Thursday, March 14, 2019

On Battling Fear - by Sara K. Parker

When I was around six years old, I came to a terrifying conclusion about my life: one day, I would die alone.

As the youngest member of a family of seven, I reasoned that the rest of my family would pass away one-by-one, oldest to youngest, because that was the natural order of death…and eventually, I would be the only one left. I imagined myself alone and scared, and this image seized me with terror. I was too young to understand that I would one day have a family of my own, and I would make adult friends, and I would likely never truly be alone. I was also too inexperienced with loss to realize that the young often tragically die before the old. All I knew was fear.

It would creep up on me at night, this fear. I would lie in bed, petrified of losing my family, of dying alone. Eventually, I must have learned that people don’t always die of old age because I soon developed a new fear: fire. I imagined the house burning down and trapping us inside. I would lie awake, heart racing, eyes blinking into the darkness, fear paralyzing me.

By the time I was ten, I began to fear death itself, along with the prospect of eternity. That’s right: I was even scared of heaven! I would pace the floor of my bedroom at night, flipping on a light to ease the panic setting in as I contemplated heaven and the mysterious prospect of a life there that would never end. I began to frequently knock on my parents’ door at night, seeking comfort, until my mother eventually bought me a devotional book. She suggested that when I started feeling scared, I could read some of the devotionals. This was my first experience with the calming power of God’s Word. For the most part, the devotionals did help. By focusing on the stories and the hope, I could set my fears aside for a while.

This is the book my mom gave me - circa 1982!!
I turn forty in just a couple of months, and I only recently realized that fear has shadowed my entire life.

As I walked home from elementary school, I constantly convinced myself that a car was following me, a kidnapper stalking. Some days, home alone after school, I was certain that sounds from the laundry room were intruders. The sounds in the attic – ghosts. One day, my father came home from work early, which was unusual. Not expecting anyone in the home, but hearing footsteps on the stairs, I was certain that my murder was imminent. I turned off my bedroom light and hid behind my door, wishing I had a phone in my room. My palms were sweaty, my breath coming in quick, terrified huffs. Then I heard my dad’s confused voice calling my name.

When I was twelve (wow, the bangs!), my mom had booked a trip to Arizona to visit her dad with my brother and me. The night before our trip, I was overcome by fear that the plane was going to crash. I was so convinced of the impending crash that I wrote a goodbye letter in my diary that night.

At twenty-one, I purchased a town home and moved in. I was thrilled with my independence…until the night came. Then, I couldn’t sleep. I would lie awake on the third floor of my back-to-back town home and fixate on the realization that if an intruder broke in, I would have no escape. I quickly called a security company and had an alarm system installed. For weeks, I still couldn’t sleep – petrified that I would wake one night to the sound of the alarm going off.

It is both sad and a little comical to look back at some of my fears – some rational, some not. In the woods, I feared bugs and bees and snakes and bears. At the beach, I feared big waves and jellyfish and shore-swimming sharks. I heard about a terrible escalator accident and I developed a fear of escalators. I got stuck in an elevator alone, and I couldn’t step inside an elevator without fear for years.

But while fear haunted me, I was also strangely adventurous. Perhaps that has something to do with living in Thailand with my family for three years as a child and all the traveling we did during that time period. Maybe it’s just a wanderlust I was born with. When my husband and I were newly married, we would pull out a map and search it for an interesting city name. Then we would go on a road trip. We found some incredible sights that way. One Friday afternoon, we decided to take a spontaneous trip to Niagara Falls. We lived in Maryland, and we started driving in the early evening. 

On our honeymoon, we booked an all-inclusive vacation at a resort in the Riviera Maya (incidentally, where my new release, Shattered Trust, begins), and signed up for several adventure tours that involved ziplining across a swamp teeming with alligators, rappelling into a pitch black fresh water cenote, and snorkeling in a very claustrophobic cave. A year later, we took a three-week backpacking trip to Europe before the era of easy Internet and cell phone access. We stayed in hostels and visited five countries. 

Stonehenge, 2004. And yes, I pulled most of these photos straight out of my old scrapbook! 

Bruges, Belgium. Yes, I was pretending I did not know he was taking my photo.
We ate at the most romantic restaurant we have ever experienced - sitting along the river, enjoying a three-course meal while swans floated by.
Still, I see the current of fear that kept its thumb on me. When my husband first became ill in 2007, I faced real fear that wouldn’t let up. For a long while, I was convinced he was dying and doctors were going to figure it out too late. I didn’t know enough to pinpoint the more accurate fear: that this illness was going to persist and steal many, many things from us.

But in all those lingering memories of fear, there is absolutely nothing that compared to the fear that shook me to my core when our daughter was diagnosed with cancer. This fear? It was paralyzing. Consuming. I lived it. I breathed it. I fell asleep each night clutching onto it, and I awoke each morning with it clutching onto me.

And then, something shifted.

I don’t know when it happened exactly, but I became acutely aware of the fact that I was so terrified of the possibility of what the future might hold that I had become blind. In giving into fear of the future, I was missing the gift of each day.

I’m working on a proposal for a new LIS series, and the three heroines each battle fears of different kinds. Their fears so color their lives that they have forgotten how to truly live.

