Tuesdays with Sarah… Fear in the Ear

Fear in the Ear. No, it’s not the title of some ‘dark’ Dr. Seuss book, although it sounds like one.  It’s the title of this blog post because of an image I saw on a movie around Christmas 2017.  I’ll get to that in a moment.

Fear is no stranger to me.  One of my very first blog posts I wrote was about ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes. You can find that post here:


Fear is probably not a stranger to you either.  If anything, fear can often be a companion, a roommate, or even a parasite, feeding and living off of your very existence.

Christmas 2017, I was in Nashville visiting my sister and her family.  We took all the kids to see the movie Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. I loved the movie, especially since I’m a big fan of the Rock and Jack Black.   But there was one scene that stuck with me.

The villain, Van Pelt, becomes obsessed with the Jaguar’s Eye, which is a jewel, and steals it.  At that time, he basically becomes possessed by the jewel’s power, and gains control over Jumanji’s wildlife.  The jewel then gets stolen from him, and he is obsessed with getting it back.  The good guys are trying to return the jewel back to the Jaguar statue so that order can be restored.

Van Pelt holding the Jaguar’s Eye

As you watch Van Pelt throughout the movie, you notice the creepiest and grossest of animals seem to always be around him or on him.  It appears to get worse and worse as the movie goes on and as his obsession to get the jewel grows.  And in one scene, there is a giant leach type of bug that slithers into his ear.  And it absolutely creeped me out.

A few weeks after watching the movie, on a Friday afternoon, I started having this intense pain around my heart.  I was talking to Scott in our garage, and as he was talking, the pain began.  I kind of hunched over and put my hand on my chest. Scott asked if I was okay, and I said I thought so, but my chest was hurting.  I urged him to continue talking, assuming this would pass in a few seconds.

Well, it didn’t.  I could tell that my face was revealing what I was feeling inside as the pain continued.  I went to sit down back at my desk.  As I sat there, I could feel fear as it slithered its unwelcome self into my mind.  Just like in that Jumanji movie, fear was like a leach that crawled in through my ear and started tunneling its way through my mind, leaving a trail of doubt and worry and anxiety all along the way.

Scott came to check on me to find that the pain had subsided.  But although the pain had subsided, the fear had not.  He said, “You were scared weren’t you…  you were thinking about your mom.”  I told him that’s exactly what I was thinking.  See, my mom passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 56 when she was sick with walking pneumonia.  He gave me a solid “Jesus has you – we haven’t been given a spirit of fear” pep talk that you would fully expect from a faith-filled husband, especially one that is a pastor!  He prayed over me and went back to working on his duck decoys.  I tried to concentrate on work, but I was struggling. Although I knew the truth from my childhood days, heard the truth just minutes before, fear remained.  Why?  Because there is a difference in knowing and hearing something and actually applying it.  Just like a gift.  You can receive it all day long, but until you take it out of the wrapping paper and put it to use, then it’s pointless and powerless.

For months, I thought about this image of a leach crawling in to my ear, making it’s home in my mind, plaguing me with anxious thoughts, and paralyzing me physically and spiritually. I kept thinking that I would write a blog about this, but I could never figure out the hook.  How to bring it back full circle.  What lesson was the Lord trying to teach me with this Jumanji-inspired image of fear that I could share with others?  But nothing came… until 12/9/2018.

Me and Scott at his ordination service, all robed up 🙂

Me and Scott acting a fool on a youth mission trip 🙂

On that date, my pastor-hubby preached a sermon about perfect love, one of God’s unbreakable gifts. He used the scripture, “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:18.  He reminded us that God said at least 4 times in the story of Jesus’ birth, “Do not fear…”

To Zechariah
To Mary
To Joseph
To Shepherds

And now, He was saying it to me.  Sarah, DO NOT FEAR.   And the reason I don’t have to fear is because of the perfect love of God.  I can rest in that love, knowing that I am perfectly His.  That His love will drive that leach of fear right out of my ear.

Two days later, on 12/11/2018, I decided to finally put all these thoughts of fear into a blog post. And guess what happened?  As soon as I was about a paragraph in, I had another episode of that heart/chest pain!  I could not believe it!  Yet, at the same time, I could believe it.  Big Red was trying yet again to keep me from posting about this, but more than that, he was trying to keep me from living in God’s perfect love and freedom.  He almost succeeded.  I felt fear crawl back into my ear, working its way through, leaving its slimy trail once again. I started to think of the worst-case scenarios.  I started looking online to self-diagnose chest pain, which of course takes you further down the path of fear.  Geez, I think the devil himself is the webmaster for Web MD!

The pain eventually subsided, and I got so angry at myself for letting fear creep back in like it did. I had just heard a sermon 2 days before about the repellant for this leach of fear, and I still let it in.

A few days later, my friend Devon, shared with me some thoughts she had on fear, not knowing of my personal struggle over the past few months.  She brought up the story of Elijah, who in 1 Kings 18, went boldly to King Ahab, who along with his wicked wife Jezebel, had killed all of God’s prophets, and basically challenged him to a contest between the prophets of Baal and God Almighty.  You can read the entire chapter of 1 Kings 18 and see how fearless Elijah was.

