when fear rises


Written by Sandra Heska King

PRAY EDITOR "Once a nurse, always a nurse," they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'm a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's how I want to live. And I'm still learning how to be. Still.

July 2, 2013



I wake with a headache and a stiff neck. I shiver in the breeze of the open window and pull the sheet up to my chin. I breathe a prayer for those out west who can barely breathe for the heat of the air, for those who can barely breathe for the heat of life, for those with bodies stiff from pain, and for those stiff with grief and fear.

I scratch at mosquito bites on my foot and arm that refuse to dissipate, whose only purpose is to irritate me.

I slip on my blue “Lake Michigan Unsalted” sweatshirt and tiptoe downstairs to pop in my contacts so I can see more clearly. Lyrics of a song by Pink that the grandgirl played loud last night still echo. I take them out of context and make them a prayer.

You stole my heart

And I your willing victim

I let you see the parts of me

That weren’t all that pretty

And with every touch you fixed them.

The unpretty plagues us. Pain and heartache haunt us.

And fear rises.

It threatens to break us.

Just give me a reason

Just a little bit’s enough

Just a second we’re not broken, just bent

And we can learn to love again.

We can’t know the reasons. We don’t need to know the reasons. But we can trust the One who does, the One whose love never breaks, the One who fixes the unpretty in His time.

I push buttons on the laptop, the Keurig, the television.

Heat rises, and fires burn. Nineteen of 20 “hot shots” (fourteen of them only in their 20s) die in Arizona. There’s news of more NSA leaks, road rage that leads to death, a two-year-old girl snatched from a cart on a routine shopping trip and held at knife point.

And fear rises.

One can’t even go for a gallon of milk without a knot in the stomach.

Chuck Swindoll’s insight into fear drops in my inbox. He’s talking about the first eleven verses of the 46th Psalm.

“Though the earth should change.” What is more stable and predictable than the earth’s landscape? It only changes under the most extreme and frightening circumstances, such as earthquakes, landslides, mudslides, and volcanic eruptions.

“Though the mountains slip into the sea.” In Hebrew literature, nothing is more immovable than a mountain. To a Hebrew, a mountain falling into the sea would herald the end of the world.

“Though its waters roar and foam . . . though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” In the ancient mind, the ocean represented impenetrable mystery, often used as a metaphor for the dark, foreboding mystery of death. For this priest, it is a fearsome world in which a mighty, immovable mountain worries that the sea might overtake it . . .

The psalmist resolved to reject fear in the face of overwhelming circumstances . . . but not on sheer willpower. He chose to view every situation as incapable of harm compared to the sovereign care of the almighty, awesome Lord. Selah!

~from Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind

A Facebook post from Hebrew for Christians grabs my attention. (Don’t you love how God gives us contacts that help us see more clearly and sometimes brings them all together in one huge flaming bush?)

The Hebrew word for “seeing” (ra’ah) is related to the word for “fear” (yirah), which suggests that when we really see life as it is, we will be filled with awe over the glory of it all. Every bush will be aflame with the Presence of God and the ground we walk upon shall suddenly be perceived as holy (Exod. 3:2-5). Nothing will seem small, trivial, or insignificant. In this sense, we are to serve the LORD with “fear and trembling” (φόβοv καὶ τρόμοv), that is, with an inner awareness of the sanctity and sacredness of life itself (Phil. 2:12-13) . . . When we see life as it is, with the eyes of the heart, we will be filled with wonder and awe over the glory of it all. “Fearing” (יִרְאָה) and “seeing” (רָאָה) will be linked and unified. ~Hebrew for Christians, FB, 6/27/13

That’s the kind of fear I faint for. One that’s linked and unified with God sightings.

We can learn to see life as it is, with the eyes of the heart. To stare wide-eyed at the wonders that overwhelm worries. To see the smoke of His Presence in every flame-licked moment.

And we can learn to love, to let love rise above fear. We can learn to bend and not break. Because love is written in scars in His hands and in our hearts and wraps us in the midst of the flames. His is a love that nothing can break.

There’s good news. A 23-year-old pilot of a failing helicopter deploys pontoons and crash lands on top of the Hudson River. His passengers don’t even get wet.

