Finding Victory from Fear
BY: KELLY JOY FJESTAD
Fear is sneaky. It creeps in when you least expect it. It tags along when it is most unwelcome. It shows up when you are dealing with loss, with grief, with frustration, with pain. Fear knows no boundaries. It is no respecter of persons. Rich people fear. Poor people fear. Men fear. Women fear. The educated fear. The uneducated fear. It doesn’t matter what religion, what race, what your family looks like, what town you live in — fear will try to find its way in.
I would say I grew up battling fear. I would pray every night while I was trying to fall asleep that there wouldn’t be a fire, that no one would break into our house, that no one would get hurt and need an ambulance. I remember praying for safety over and over and over.
For many years, my life was relatively safe. My fear for safety was unfounded, but I still battled it. However, on May 3, 2005, I received a phone call that altered my life forever.
The day started out like any other Tuesday morning. It was my husband’s final day of college classes! After four years of working full-time and going to college full-time, we were so excited for him to be done! Only a few final tests waited between him and graduation. He left early to go milk the cows on our dairy farm before driving the hour to his classes.
I woke up early with my two boys, ages two-and-a-half and 10 months. We had a busy day ahead. We had Bible Study that morning and several other errands to run while we were in town. I had to stop by our dairy farm on the way to town to drop something off. Plus, every day with two toddlers was an adventure in itself!
I was contemplating stopping at the Cattle Auction to see if there were any calves for sale this week. Every Tuesday was Auction Day. We spent many days walking the catwalk to see if any of the calves looked like they would be a good addition to our farm. This was one of my husband’s favorite things to do. He loves cows. He even felt it was necessary the year before to stop at the auction on our way to the hospital to deliver baby boy number two. I sat in the car in labor, two hours from delivery, while he ran in to see if there were any calves selling for a good price. Oh, the things you do for the man you love!
When I stopped by our dairy farm, my 18-year-old brother-in-law Jedd was there feeding the cows. He came over to talk to me and the boys like he always did. He was a little cranky on this particular morning and he didn’t love the cows quite as much as my husband did.
Jedd called my oldest son, Jesse, “Diaper-butt” and Jesse called him, “Uncle Diaper-butt.” As I drove out of the driveway that morning, Jesse yelled, “Good-bye Uncle Diaper-butt.” And I whispered under my breath, “Cranky Uncle Diaper-butt.”
I decided on our way to town that we didn’t really have enough time to stop at the cattle auction if we wanted to be on time for Bible Study. So, we headed straight to church.
My Bible study met in the church nursery. We each had one or two kids and no one to watch them, so they just played while we talked. I’m not sure how much Bible Study we actually accomplished but getting out of the house every week to talk to adults was a win!
About a half an hour into Bible study my phone rang. I noticed it was my mother-in-law, so I answered it thinking she would need me to pick up something for her while I was in town.
It took me a minute to understand what she was saying. I remember her saying, “It’s true. They came to the house. He’s dead. It’s true.” My mind was trying to wrap itself around what was happening. “Who’s dead?” I asked. “Jedd!” she said through her tears.
In that moment, my world began to spin. I told her I would be right there and hung up the phone. I went back into Bible Study and began to shake as I told my friends the little bit of information I had. I then went to find the pastor.
Thankfully, one of my friends took my boys and the pastor drove me to my in-law’s house. I called on the way because I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do. Were they at home? Were they at the hospital? What happened? All I knew was that Jedd was dead, but I didn’t know how. He was supposed to be getting the corn planter ready for planting. Did it fall on him? Was this a farming accident?
When I called, my father-in-law told me they were at the house, but not to take the road by the cattle auction barn when I came because that is where it happened. What? My mind was still trying to put all the pieces together. How did something happen by the cattle auction barn? Had Jedd gone to buy calves? What happened!?!
When I arrived at their house, the remaining pieces of the puzzle were put into place. Instead of working on the corn planter, Jedd decided to go out with friends. He was driving his motorcycle when a truck pulling a cattle trailer turned in front of him. He didn’t have time to stop and hit the side of the truck. He died instantly. He was wearing a helmet, but it wasn’t enough.
The next several days were filled with difficult phone calls, funeral decisions that no one should ever have to make for an 18-year-old, and a blur of emotions.
Even in the darkest moments, the goodness of God was there. He allowed me to be with my group of friends when I received the most difficult news of my life. These friends instantly prayed for me and helped me with my kids. I was at church where someone could drive me, so I didn’t have to drive myself while in a state of confusion and grief. I had chosen not to stop at the cattle auction that day. If I had, I might have been right there when it happened. I’m glad I didn’t have to watch it happen. Even in my darkest moment, God was there.
As time passed, I found not only had I lost one of my best friends, I had picked up fear in his place. Not the same fear I had battled before. That was a fear that something bad would happen, but nothing bad had ever really happened before. This was a new fear. The fear of the reality that bad things DO happen. Bad things did happen. No longer did I live in a bubble where everyone was safe. Sure, I had feared that bubble would pop, but when it did pop a very new fear appeared. Every time the phone rang, I froze a little bit. I expected it to be bad news. If my husband was ever late or not where he said he would be, I mentally began to plan his funeral. I have buried my loved ones in my mind a thousand times. I had never done that before. This new fear drove me to expect bad news.
Fear is crippling. It steals your peace, your joy, and your expectation of God being good. Fear causes you to expect that God is going to take something away from you. It causes you to expect that bad things are going to happen. I didn’t want to live that way.
I began to fight this fear. I prayed. I read my Bible. I tried to replace the fearful thoughts with the true thoughts of who God is. Then I found this amazing verse!
“They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7
This verse was water to my weary soul. I began to speak it over and over. Every time fear tried to creep in, I would remind myself, “I will have no fear of bad news. I will have no fear of bad news. I will have no fear of bad news!”
Over time, I began to believe it. I began to find victory in this area. No longer did my fear control me, but I was taking control. My mind was being renewed to the truth of God’s Word.
The path to victory is paved with the Word of God. It is only when we begin to replace the lies in our head with the truth of Scripture that we will begin to see true victory. God’s Word is true. Even when we do not see it. Even when our circumstances seem to be showing us the opposite. Even when our world is crumbling down around us. God’s Word is true.
To be honest, there are still times when I have to remind myself of this verse. I will have no fear of bad news. (Psalm 112:7) I have to remind myself that God is a giver, not a taker. (Romans 8:32) He loves me. He does not withhold good from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11)
And my personal favorite, which I read at Jedd’s funeral:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Kelly is a wife and mother of five children living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She is an ordained minister and author of PAUSED: Protecting Your Faith When God Says "Wait" and Pursuit: The Cross. For more info visit: kellyjoy.org