I don’t know about you, but one thing that has been happening to me during this COVID-19 crisis is it’s bringing back a lot of memories of other times I’ve been really afraid. My mind gets fixated on some other fear from the past, and then it adds fuel to the fire of present fears and even the fearful “what ifs” of the future.
Just last night, my mind went back in time to when I was eight years old, and my family and I lived in a small town in Central Illinois. There was a bridge over a small creek that bordered our back yard, and one day I got the brilliant idea that I was going to cross the bridge not by going over it but by going under it.
I grabbed hold of the under-railing, shimmied my feet up to secure my grip, and began to inch my way across. Things were going great until I got half-way across, and, at the highest point between the bridge and the creek, you guessed it, I looked down. Fear shot through my mind and body like a caffeine rush from three cups of coffee. I knew at that moment I would never see my ninth birthday. I knew I would fall to my death, and I thought of my poor parents finding my crumpled body lying on the rocks below.
What did I do? I held on. I prayed. And I didn’t give up. Somehow, by the grace of God and maybe even a guardian angel (or two), I inched my way across the rest of the bridge to the other side.
So, why did this particular memory come to mind yesterday, when there are far-more serious fears I’ve faced in childhood and as an adult? The reason, I believe, is because I learned several lessons from that prepubescent panic that I need to bring into my present fear.
- Hold on. Underneath that bridge all those years ago, it was all I could do to hold on. Maybe that’s how you feel right now. I was thinking about this in my sleepless state last night (anyone else having a little hard time sleeping?), and I was reminded of the old song by Rich Mullins that says, “Well, sometimes my life just don't make sense at all. When the mountains look so big, and my faith just seems so small. So hold me Jesus, ‘cause I'm shaking like a leaf. You have been King of my Glory, won't You be my Prince of Peace?” If you find it hard to hold on, don’t worry, Jesus is holding on tight enough for both of you.
- Pray. When I was holding on to that rail under the bridge, you better believe I prayed. I prayed as no other eight-year-old had ever prayed. Many times I don’t feel the answers to my prayer, and sometimes I don’t always see the answers to my prayers (at least the way I want them answered), but I trust in the One in whose name I pray. Lord, I believe, but help me in my unbelief (Mark 9:24).
- Don’t give up. You’ve probably heard me say this before, but as I learned from my assistant several years ago (a lesson she learned from her mother), “Inch by inch, life is a cinch, yard by yard, life is hard.” Believe me, for me to get across that bridge all those years ago was inch by inch, not yard by yard. But made it, I did. And so it is with the COVID-19 Crisis. We will get through this. YOU will get through this! But more than likely it will come slowly, inch by inch. So, don’t . . . give . . . up.
Lord, “You have not given us the spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7), so help us to hold on, pray, and never give up.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).