No time for fear.


  1. Patricia W Hunter

    So encouraging, Sandy. These are fearful times, and the speed and ease with which we can receive news becomes a burden when so much news is hard and heavy. We must remain intentional to keep our eyes on Truth and to walk and talk and be yoked with Jesus through every waking moment….to see where He is at work around us….to count the gifts….to ask Him to show us where we can conquer fear in our lives and in the lives of those we love. To remain vigilant to spur each other on to the love and good deeds to which He has called each of us. Thank you, sister…you do just that. xox

    • Sandra Heska King

      Thank you, Patricia. It’s a debate every morning. Do I turn on the news to see what’s happening in the world? Or do I stay isolated in my serene cocoon? How can I be overcome with good instead of overwhelmed with evil? But if I’m not “in” the world, how can I overcome evil with good? Even if it’s just through prayer. And yes, we must be intentional when it comes to our focus and our ability to keep our eyes on Him and see through His eyes. It’s easy to let fear control our days when we’re reminded through almost every headline of how fragile life is. But then that also reminds us to make the most of every fragile moment.

      • Patricia W Hunter

        This morning, I’ve been writing about the fragility of life. {not sure when I’ll feel it’s ready to post} Saturday I watched a fox trot in {really…they trot} from the thickets at the edge of the creek and snatch a baby rabbit from under a pine tree in the pasture. It happened so quickly that there weren’t even any cries from the baby rabbit. Nothing. One second there was life. The next second there was not. We aren’t to fear, but we do need to remember…time is not in our hands. It belongs to God and He has been reminding me lately that I need Him to help me make THIS day count. I can’t do that if I’m overly burdened by the news. I’m helplessly stuck. It’s how I felt after Ann’s posts from Africa. What can I do? I just need to remember where God has placed me and surrender the day to Him right where I am.

        • Sandra Heska King

          Overly burdened. Not to go there. That’s key, isn’t it? We can take it in and then roll them back over on Him because the hurt and injustice are just too burdensome for us. And yes, I’ve felt Ann’s heart, too. Yet avoiding it all doesn’t seem right either. We need people, though, like those cloistered Benedictine nuns who can carry us away on the strains of beautiful notes and your eye for nature’s wonders that help strengthen us to be in the world and to relieve the burdens of it.

          One day I saw a hawk swoop and snatch and sail off so fast with prey dangling, it made my head spin.

  2. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Oh, Sandy. I will be praying this today: “To see the smoke of His Presence in every flame-licked moment..”

    Thank you. Bless you.

    • Sandra Heska King

      Remembering that He is in those burning bushes… and they are not consumed…

      • Tim Miller

        thats all i had – early morning reading – your writing amazes me!

        • Sandra Heska King

          Awww. That makes me smile shy. Thank you.

          Of course, most of the words here are from someone else. 🙂

  3. Megan Willome

    I don’t know what to do with this fear I carry. Like the very real wildfire, this is real, too.

    • Sandra Heska King

      Yes, it is. And I wish I had a helicopter and could fly over and pour flame retardant all over you. Since I can’t, all I can do is cover you with prayer.

      • Megan Willome

        I’ll take it.

  4. DeanneMoore

    Is it the 4th that is making so many consider this today (contacts becoming one huge flaming bush)? I referenced 2 Tim. 3 in a message to my book club this morning. My mind jumped to Luke 21 where Jesus talked about the last days, and I Peter 4 where the apostle reminded his readers not to be surprised at the “fiery ordeal” among them. I memorized Romans 1 early in the year and some days I could hardly make it through it as the truths had to be repeated over and over for memorization. I felt physical pain.

    I say this, but I am thankful I landed here for some perspective. It’s not like I am the only one is “seeing” this. The problem is coming up with a response. I wonder if we are singing while the ship is sinking. I wonder if I have not been vigilant as Patricia H. said to the love and good deeds He has called me to do? First and foremost, am I putting my trust in the care of the almighty, awesome LORD.

  5. marthaorlando

    What comfort you have offered in this post, Sandy! When we remember that our God is always steadfast, never shaken, we can face the fears this world longs to instill in us with hope, faith and courage.


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when fear rises

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 4 min