The first time my husband went to Africa a few years ago, it was pretty horrible here without him. He believes Satan was attacking each of the four people on the trip weeks before they left, but especially while they were gone. I ran our family business while he was gone and there was a car accident in a snowstorm among other problems while he was away. I was terribly sick while trying to work full time and still keep up our home with our four kids (including school work, meals, etc). We also received the news that my mother in law’s cancer had spread to her brain. So when he told me that he was asked to go back this past winter, my first thought was to wonder what could go wrong with this trip.
We began praying more intentionally for this trip and for all 3 team members who were going this time. We also set up an agreement with one another so that I would not send him bad news until we were able to establish voice contact with each other. The first trip was not only hard on me, but on him since he was getting messages, but not able to communicate back for several days
Fortunately, communication technology was much improved this trip.For the first part of the trip we were able to talk each day. I looked forward to hearing what work was being accomplished there and he was grateful to hear things were going smoothly here. We didn’t have many problems at home this trip either, which we accounted to God’s goodness and answers to many praying for us.The first Saturday he was there, he was able to contact me a second time. He had checked in at bedtime like he has been doing each day and then again when he was awoken in the middle of the night by a huge cockroach crawling across his hand. He was unable to sleep after that so he could talk an extra time that day.
Then, at 3:30 am Kansas City time, my phone rang with a What’sApp call from my husband. I wasn’t sure what time it was there, but I figured it would have to be early morning by then. I answered by saying “Hello” and then said,“John, are you there?” Trying not to wake anyone else up, I went to our living room repeatedly saying, “John are you there? Is everything okay?” I just kept hearing banging; like things being thrown around the room. Lots of noise here and there, but no talking. I finally said, “John, can you talk? You’re scaring me. Is someone there?” Still nothing. All of a sudden I heard John say “I smell gas” in a really low voice. I freaked out and started crying. I have never been this frightened before in my life. I had this picture in my mind. The group all hiding under a table or something while some armed people were robbing them all while threatening to catch the place on fire after. It was horrible. I did not know what to do. I kept saying, “Please just say you’re okay and tell me why I have to listen to this. I did not know what to do.”
So then I did a selfish thing – I went downstairs and woke up my 17-year old daughter. Remember this is 3:40 am and I am sobbing and shaking. I told her something was wrong in Africa and that her dad had said he smelled gas and that he was not saying anything since that. We sat there listening to more loud noises, like metal hitting the floor over and over. I was thankful for the cockroach that woke him up so we could say that we loved each other earlier. She suggested we stop and pray together. Thank you Lord for giving me this child who reminded me what was most important in my time of need. We prayed out loud and cried harder. Then through the phone we heard liquid pouring and I lost it. I decided I should try to call another friend in Africa to go and check on them. Right when Ashlyn agreed that was a good idea, the phone call ended. I lost it again! I don’t think I have ever felt this kind of sadness before. Nothing can compare to the helplessness I felt. I couldn’t figure out why he would have me listen to this and just not say anything but “I smell gas.” Why would God allow this to be the last time I heard his voice?
About a minute later, my husband called and asked if I had called him. He sounded completely normal.How could this be? I told him that he had called me and explained why I was crying so hard. He couldn’t believe it. He said that his phone had been in the kitchen on the counter far from where he was standing and that he was trying to get the gas stove to work. Yes, he spoke out loud to himself and said, “I can smell gas” in the process, but he had no idea I was on the phone listening. He asked if the sound I heard was a specific loud banging he could reproduce. Yes, it was the same noise we had been listening to over and over, it was just the door to the kitchen! He was also clicking the stove over and over which makes a loud noise too. The worst part was that he was making hot tea so when he poured the water into a kettle near the phone, it made a liquid pouring sound! Yep, the part I had envisioned as gas being poured all over the house was just tea. I couldn’t believe it. They were making breakfast before church where he was going to preach and everything was fine. I kept crying and was able to talk to him for about 10 minutes which was the longest time since he has been gone. I left my daughter to fall back asleep and then went back to bed to try to sleep (which was impossible). Why did this all happen? How could I imagine something that seemed so real?And how did I not once think that he accidentally called me?
When fear begins to creep in and all the “what-if” situations begin to consume our minds, there are several things we need to remember:
- God’s truth. Is what I’m thinking about really happening? Or is it just my imagination running wild? Paul reminds us to dwell on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. (Phil 4:8)
- God’s presence. We can be comforted remembering that we are not alone. God is with us. “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength. (Psalm 31:1-4)
- God’s sovereignty. God is in control over every situation in our lives.“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”(Eph 1:11-12)
- God’s trustworthiness. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)
- God’s grace. God promises to provide us with his all-sufficient grace for every trial that comes our way. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” Jesus told Paul. And therefore, with Paul, we can “boast all the more gladly of [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us.]” (2 Cor 12:9)
Prepare yourself for battle before your fear happens. Don’t let the enemy use fear to seize you and take you captive. Fight him off with the promises of God’s word and His unchanging character. And remember these things in your moment of fear!