You know that old saying, Can’t see the forest for the trees? Sometimes, that describes me.
I spend so much time peering at and examining something that I don’t really see it for what it truly is. I often wonder if I miss blessings that way.
This came to my mind because when I arrived at work this morning and turned over today’s leaf in my daily inspirational calendar, I read this quote:
“Courage does not consist in feeling no fear, but in conquering fear. He is the hero who, seeing the lions on either side, goes straight on because there his duty lies.” ~ Saturday Magazine (British magazine published 1832-1844)
And that’s my problem I think. I too often concentrate on the lions on the side threatening to attack me or the trees that block my path. I’m distracted by fear for what might happen instead of focusing on what’s right in front of me, straight on. Fear has a way of grabbing and holding my attention so strongly, making it difficult to focus on thankfulness and joy.
Over the years, my gripping fears have changed. When I was a girl, fear came from the darkness. I don’t know why I was afraid of the dark, but I was certain something or someone lurked in the shadows just waiting to pounce upon me.
If I was at my friend’s house next door and had to walk home alone after darkness descended, I sprinted through our yards, heart pounding, legs churning to reach the safety of my back door as fast as possible. I’ve conquered that fear for the most part, but occasionally, when I walk alone in the dark now as an adult, I still make haste to arrive at my destination quickly.
As a young child, I was frightened of a gigantic monster in our basement. It had widespread mammoth-sized arms and it breathed fire, literally. The monster was an old coal furnace that heated our house and that thing terrified me. The dark little coal bin under the porch also was a scary place. As I grew older, I realized how irrational my dread was, but it still helped when my dad installed a new and smaller natural gas furnace.
None of those childhood terrors were quite as unnerving though as the fear that squeezed the breath out of me almost seven years ago when my doctor informed me I had cancer. That fear rose up, snaking its way around me, twirling its terrifying tendrils until it locked me tightly in its grasp.
But as I prayed and sensed my family and friends’ many prayers for me, I literally felt that imprisoning fear fleeing my body and in its place, the Lord granted peace and comfort to fill me.
I persevere to keep that nasty fear at bay, but yet it occasionally sneaks back for another attack. What if the cancer returns? What if my husband loses his job? What if..? What if…? What if???
I had an unnerving dream over the weekend, one that startled me awake gasping for air, making my heart pound, and opening the door for anxiety. This nighttime terror was deeply set in a foundation of fear that trapped me as surely as fast-setting cement.
Terror curled around my subconscious so securely that when I fell asleep again, I dreamed the same nightmare. During the day, that dream weaved its way into my thoughts and captivated my mind with an eerie, unnerved feeling.
I pondered this over the weekend. What am I to do with this fear that attacks me even in sleep? And then I remembered. One day several weeks ago while driving to work, I listened to Dr. Charles Stanley on the radio as he related a story that I haven’t forgotten.
This pastor spoke of a very difficult time in his life when he could have easily given himself over to fear and anxiety. An older lady in his church invited him to her home for lunch and showed him a painting she had of Daniel in the lions’ den. She asked Stanley what he saw in the picture. Lions, he answered, surrounding Daniel, ready to attack him, maim him, and destroy him.
But then the woman told Stanley to look closely at Daniel. What was he doing? Daniel wasn’t looking at the lions at all; his eyes were turned upward to God. His focus was not on the dilemma he was in, or on pain he might endure, or even on the fear of being eaten alive. Daniel’s focus was completely on God.
Dr. Stanley said the message he learned was that as we face the ‘lions’ in our lives, we must remember that God is ready, able, and willing to fight any battle we might face and protect us just as the Lord protected Daniel. But we have to turn to God, focus on Him, not our fears, and make our way straight to Him.
Daniel never doubted his faith in God. He may have felt fear, but he knew the Lord would give him the courage to conquer it and bring him through the situation. Daniel understood that the battle belongs to the Lord.
Oh, to have faith like Daniel and trust that Almighty God will help me conquer my fears. To focus my eyes on my Savior, not on my anxiety. To see the lions on either side but continue straight in the path He’s made for me. To not let the trees block my view of the forest. That is my prayer on this day in my book of Opportunity.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1:9
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