I yelled at God. “Why? How could You do this to me? Where are You?”
Had He forgotten that we’d lived in Kentucky only seven months and were totally alone? We knew only a few people, and none of them well. We had no family or close friends.
“Who will get my child ready for school when I’m too sick to get out of bed?” I went on. “What will happen to him when I’m gone? How will my husband manage?”
I cried. I fumed. I couldn’t accomplish the simplest task. Losing all sense of rational thinking, I gave in to fear. It became a greater enemy than a malignancy.
After a week of anxiety and worry, I confided in a new friend who prayed with me. Though I felt better, I knew I must take concrete steps to deal with my condition.
I filled a notebook page with my destructive thoughts. As fast as I could write, I scribbled . . . angry at the doctor for not being more understanding, angry at myself for not handling this any better, angry for being alone in this new place, angry at God for allowing this to happen, and angry at the very thought of cancer and what it would do to me.
Black ink recorded one dark fear after another: afraid of pain, of changes in my body, of what would happen to my family, of being too sick to do the things I enjoyed, of my husband not loving me, of dying too young. I feared the unknown.
I was most afraid of chemotherapy. I wrote the word anxiety across the next five lines. For doubt, I simply wrote, “I don’t think this will turn out well.” I had too many worries to list, so at the bottom of the page I printed in big letters “WORRIES . . . MANY OF THEM.” And on the back of my paper, I wrote the words I had been yelling at God for days.
Then, starting at the top of the list, I began to pray about each entry. The story of the three Hebrew lads thrown into a fiery furnace came to mind. I turned to my Bible and read their words of faith: “The God we serve is able to save us . . . But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17, 18).
I visualized these young men standing before King Nebuchadnezzar and proclaiming their belief in God. Surely the crafty old king must have marveled at the calmness and confidence of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Prayer of forgiveness
I lacked the faith of those Hebrew boys. I had faced the “golden statue” of fear and had bowed before it. Fear and doubt had obscured all thoughts about the greatness of my God.
I fell to my knees and whispered, “God, please forgive me. Forgive me for allowing fear and worry to control me.”
As I remained in His presence, I realized my feelings ran deeper than I’d thought. Fear, worry, doubt, and a lack of faith had become common reactions for me. One scripture after another filled my mind:
“Surely, God is my salvation; I will not be afraid” (Isaiah 12:2).
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you” (Isaiah 41:10).
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid” (Hebrews 13:6).
“Do not be anxious about anything . . . with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
Jesus’ words gripped me most: “Peace I leave with you . . . I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Power of peace
Peace! Why hadn’t I thought to ask for that? For days I had been controlled by thoughts of my sister’s painful battle with cancer. Not once had I remembered that throughout her circumstances, she had exhibited complete peace and steady trust in God.
From the moment my sister uttered the word cancer to the moment before she passed away, her faith didn’t waver. Even when she was in the hospital, she set small goals for each day. When she was home, she studied the Bible and filled spiral notebooks full of her insights. She wrote thank you notes and personal messages to friends and relatives.
She never spoke of her condition to others, but always listened to their needs. In the midst of her lowest, most painful moments, she always found something positive.
Purpose through pain
My sister remained steadfast in the truth that Jesus had gone to prepare a place for her and would come for her (John 14:3). For the first time since her death, I began to see that God had accomplished good in the lives of others through her illness.
Recalling these memories caused me to look beyond my fear and realize that God had a plan and purpose for me regardless of the outcome of my biopsy. He was in control.
I sensed His presence. Release of my emotions happened slowly; assurance of His forgiveness came quickly. Finally, I could proclaim, “Even if You don’t deliver me, even if the biopsy comes back positive, I will not allow fear or any other emotion to control me or my circumstances.”
Speaking those words aloud brought a surge of strength, not in me but in God and His ability to lead me through whatever lay ahead. My raging fear was gone and in its place, a confidence that with God’s guidance, I could face whatever happened.
Praise God, the biopsy turned out benign! I praise Him as well for the lessons He taught me through my ordeal: the value of support from others; how to clarify and release negative emotions; how to pray honestly and intensely about my thoughts; how to quiet myself and gain God’s peace; how to heal from my sister’s death by remembering her unwavering faith; and how to meditate on Scripture to renew my faith and make me more understanding of those things I could not see (Hebrews 11:1).
I have no choice about struggles that come, but I do have a choice in how I face them. When fear comes again, I’m better equipped to handle it. Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
With this assurance, I no longer have reason to be afraid.
Scripture quotations were taken from the New International Version.