Statistics show that the majority of people die. This is an undisputed fact. Yet fear of death is one of the top phobias of the human race. According to Jerry Seinfeld it ranks right after fear of public speaking. Consult with wikipedia and you will find fear of death a bit farther down on the list after: flying, heights, clowns, and intimacy.
Have you ever been afraid of death? I have.
For the first few years in Bolivia a reoccurring fear gripped me. I was afraid my husband would die. And beyond that I was afraid of what I would do if he did die. No matter how irrational that fear was, it ate away at me as I fixated on it.
Two veteran missionaries came to visit us. They were our teachers in mission school. Now they had come to speak at a conference and see how we were doing. One afternoon we went out for ice-cream. My fingers tapped and I wiggled in my seat waiting for the right moment to ask their advice.
“I am worried about if my husband dies what will happen to us,” I blurted.
Everyone stopped clinking their cute little spoons on the glass ice-cream cups. The background noises of the open air restaurant spun around my ears in increasing volume. The awkward, loud silence made my heart beat faster.
One of the seasoned men had the guts to speak first. I think he asked some clarifying questions. I didn’t cry. Although my worrisome tone made him speak in a calm low voice. The others just sat stunned. I can’t remember any specific advice. I remember faces of confusion and pity.
The sole brave speaker told a story, “My grandpa used to listen to gospel hymns about heaven, and he died an early death.” How disconcerting, and odd. So much for that session of ice-cream theology. As far as I was concerned their advice had the consistency of the puddle of pink goo that had accumulated in my dish. Weak. Milky. Useless.
Fears and anxiety marked a struggle with deathly imaginations that lasted more than five years.
Sure, I prayed. I begged God to take away the terrors. I wanted the answer fast. I wanted him to bleach my soul. This was not His plan. The answer came slow. The trying of faith and the formation of long suffering were His chosen path for me.
Not long ago my husband and I sat across a tiny table and chatted during our weekly tradition of ice-cream on Tuesdays. He scooped up a big mound of Snickers Twisters and I slurped a Choco Frio. That frightful conversation of despair at an ice-cream shoppe years ago flashed through my mind.
An awareness filled my soul. I no longer feared the death of my husband. What I had hoped would happen as suddenly as a brain freeze had come upon me slowly like the creeping up freeze of the winter months after a sticky summer and a cool fall.
My answer came. Thank you God!
No mater how irrational, fears can feel all consuming. Maybe you don’t fear your husband’s death. Maybe you do. Maybe you are struggling with other kinds of fears. First, don’t stop praying. Second, talk with trusted people – even if they don’t have any good advice for you, it is good to shine light on the darkness.
What have you found helpful in your life for confronting fear?
– Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America