If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:9–10
I’ve faced anxiety since I was itty bitty. One of my all-time favorite books about anxiety is Calm My Anxious Heart by my dear friend Linda Dillow. She shares a quote in the book by French philosopher Michel de Montaigne: “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.”
That was especially true for me when it came to worrying about my babies. I remember holding my newborn baby girl for the first time and being overcome with such joy, awe, wonder . . . and paralyzing fear. I silently prayed something like this, “God, thank You for this beautiful new life. Thank You that Christie Anna arrived safely and is healthy and strong. Don’t ever let anything happen to her because if you ever take her, I will die.”
It was one of those white-knuckled, fist in the air prayers thrown at God, where I thought I had made a deal with Him that went something like this: “I’ll be willing to go through anything, God, just don’t let anything happen to my baby . . . ever!”
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I kept that prayer locked in my heart until five years later when our family was living in Beijing, China. We moved there in 1995 for Rick’s job. Our second daughter, Kelly, was just three when we landed in Beijing, and Christie was five. We arrived in January, and all four of us were immediately hit with upper respiratory illnesses due to the bitter cold winter months and the pollution, fueled by burning coal. It was especially hard on Kelly, tiny for her age.
For a mama who struggles with anxiety, I was often gripped with fear about Kelly’s health. Toward the end of our first year in Beijing, she became extremely sick one week with a high fever and sore throat that was not going away. The doctor at the international clinic would not give her antibiotics because the rapid test for strep was negative. After two days, my mama bear instincts kicked in and I called my pediatrician back in the US, 3:00 a.m. my time, 3:00 p.m. his. He got on the phone and said, “This is a first, a call from a mom in China!” Though he couldn’t diagnose her from thousands of miles away, he encouraged me to get her on antibiotics just in case it was strep, which can be deadly if untreated.
The clinic wouldn’t be open until five hours later and there was nothing like 24-hour urgent care clinics in China in 1995. The closest hospital was hours away, and Kelly was finally sleeping peacefully after the Tylenol kicked in. I knew I had to wait out the night.
I look back at those terrifying, middle-of-the-night hours in Beijing as a turning point in my life as a mom. Fear escalated to the point where I caught a glimpse of what it must be like to have a breakdown. I knew I had to get a grip on my fear in order to mother my child.
Finally . . . I mean, finally . . . I cried out to God. I asked Him to rescue me from the dark fears that were taking me under. I imagined I had Kelly in my arms (though she was sleeping in her room down the hall) and I lifted her to Him. I told Him that I knew He loved Kelly even more than I did and that she was His. Truly HIS. I promised to trust Him, love Him and follow Him . . . no matter what He chose for my baby girl’s life.
And, thankfully I meant it. Soon, that “beyond our human understanding peace” promised in Philippians 4 began to cover me and I finally fell back to sleep. And, when 8:00 a.m. arrived, this mama bear was at the clinic, demanding antibiotics.
Kelly is now 27-years-old and expecting her first baby in April. Soon after my surrender of her life to God while in China, He led me to some verses that I have clung to as a reminder when anxiety tries to grip me, because yes, I still wrestle with worry for the safety of my loved ones:
“We do not want you to be uninformed about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:8–11
I know that God could have chosen a different story for our Kelly in China that dark night, and I am forever grateful that her health was restored. But I have many friends who are moms with a different story. Their worst fears really did come true and they have beloved children now in heaven. They have shown me that sometimes He saves us from our fears, but other times, He carries us in the midst of our fears coming true. Their faith and trust in God are the stories of heroes.
What about you? I’d love to hear how you’ve learned to surrender your fears to God, or how He helped you get through your own dark night of the soul.