My super cool, always put together, Jesus-lovin’ new friend Devon

Devon doing Zoe’s makeup for FCHS Coronation

Then in the very next chapter, 1 Kings 19, King Ahab tells his gosh-awful wife Jezebel about how Elijah had killed all the prophets of Baal.  She sent a messenger with a threat to Elijah that he would be dead by the next day.  And in verse 3, it says, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”  In my mind, I see Jezebel as the green-faced Wicked Witch of the West telling Dorothy, “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!” with her evil laugh following.  And then there is Elijah, as the Cowardly Lion, running off with his tail between his legs!  Here is the whole passage:

Elijah was afraid[a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

Can you believe that? He had just seen God send fire down from heaven to entirely consume a soaking wet altar (the included the sacrifice, wood, stones, soil, and all the water)!  After that, Elijah had all the prophets of Baal killed.  Now, this evil lady makes one verbal threat, and it has him running for his life in fear and wanting to die!  How can you fully know the power of God, but then fall into fear so quickly?  How is that possible?  That is the question that Devon was talking to me about, but in the context of church life.  Little did she know that I was struggling with that very same thing in my personal life.

I had done the same thing Elijah had done.  I know the power of God.  I’ve seen God move and heal and protect many times.  I had heard just 2 days before that last heart episode that God’s perfect love drives out fear.  And as soon as that pain made itself known again, I was afraid.  Just like Elijah.  Elijah was running for his life out of town, trying to save himself.  I was running down the information highway, trying to fix myself.

So how do we walk in the way of perfect love, which keeps fear at bay?  How do we keep the leaches of fear from crawling right back in our ears? How do I apply this truth of perfect love driving out fear, and not just know it?  Well, I think we can find the answer at the end of chapter 19.

First thing to note is that as Elijah hides in fear under a bush, angels come to him twice to feed him and give him water.  He needed that to strengthen him for the 40-day journey to Horeb, the mountain of God. Even in the midst of his fear, self-pity, and hiding, God provided for Him.  God is so, so good to us.

Once he got to the mountain, God spoke to him.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

I think there are 3 things we can take away from this story to help us keep fear out of our ear.

1 – The Lord asked him one question – “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  Elijah proceeded to tell him what he was fearful of.  God’s answer was to “stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord”.  There it is.  So first, to be able to apply the truth that perfect love drives out fear, we must be in His presence.

2 – Of course, there were great demonstrations of nature that followed – mighty wind, an earthquake, fire – but the Lord was not in any of those.  The Lord was in the gentle whisper…  the still small voice.  Secondly, we must make sure we are listening to His voice in the midst of all the other noise that is bombarding us daily.

3 – The Lord finished by asking Elijah the same question for the second time.  Elijah answered with the same words that he used the first time.  But this time, God gave him direction and instruction, which included him meeting the man that be his successor in ministry, Elisha.  Why would God answer Elijah differently this time?  I’m no theologian or biblical scholar, but I am a mom. My girls can say something to me, and I will respond differently based on the tone they used with me.  For example, if I ask Zoe why she left her trash in the living room and she says in a respectful tone, “Sorry!  I got busy and forgot,” then I will understand and probably pick it up myself if she’s already upstairs.  But if she says, “Sorry!  I got busy and forgot!” in a snotty disrespectful way, then I will forcefully tell her to come downstairs and clean it up, and I might even take her phone for a bit!  Same words from her, but different delivery, of which altered my response.  I think the same thing happened with Elijah.  I think the first time God asked him what he was doing there, Elijah probably had the tone of self-pity, which often comes from being fearful.  Therefore God replied with a nature demonstration!  The second time, Elijah, in my honest opinion, having been in the actual presence of God, remembered who he was talking to, which I’m sure changed his tone to one of self-awareness.  Thirdly, we must remember who we are and who He is. 

The day I started writing this post, March 4, my Jesus Calling devotion said, “In this world there will always be something enticing you to worry.  That is the nature of a fallen, fractured planet:  things are not as they should be.  So the temptation to be anxious is constantly with you, trying to WORM ITS WAY INTO YOUR MIND.  I about dropped the book onto the floor!  It followed with, “The best defense is continual communication with Me, richly seasoned with thanksgiving.  Awareness of My Presence fills your mind with Light and peace, leaving no room for fear.” So just like with Elijah, being in God’s presence and being in continual communication with Him is the way to keep the leaches of fear from making their home in your mind.

Yesterday, Devon, the friend I mentioned above, posted something on Facebook that I feel is the perfect conclusion to this post.  Let me start by saying this girl is a super cool, always put together, Jesus-lovin’, Satan stompin’, Spirit-Followin’ kinda a girl, and I’m honored and blessed that she calls me her friend.  But what is absolutely incredible about her is that she wasn’t always that person.  She’s been to hell and back, and praise the Lord, she’s helping shine a light on the path so that others my find their way to Jesus.  But she knows firsthand what fear is and what it can do when you let it run rampant in your mind.  Here’s what she said:

If there are two things that I am well acquainted with from my past, it’s weakness and fear.  I know what it’s like to feel weak.  And I also know what it’s like to look fear in the yes, and with everything in me, want to run in the opposite direction.  But glory to God, fear and weakness aren’t our inheritance!

Amen! We do not have to let fear have control of our lives, yielding us either paralyzed, or having us running like hell in the other direction!  My God has bigger and better plans for my life, and all I need to do is to stay in His presence, listening to His voice, remembering who He is and who I am.  Fear in the ear,  I’m kicking you out on your rear!  How’s that for a Dr. Seuss line?

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