Feb 20, 2015

Fear, God, and Blogs that Make me Cry

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

When I read other people’s blogs, I am reminded of the fragility of earthly happiness. There are some links I can no longer click on. There are some stories that I do not want to know. If I peruse your beautiful, heartbreaking account of baptizing and photographing the child you knew would live only a few hours, I will cry. If I read about how your child seemed fine—normal—until the worst occurred, I will be afraid.

The dark side of happiness is the fear that it will be taken away. At the moment, I am blessed with so many gifts. At the moment, my life is—quite frankly—rather easy. I am free to revel in the love of a kind husband and the adorable companionship of the cutest, most intelligent baby in the world. I have time to teach ESL, bake, sew, and write (never quite enough time, of course, but who ever has that?). The dark side of all this is the feeling that my life must be too easy. The nagging fear that someday soon, the other shoe will surely drop. Especially visceral is the idea of harm to my child. I can’t help thinking of all those narratives on all those blogs that begin something like this: “At first, life seemed perfect. We were happy, healthy, and enjoying each other. Then….” Then came illness. Then came depression. Then came a series of miscarriages, divorce, SIDS, a house fire, a sexual predator, a diagnosis….

C. S. Lewis wrote about being surprised by joy, but I am afraid of being surprised by grief. Somewhere in the mixed-up part of my subconscious is a feeling that I must prepare for all the bad things that could happen. That is the part of my brain that wants me to lie in bed at night envisioning terrible scenarios until I cry about them all. If I really get going, it can become too hard even to pray the Lord’s Prayer, because saying “Thy will be done” is a reminder that God’s good will often includes crosses for us to bear. I guess my grief-anticipation strategy comes from an illogical conviction that since all those bloggers were hit by unexpected tragedies, the way to avoid tragedy is to expect it. Foolish, I know. Idolatrous, even, since it suggests that I can outwit fate. It is one of those sins that isn’t any fun.

When I examine my thoughts, I remember that I need to let them go. They do no good. Like a rabbit skin amulet around my ankle, I need to cut them off the minute they begin. I can instead thank God for the blessings He gives me and to ask Him to teach me trust and faith. I can pray for those who suffer instead of hoping desperately to be different from them. Sometimes this is easy to remember. Other times (especially if I am overtired or “feeling hormonal”) it is hard. How blessed then is the knowledge that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and loving—that He is strong and true no matter how messed-up the darkest corner of my brain gets. He is good, and no matter what may happen in my life, I can remember the words of Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” In these moments, it is a comfort to come back to the childlike words of Luther’s Evening Prayer, and to say, “I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me.” After that prayer, it is a little bit easier to “go to sleep promptly and cheerfully.”


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Anna writes as often as she can. After graduating from Concordia Wisconsin she taught in Lutheran schools for several years and became so enthusiastic about Classical Education that she will talk about it to whomever will listen. She is a big fan of Jane Austen, dark chocolate, and the Oxford comma. Anna and her husband live in Pennsylvania with their small son (and are awaiting the arrival of baby #2, due in July). Anna's personal blog is Don't Forget the Avocados and her work can also be found in The Federalist.

Title Image: "At breakfast" by Laurits Andersen Ring, 1898

5 comments:

  1. I have also wrestled with some of the thoughts and fears you shared here, but not because I'm reading so many blogs about loss (I'm sure you read far more than I do.) For me, it was like a natural reaction to the blessings of motherhood, of things seeming so good that surely Murphy's Law was going to rear its ugly head any moment. That random pang of fear that strikes when my sweet beautiful baby has been peacefully napping for just a little bit too long, even though I've been enjoying some much needed time to myself in the meantime. Partly it is guilt, how dare I be glad she's taking such a long nap! Yet it also shows me how attached I really am, in spite of times I feel worn out, that I really have more love for my daughter than I realize. She hasn't yet been severely ill, but I also remember the time when my niece and goddaughter, then only 2, was hospitalized for pneumonia. While praying for her and asking God to spare her life, I was forced to realized that we are never in control as we would wish to be, and we are at the mercy of God's wisdom, however harsh it might seem at times. I am just grateful when I can learn the lessons of thankfulness through mere fear of disaster, rather than needing to go through an actual disaster, which is not to say that those who suffer need to be taught to be thankful, far from it. I'm just glad to be spared the tougher circumstance.

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    1. Yes, I think that having children really shows us how little we are in control (having "more to lose" reminds us that we can't prevent loss), and that can be a scary thing. It IS a scary thing! Good thing that, as Lora reminds us, God is faithful in even the scariest times.

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  2. We are in a really hard time right now...but I have to say, these are the times that I am most aware that we are blessed. I see how we still have a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs. I see the love my husband has for me in a tangible way and am astounded that he gives me this love. I see the strength and growing maturity of my children and I am in awe that God has actually trusted me to keep them alive, and that they have turned out so amazingly - sometimes despite me. I see how much we laugh -- even through these times. The one time I was really scared was when we lost the ability to laugh at something, anything.

    I see how much I need my Lord and Savior during hard times. I also see how flawed and sinful my fellow Christians are and how flawed I am, and I deal with the temptation to hold a grudge, and I have to remind myself that they are sinners just like me, forgiven by Christ, just like me. These are things that are hard to remember when things are good.

    God promises that hard times will come. He promises that He will use them for good. He promises that He will be with us through it. He promises that He uses these times to shape us more into His image. He promises, and we cling to those promises.

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  3. Anna this post perfectly sums up little mind games I play with myself all the time about preparing for the unknown disasters that must surely be just around the bend because my current happy life simply cannot continue, it's too good to be true!
    Becoming a mother was a huge part of this for me, but even before that as an occupational therapist I was used to spending my days working with people who experienced unexpected turns in life - broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, stroke. Spending everyday surrounded by people who were recovering from accidents and always hearing 'we never saw this coming" or "I could never imagine this happening to me!" made me try to imagine every scenario so that at least if it did happen, I would have a game plan. But in the end, I also pray the Lord's Prayer and Luther's evening and morning prayers because no matter what I try to prepare for, what I need is to commend my spirit into God's hands (since it's there already).

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