Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
This one simple word made me a target in the woods and wilderness of my life. Why? How? When fear is planted in our hearts and takes root, it grows and flourishes, and what started out as a fear in one area of your life rapidly spreads like wildfire into every other fragment.
While I’ve never lived in the woods, I have lived in my own concrete jungle. There was a season of my life here in Los Angeles where I felt trapped…stuck in the woods…caught in unfamiliar territory that left me feeling painfully vulnerable. While I attempted to protect myself according to the world’s standards, no boyfriend, apartment, acting job, or amount of money could save me.
In one particularly desolate season “in the woods”, I found true hopelessness because I realized what had left me stranded in the first place:
I did not believe I was loved.
I did not feel worthy of love.
I did not know if I would ever truly be loved.
I had been pushing God away for a very long time…because if I wasn’t worthy of love from those around me, I certainly wasn’t going to be loved by the creator of the universe. But like I said, I was desperate. At this point “in the woods”, I was at the end of my rope. I decided to heat up some mac and cheese for one, sit alone in my studio apartment, and crack open my dusty bible.
“The perfect love casts out all fear.” -1 John 4:18
While I now found these words comforting, at the time, I remember thinking that God must really have a sense of humor. I decided to combat his humor by humoring Him. Blame it on my stubbornness, but that night, I decided to google and research everything I could find about God’s love.
My hardened heart was quickly softened as I realized that it wasn’t God’s fault that I didn’t feel loved…it was my fault for pushing it away…rejecting it…not accepting a gift that was readily available to me. I was so ready to get out of the woods…to get out of my isolation…to get out of the dangerous, destructive, unhealthy situations I was living in. However, I didn’t have the ability to be bold and make huge life changes until I believed I was loved by Him.
“Courage comes from a heart that is convinced it is loved.” -Beth Moore
Today, I really wanted to share the inspiring message that one of my sweet friends sent me. Mariah Fields, a 17 year old gal in the group called Delight that I am a mentor for, so eloquently and honestly shared about how she felt when she was “stuck in the woods” of her life, and how she found peace:
“For many years I believed that once I got past a certain struggle or season, then I’d finally reach that point of joy I so longed for. I believed I just had to keep going and that eventually my life would be perfect (as perfect as is possible in a broken world). I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sometimes there are seasons that are dark and crippling, and sometimes there are seasons that are life-giving and rejuvenating. But there are all those in betweens time too when nothing is extreme, nothing is exciting or depressing — those seasons can cause as much emotion as the others, just subtly. I had such a hard time reconciling the fickleness of my heart AND my surroundings.
Why did Jesus give me the heartbreak and the time of mending? Why did Jesus give me quiet times and then times when I couldn’t keep up? Why all the inconsistency? I felt like a puppet that was being emotionally worn down by all the “your life is finally at peace” false-alarms. Peace never stayed. But, when I finally started listening to Jesus instead of myself I found that the consistency lay within Him. The common thread that was woven throughout each and every one of those seasons – the crippling, the joy-filled, and the boring – was love. Agape love. The love that breaths life no MATTER the situational components. Whether it was the depression I went through or my best friend coming into my life, each moment he was forming me and rebuilding my heart. So, does the inconstancy end? No, I don’t believe it does. But, my soul no longer feels played with, my heart is not being raw and vulnerable in an unhealthy way. Instead, I have truly found peace in the truth of Jesus’ faithfulness. I know that the dark, the beautiful, and the uneventful all have a place. They’re Jesus’ way of bringing your heart closer to His. They’re grace, and inexplicably perfect love.”
Whether you are in the woods and in the dark spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, there is hope because there is love. This love does not make everything easier, take away all of our pain, or promise us perfection. Instead, our humbleness acknowledging our great need for this love as survival is what brings beauty, hope, and light to our wilderness.
Love fought my fear. Love’s flames were stronger than the flames of fear. Love was louder than fear. Love brought me out of the woods.