We’d only been dating for three weeks, but Steve had already figured out he was going to marry me. I, on the other hand, was more practical than that. In a few months, I’d be moving to a new city in a new state, a thousand miles away from him. It would be too hard. It was doomed to fail before it began. I was so certain.
It was time to say goodbye.
We met outside his place, walking his dogs for a few minutes before I told him it was over. I didn’t want it to be over, but it was the only thing that made any sense, after all. My move wasn’t changing. He’d said he would never “follow” a girl to a new town. What other options were there?
He got very still, very silent. He looked down at his toes, not out of shame or defeat, but out of anger. But this anger wasn’t directed at me at all. It was about someone completely different. Looking up, he quietly stated, with calm authority in his voice, “One of us is listening to God and one of us isn’t. Go home and figure out which is which, and then we’ll talk.”
I’d never even thought about it that way. If I was the one who wasn’t listening to God, then who was I listening to? I thought, maybe, it could just be myself … my own “good sense.” But as the sun went down and I laid in bed thinking, praying, I still didn’t know. With the morning, I sat up and all of a sudden everything became clear: I’d been listening to Fear.
Fear had disguised itself so perfectly as my own thoughts that I couldn’t tell the difference until Steve called me out on it. The lie had become my truth. And I was about to let it ruin something incredible.
Fear is just one of many voices the enemy of our souls uses to speak. Fear skews our perspective, twisting what is real into the horrible imaginary. Fear says, “This will fail. You are a failure. This will never work. What were you thinking? This will ruin you.” And it can speak in such a familiar way that we think we’re hearing our own thoughts, or worse, the thoughts of God.
But God’s thoughts never come out as fear. He speaks to us, “Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you” (Isaiah 41:10 MSG).
Fear will try to convince us to release the blessings of God, and to see those blessings instead as curses. Fear will twist our perspective to see God’s good gifts as insignificant or as things that could ruin us. Perhaps it’s a relationship, a place, a job, a conversation or a goal. What are you afraid of?
God doesn’t speak through the voice of Fear. He is Light and Strength and Love. “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love” (1 John 4:18 MSG). Simply put: Fear lies; Love speaks truth.
It was 8 o’clock in the morning when I got Steve on the phone and confessed that, yes, I’d been the one who wasn’t hearing God about our future. Apology given and received, he never once brought that attempted break-up back in my face. Not once. And after I made my move to a new city, the next year came the (unexpected) proposal … and a few months later, my husband “followed” me there. Apparently he’d gotten a correction of his own kind.
So now, nearly 12 years later, I think back to that moment when I was ready to let him go because I believed a lie. And I’m thankful. Thankful for his words that caused me to question which voice I was really following. Thankful for turning to follow the truth instead. Thankful for trusting even when I didn’t understand how things were going to turn out.
We all have a choice to make. A choice between two voices that are always speaking: Fear and Love. Which will you choose to be your guide?
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