I still battle fear. Perhaps that’s why I have been exploring the emotion with these new characters and story ideas. Every time we near our daughter’s scan day, I begin to battle the fear of relapse. Every time my husband’s health takes a turn, I battle too many fears to list here. In fact, since my last blog post, his health has not improved. He has been unable to work for two solid months, and the stress is compounding on all levels.

But I have learned a few things about fear that have helped me fight. 

First of all, fear is not of God. (For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline - 2 Timothy 1:7). Second of all, as I learned as a child when my mom gave me that devotional book, if I take the time to think about good things, my fear lessens. (Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.  The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4:8-9). Finally, fear is the absence of peace - and the Lord gives peace abundantly to drive out fear. (Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27).

I refuse to throw today away for fear of what tomorrow may bring. The heroines that have been taking shape in my imagination are beginning to agree with me. If you need a practical suggestion for how to battle fear, listing gifts is pretty effective. We are reminded countless times throughout the Bible to remember what the Lord has done in our lives – His provision when we faced the impossible, His guidance when we faced a decision, His presence when we faced loneliness, His grace in response to our regret, His love when we felt the most unlovable, His peace poured over us when peace made no sense at all. Wherever you are today, may the Lord pour out His peace over your life and make His presence known.

Would you join me in a list of gratitude today? Comment below with three to five things you’re thankful for today – big or small. I’ll start:

 P.S. I love to connect with readers. Come visit me on my Facebook author page:


  1. Maintaining a gratitude journal is a lifeline for me to overcome fear. Praising God for the countless blessings instantly changes our perspective. This very moment, I'm grateful for...
    - People willing to share their experiences, like you did, so we all might benefit.
    - The glorious sunshine brightening the day
    - The amazing intricacy of God's Creation that never ceases to awe me

    1. I love those, Christine! I have started actively journaling my gratitude lately, and it has definitely helped.

  2. -A bed so comfortable I can only describe it as luscious
    -Unexpected gifts - not for the gift, but for knowing that someone was thinking of you
    -God’s guiding hand leading me full circle

    1. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing this, Kate!

  3. God bless you for sharing so completely from your heart! Not many people are willing to do that but your story is one that touches so many of us. Things I'm grateful for:
    -God's gift of two beautiful children even after tragedy
    -the gift of animals with their unconditional love and ability to heal anxiety & ptsd
    -the gift of friends and strangers who come alongside us at God-appointed times when we need them.

    1. Those are heart-filling, fear-fighting gifts, for sure. Thank you, Laurie.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story! ��
    -Hearing my youngest giggle while playing video games
    -Hugs from my stinky college boy late at night
    -My mom delivering my ironing to my closet when I’m at work
    - My husband asking if he can get me anything while I’m watching my shows

  5. Your family sounds super sweet - especially your mom with the ironing!! Wow!

  6. Wow, Sara, thank you for sharing. You may not know it, but you are very brave. And I like the idea of the fuzzy blanket. Blessings.

    1. Thank you, Marie! Everyone should have a fuzzy blanket! :)

  7. Sara!! I love love love this post. I deal with fear a lot as well. I'm leaving on Sunday for a dream vacation with my family (London and Paris) and I deal a lot with fear of flying and travel anxiety. I"m so glad you've been able to tackle fear and embrace life.
    I am thankful for a husband who loves me flaws and all.

    I am thankful for two wonderful daughters.
    I am thankful for a writing career.
    I am thankful for this beautiful journey we are about to embark on.
    I am thankful for my two faithful dogs who only want to love and be loved.

    1. I just prayed for you and for your upcoming trip! I hope it's incredible and that you are somehow able to capture those thoughts that lure you toward fear and replace them with God's promises and also thoughts of all of the amazing things you and your family are about to experience!

  8. I am grateful for the mission trip experience half my family is having.
    I am grateful for the time with good friends my boys are getting this week.
    Thankful for getting appointments taken care of and the money for them.
    Grateful for healthy relationships with birthfamily.
    I'm so thankful that as I begin to list each thing, I am reminded of so many parts of each thing that I cannot even begin to write it all here.
    With a big family, sometimes the sorrows seem overwhelming but I gladly proclaim that the joy, good things, good gifts can be even more overwhelming and so abundant that it takes my breath at times.

    1. Hi Vanessa! Thank you for listing some of the lovely things you are thankful for. Love you, friend. <3

  9. Great post Sara. I never had much fear growing up but I’ve never liked darkness or deep water. Not much i can do about that since they both exist all around me! As I get older, I have more fears now but God has held me with his anchor and this post helps reinforce the calm. You have an amazing family! We love you!

    1. Yes, I love the verse in Hebrews about how our hope in Jesus is our anchor. I don't like darkness or deep water either!

  10. Several years ago I accepted the challenge of keeping a Blessings Jar. The idea was to fill it with slips of paper listing each blessing you noticed, then read them all at the end of a year. I had a jar full, but hadn't been specific enough to recall them in detail.

    1. I love that idea! A friend of mine told me about Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts, and I tried to keep a journal of gifts and reach 1000, but I only made it to around 100 before I fizzled out. My friend made it to 1000 and started over again! #goals :)


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