Footsteps pounded the ground, racing up behind me. Jumping high, I whirled around to face my attacker. But far from the fearsome figure I was expecting, it was two horses, freshly freed from a night in the barn and feeling frisky in the morning sun that had spotted me walking by and galloped to the fence-line to greet me. If horses can laugh, they were clearly grinning at my sudden fright.
Horses! Seriously? C'mon, man.
It happened twice more the same week. Not horses again, but dogs, appearing out of nowhere and suddenly running up behind me to sniff my ankles. One was a friendly sort, who bounded along happily beside me most of the way home. The other was a ghost-like animal, gray and wary, who vanished again as quickly as he had come. But after a full summer of disturbance-free walks, I was unprepared for canine company of any sort, be it friend or foe.
In years gone by, there were many more dogs in this rural neighborhood than there are now, watchdogs trained to discourage unwanted visitors from entering private property with loud and aggressive barking and the sight of their sharp teeth, boldly displayed. Unfortunately, they routinely escaped from the fencing intended to keep them contained, and could be encountered roaming the road at large. At times I would fill my pockets with doggie biscuits before setting out in the hope I could bribe my way into their favor, but I would also pick up a large rock at the top of my driveway to hurl at any animal that looked to eat me instead of my treats. And many was the day I simply canceled a walk rather than take a chance. Believing Shakespeare's words, “Discretion is the better part of valor. Caution is preferable to rash bravery”, I opted to simply stay home.
All because I was listening to the wrong words.
Maybe it's because it's the Halloween season that I'm so easily spooked. Or it could be that so many recent attacks on unsuspecting civilians have all of us looking over our shoulders a bit more, rethinking where we go and what we do. Due to circumstances beyond our control, our happiness is hindered by the thought in the back of our minds that something horrible could happen at any moment.
The devil is dogging our footsteps and laughing every step of the way. And God wonders why we let that happen.
Despite our best efforts at prevention and preparation, we cannot stop tragedy from occurring. The Bible warns us that in this world we will have tribulation. From natural disasters to man-made chaos to just the struggles of day-to-day living, we sometimes feel like life is pummeling us from the moment we get up to the second we lie down to try to get some fitful sleep. Fear and Dread have become our traveling companions, when God intended Goodness and Mercy to follow us instead.
Thankfully there is something we can do about it. We have weapons at our disposal; we just have to choose the right ones. Instead of filling my pockets and hands with bribes and missiles, I should instead have filled my mind and my mouth with the Word of God. One of the most potent weapons I possess is my voice. When I speak out loud what the Bible says about Who God is, who I am in Him, and what He promises to those who believe in Him, my ears hear what my heart has to say. Faith rises to replace the fear that filled my soul before.
There is only one road that passes in front of my house; I can't simply choose a less dog-inhabited neighborhood. Similarly in life we sometimes have no choice but to walk the path that lies before us; where it leads and the circumstances that govern it are often beyond our control. But we can choose how we proceed, whether cringing in cowardice or boldly stepping out in courage and confidence.
As witnessed this week, dogs still sneak up behind me. The last time it happened, I turned and stood my ground, commanding the animal in a loud voice to simply go home. He turned off the road and slunk away. Similarly, when the devil is nipping at my heels in life nowadays, impacting my decisions, I boldly face my tormentor rather than running away, telling him to take off instead! Then I walk dauntlessly on...down my road...through my daily difficulties... and into the distant future that awaits.
Tell worry and fear to take a hike, then go on and enjoy yours.
“...Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]”
(John 14:27 AMP, emphasis mine)