A young army wife clings to her husband in the moments before deployment. She’s soaking in his essence—the broad angles of his back, the warmth of his neck, the lingering scent of shaving cream on his cheek.
The dreaded moment arrives, and he gently eases out of her arms. She can’t think of a word to say. There’s no use begging him to stay, and what good will come of voicing her deepest fears?
He lifts her chin with a finger. His smile is relaxed, as if this goodbye is no different than any other. “Don’t worry, I’ll come back. I promise.”
Make Me No Promises
Sappy as this scene might be, we’ve all witnessed a version of it on the big screen. What makes me gag is not the melodrama, but the dismissive mishandling of the poor girl’s fear.
When I’m worried or depressed, my bologna meter is hypersensitive. I have no patience for empty promises. The worst thing someone can do is pat my arm and say, “Don’t worry, that will never happen. Don’t worry, I’m sure the test will come back normal. Don’t worry, you’ll feel better in no time.”
What I need, what we all need, is Truth with a capital T.
It’s such a shame that in the Church we’ve turned so many truth statements into platitudes. We plaster them on bumper stickers, Bible covers, and even breath mints until they become little more than a catch phrase. And then we learn to use them the same way, tossing them at people who are hurting without taking time to understand the hurt first.
This is one of the biggest reasons I withheld my struggle from people when I was suffering. The few times I made myself vulnerable, I got slapped with truth wrapped in insincerity. It felt like people wanted to patch me up with platitudes so they could avoid feeling the hard place I was in.
Digging Into Big-T Truth
Thankfully, I had my Bible, and I was just desperate enough to use it. As I saw a counselor and journaled about my fears, I discovered verses that spoke Truth directly to my insecurities. I wrote the words on index cards, and thumbed through them in bed each night, waiting for fatigue to chase away the fear that always crept in with evening hours.
I spent months doing this. It was like chiseling a piece of granite. The work was strenuous, but over time something began to form. I was getting closer to what lay inside, at the root of my fears. There were three essential Truths I’d been struggling to believe, buried beneath all my cares.
1. God is sovereign.
I grew up believing this. Even at my worst, I believed God had the power and authority to rescue me. He could turn off the panic like a light switch, fill me with peace, and free me from fear in the space of a heartbeat. But he didn’t. And as I struggled with the why, I discovered this Truth was only comforting if paired with another:
2. God is good.
Again, I believed this from the time I was a child. But I’d never really wrestled with the question of God’s goodness in the face of a desperately broken world (a topic for another post, or many). I’d never had to reconcile his goodness with my own devastation.
It’s no surprise that in the weeks after my worst panic attack, when I could barely function for the despair pressing down on me, the chink in my armor of faith widened to a chasm. God might be sovereign, in control of all things, but was he good? Sovereignty with goodness is a recipe for hope. Sovereignty without goodness is a recipe for terror.
3. God loves ME.
Eventually I reaffirmed my belief that God is sovereign and God is good, but did that mean God loved ME? I’m going out on the vulnerability branch here to confess this is still my greatest area of struggle. For someone who spent the first thirty years of her life taking God’s love for granted, I’ve done a remarkably thorough job second-guessing it over the last seven.
It boils down to believing truth regardless of feeling (again, too big a topic for one post). Anytime we battle with emotions like fear, anger, or depression, we can’t trust our hearts to tell us the truth. My heart tells me I’m unworthy, unlovable, and unwanted by God. It says he’s sovereign and good, but I’m only in his club on a technicality, not because he wants me there. Either these are lies, or the Bible has pulled a fast one on humanity.
When Words are a Weapon
This is why Truth-telling is an essential weapon in the battle against fear, or any other unhealthy emotion. The Bible equates truth to the word of God, and the word of God to “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6). Truth is a weapon. It is our weapon. We have to learn how to wield it.
Start by telling yourself God is in control, he is good, and he loves you. Meditate on those Truths. Memorize Bible verses that affirm them. Listen to songs that proclaim them. Fill yourself up with Truth, and you will arm yourself for battle when it comes.
To help you get started, here are a few of my favorite Truth-telling verses, taken straight from my bedside journal.