When I was little, I used to scare myself. I’d lie on the top bunk bed in the murky darkness of my bedroom and see faces form in the folds of the curtains. In the soft glow of a weak nightlight, my imagination would break away with those flouncy waves of fabric. My younger brother in the lower bunk was no help; he could sleep through any mayhem.
The faces were never happy or friendly. Instead, I’d see twisted and angry specters leering at me from across the room. The effect was made even more surreal, since I had to have Alvin and the Chipmunks chirping earnest pop songs from the tape deck. The music calmed me.
Then the tape would reach its end and click off. Silence. Panic.
I thought if I kept the music playing, it would ward off the spooky night monsters. If I could only hold my eyes wide open on the shapes I could see, I’d be okay. But eventually the music would stop and the fear would grow too big for me to fight alone.
So I’d call for Dad.
Sometimes we’d have a talk; other times he’d just reassure me, restart those high-pitched chipmunk songs, and leave me re-tucked in with comfort. Like magic, sleep would overtake me and I’d be safe the next morning.
Adult life has its parallels, doesn’t it? The darkness presses in, smothering and threatening. When I keep my eyes on the fear, it only grows and multiplies. Despite my careful rituals to set up barriers and controls, there are times when the shadows become so overwhelming I have to cry out for the Father. But He was there all the time, watching me struggle to be strong and independent, waiting with the boundless compassion He has for His stubborn children.
And I’m not the only one who’s tried to muscle through fear my own way. Jonah tried to run from his dread and found himself in double darkness – the gut of a big fish beneath the sea. Brought to a place of total reliance on the Father, he was (literally and figuratively) hurled back into the light.
Paul and Silas were confined in the dank darkness of prison, singing songs to brighten the longest hours of the night. In pain and full of uncertainty, they held on to the one truth they knew could be counted upon. Before the night was over, they were guided back into the light – and they brought an entire household with them.
Even the Lord struggled with fear in the bleak shadows of the Garden of Gethsemane.
Abandoned by His closest friends and carrying the heaviest burden, He set the example for us and cried out for help. He used the informal ‘Abba’ in his prayer. This word is more familiar than Father. He called for Dad. “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) On the eve of the most difficult day in history, he was totally vulnerable, totally trusting.
I knew it wasn’t my own bravery or the power of Alvin and his talented brothers that helped me overcome my fear of the dark. It was the presence of a compassionate, loving, and merciful father that gave me the strength to withstand the night. Our Heavenly Father waits close by, ready to comfort us against fears that loom bigger than life.
Are you walking a shadowy path of fear? Call on the Father. He promises to be there, and is nearer than we know.