“Things That Go Bump in the Night” by Sheryl Gehrls
|Principle #7: Living as a widow can cause fear and anxiety that I’ve never experienced before. In the face of many unknowns, I choose to walk in an opposite spirit of confidence, knowing that God has promised to care for widows and give special attention to their needs.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
Every new widow can likely identify with the following anonymous short prayer:
From Ghoulies and Ghosties,
And long-leggity Beasties,
And all Things that go bump in the Night,
Good Lord deliver us.
Maybe you’re one of the blessed few that has never dealt with the fear of being alone in the house at night. If so, we’re happy for you! However, the rest of us have probably had moments when we ran down the hallway, leapt into bed, turned out the lights, and pulled the covers up around our ears. Why is it our most basic fears seem to surface when we’re alone in the dark? Why are there scratches on the windows, and bumps in the basement that I’ve never heard before? Why does my house begin making strange noises that it never makes in the daytime? And must it really creak and moan along with my exhausted body?
When we lose our spouse, we may find ourselves living alone for the first time ever. In my case, I went from my parents’ home, to the college dorm, to the homes shared for fifty years with my husband. Living alone for the first time presents a brand-new set of adjustments. The children are married and gone; the grandchildren are nearly grown; and now my spouse is gone. The house that should be totally quiet seems to take on a life of its own. I lie in bed wondering if I checked the locks on all the doors and windows…. that used to be his job at night. Widows, especially older ones, tend to go through a time of feeling unprotected and vulnerable. This is all normal.
Added to the actual fear of physical safety, another realm of fear and anxiety seem to come with more intensity during the nights. Will my needs be provided for? Will my present income be enough? Will I need to find a job?
We suddenly face a lot of situations that are simply part of living alone. The dirty dishes stay where I leave them! As a matter of fact, everything stays where I leave it! No one is helping me with keeping things picked up and orderly anymore. No one makes the bed if I don’t do it myself! No one vacuums because company is coming for dinner! And now, instead of doing laundry daily for my family, I do a couple of loads every week or two. And shopping for one, cooking for one, menu planning for one. This is all unfamiliar territory that most widows find difficult to negotiate. What should be easy, appears insurmountable.
Fear and Anxiety can be debilitating and paralyzing. No one would argue that point! However, we can frame it differently. Fear is an incredibly valuable emotion God created in us. It’s not something to be ashamed of, nor should we ignore it. Fear is triggered by one of our very basic instincts – that of survival. When we are frightened, we become much more alert and cautious. We may actually go back and double-check to make sure all the doors and windows are locked!
Psalms 56:3 says, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” Those times when we are fearful and anxious become perfect opportunities to turn our eyes toward our heavenly Father who has promised to always be with us. But turning our eyes away from fear and anxiety is only half of the process.
We must also turn our hearts towards the One who has overcome all fear, soaking in His promises to us. God’s words are life-giving, and as I think on them, change happens within me. Anxious thoughts diminish. Worry begins to lose its grip on my emotions. And, while fear may appear from time to time, it no longer controls my thoughts and behaviors. The Father’s promises are soothing to our souls and calming to our spirts.
Refocusing when fears attack us is not always easy. Sometimes it simply boils down to exercising our freedom to choose! We can choose to do three important things:
- We can choose not to let fear and anxiety control our thoughts and actions. Psalm 118:6 – “The Lord is with me I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
- We can choose to guard our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 – “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV)
- We can choose to focus our minds on what is true in the midst of crisis and uncertainty. Philippians 4:8 — “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things arehonest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Still struggling with fears? Here are some things you can do to help.
- Make a list of your specific fears. Write down everything you’re worried about. When you can name your fears, you can set them under the Name of Jesus. Pray over each one, asking God the source of each fear. Are those thoughts moving you closer to the Lord, or are they hindering His purpose for you?
- Make an appointment with your fears. Yes, you read that correctly. Be intentional about setting aside time to think about what is causing you to be afraid or anxious. Not everything is necessarily a threat!
- One helpful little tool that can help dispel fearful thoughts looks like this. Repeat out loud: “My Heavenly Father told me .” Does what you’re thinking sounds like He would have said it to you? If not, then you can choose to reject it!
We might still feel afraid, but we can believe that God is with us. We may not be in control, but we can trust the One who is. We may not know the future, but we can know the God who does.