So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man to to me?” Hebrews 13:6 NIV
I have never been one to be fearful. Now I admit, I worry at times, for my girls and for Scott, but to me, that is different than all out fear. I kind of think about worry being the root of fear, and when you let worry continue to grow, it becomes a plant of fear. So before worry can even become the plant, the Lord has helped me many times rip it out by the roots.
Fortunately, I learned at a very young age the power that exists in the name of Jesus Christ. I grew up at a church in Birmingham called Huffman Assembly of God (later called Cathedral of the Cross) where the children’s ministries were phenomenal. One of my favorite memories and lessons I learned is through this puppet our children’s pastor used that looked like the devil. He was red, with a black cape and horns – the whole bit. When that puppet came creeping up to try and talk with us or for a little banter with Bro. Jim Wideman (our children’s pastor), we had been taught to say “In the name of Jesus, go away!” That devil was outta there! So if I ever did find myself being scared (and still do to this day), I simply say “Jesus”, and the fear melts and is replaced with sweet peace.
And then came April 1, 2013. This began some of the most major changes if my life. And of course, most people know that change can easily generate fear.
My mom, Brenda Clements, unexpectedly passed away at age 56 due to complications from walking pneumonia. I am the oldest of her 3 daughters, and she had asked me in the past to take care of any of her affairs. So, as anyone knows who has had an immediate family member pass, you almost have no time to grieve at first due to planning the funeral, calling insurance companies, writing thank you notes, visiting people, and taking care of their affairs. Also, my mom was single and lived in an apartment, so we had to get her things sorted through and cleaned out.
The next week, Scott, a Methodist pastor, was told he was being appointed to a new church. We had only been at the one we were at for 1 year! You get moved around in the Methodist church, but usually not that quickly! But the move created even more ‘busyness’ for me to get lost in, so I did not necessarily get to grieve for my mom even after her affairs were taken care of.
So with all this change, moving 25 miles north to Harvest from south Huntsville, getting my new office set up (I work from home for an insurance company out of Birmingham), registering the girls for their new school, wrapping up small things of Mom’s, meeting new people at our new church, etc… that’s a LOT of busy! But as all of these have started winding down, I find time by myself to start thinking, praying, grieving… and worrying. But this time, I let the worry grow. It had become quite a big plant – even pretty – which I think Satan does to trick you into keeping it around. You can even begin to water it and tend your ‘fear’ plant because being fearful becomes your normal. And you like normal, because it’s comfortable. You may not even realize you are feeding your fear. I think that is the point I had gotten to. And I realized what was happening one Wednesday night a few weeks ago.
As I said earlier, I work from home. A local cable guy came to set up my private line for work and as he came to the door, he asked, “Is that for real?” As I stepped out onto the screened-in porch, there was a 4 foot long black rat snake! I totally freaked out on that cable guy telling him “Of course, it’s real!” I called Scott, but he could not help – he was at work. So I just had to leave that stinkin’ snake there on my porch. It was literally right outside my office window. I found myself constantly checking to see if he was still there. I was full of fear. What if he gets inside? What if he’s really a she and had snake eggs somewhere on my porch? What if he’s really poisonous? What if he tries to bite the girls?
After about 2 hours, he changed positions and eventually slithered away. People keep telling me that rat snakes are the good kind, but that is super hard for me to believe! Of course, my girls were scared too. I kept looking all day for it… on the porch, in the yard, in the garage, and yes, even in the toilet! I was consumed with that snake!
So then comes the evening… on the third Wednesday of the month, our church, Crosswinds UMC, leads worship at the Downtown Rescue Mission. It’s one of my favorite things that our church does. I was on the worship team that night and excited to sing there for the first time.
Michael Jefferson, the youth director for our new Madison campus, spoke about going through trials and tough times and how we never want to go through them. But when we are in the middle of them, we need to remember what God has done for us in the past and not be fearful. He read parts of Psalm 42, in particular, verse 6, which says “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan, the heights of Hermon – from Mount Mizar.” Basically saying, in my sadness, in my doubt, in my fear, I will remember the great works God has done in my past and know that He can and will do them again. Then we sang the song ‘Never’ to close the service out. The lyrics are below:
Never Glory Revealed II Shawn Lewis and Bethany Dillon
Never, never will I leave you Never, never will I forsake you He says, Never, never will I leave you
So we say with confidence We can say with confidence
The Lord is my helper I will not be afraid; I will not be afraid The Lord is my helper What can man do to me? What can man do to me now?
Michael’s words, Psalm 42, and that song exfoliated the callouses from my spiritual eyes and let me really see the fear that I had let taken root and flourish in my heart.
See, not only had I begun to become fearful of my mom’s death and thinking about that same thing happening to me, but I had also become fearful of this new appointment we had been called to.
Scott and I have always felt like we have been called to be church planters. He would preach, I would lead worship, and there you go. We went through church planting Discovery Center and Assessment, and we have studied and researched the subject greatly. Scott is 2/3 done with seminary and together we have started contemporary worship services at 3 traditional churches we have served at in the past decade. So OUR plan was that he’d finish seminary, then the conference would appoint us to plant a church and we’d start the whole process. Instead, we got appointed to an existing church plant that is launching a new campus. We aren’t involved in the process like we thought and I’m having a hard time finding my place – where I need to serve. I’m used to being super involved, and now I’m not. And it has scared me. This is not how I planned things!
We have felt called to church planting for a long time, but what we are seeing and hearing is nothing like what I thought it would be. So now, I am doubting our calling. The “process” which is done by “man” has possibly let me down, made me doubt, and has led to fear. We have invested in Scott’s education, moved our girls once again, thinking we were in God’s will, and then it’s nothing like what we thought. God, have you led us astray? Have you changed your mind? Are you messing with us? My soul is downcast within me!
But the song said, which is straight from scripture, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid, what can man do to me?” That’s when my God moment came full circle while singing that song, when He reminded me of that snake that was on my porch earlier that day. If there’s anything that truly scares me, it’s a snake. My heart shudders at the thought of it! And it was right outside my window all day – constantly reminding me of my fears… What if we have missed God all this time? Taunting me… Maybe you’ll get sick like your Mom…
Then I realized a way more famous snake was actually the one messing with me! The one Scott calls ‘Big Red’. If that snake (Satan) can keep me fearful – paralyzed – so that I can’t move or do any work for the Kingdom, then he has won. But, if you remember from the beginning of this entry, I already know how to get rid of this snake… the name of Jesus! So as I lead worship that night and sang “I will not be afraid – what can man do to me?”, I gently breathed the name of Jesus, felt the fear leave, and watched Satan – spiritually speaking – slither away – off the porch of my heart. That plant of fear that had taken root was ripped up by the greatest Gardener of all… my sweet Jesus.
Read it, love it, totally get it.
Sarah, I love the way you make sure God is first in your life. You have a servants heart & God gave you lots of tallents besides your beautiful voice! We are so glad He brought you into our family!
Thank you, Rocky! I feel very blessed to be a ‘Smyth’! Love y’all!
Love you Sarah Smyth!
Love you right back, Mari Adams! Miss y’all!
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