What do you do when deeply-rooted fears cause you to maneuver from a space of persistent panic? What do you do when inherent trepidation isn’t holding you back from taking action but instead driving you to harmful responses?
There’s a single verse in the Bible that reveals the incredible damage that can be done when terror holds the steering wheel (and pushes the gas pedal) in your life. It’s found in 2 Samuel when Mephibosheth, grandson of King Saul, is dropped by his caretaker in a moment motivated by fear.
"Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son who was lame in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel; and his nurse took him up and fled. And it happened, as she made haste to flee, that he fell and became lame. His name was Mephibosheth."
2 Samuel 4:4 (NKJV)
If you know the story, you know that she was afraid when she heard the news that King Saul and his son Jonathan (Mephibosheth’s dad) had been killed. And she was completely justified in feeling how she felt based on the facts! History told her that Mephibosheth’s life was now in imminent danger. For whoever would rise to the throne next would surely annihilate anyone related to the previous king as a first order of business. Her intentions were to find safety for the one entrusted to her care and herself. Based on previous experience (or perhaps the stories she was told [because sometimes trauma perpetuates in information shared]), she had no reason to believe staying still was a wise choice and her reaction to the bad news resulted in devastation for the one she was trying to save.
What do you do when your good intentions result in tragic impact? What do you do when your own fear has crippled someone you love— someone God has entrusted to your care? It’s devastating to realize you are the source of the pain that surrounds you, but I’m so grateful for a God who redeems, restores, and remembers His own promises.
If you’ve become excruciatingly aware of the pain you are responsible for in the lives of others, there are a few steps you can take to move forward. First, ask God to show you what you cannot see. In order for any change to occur in the environment that surrounds you, you must first understand what needs to be shifted. Second, confess that you’ve missed the mark by allowing yourself to be led by the flesh (your feelings AND the facts). Third, repent and seek forgiveness from God (whose Spirit you ought to seek before making ANY move) and those who have been injured by your impulses. Lastly, determine to move forward different. Purpose in your heart to not fight, flee or freeze anymore without first praying AND waiting for an answer.
I’m not sure if Mephibosheth’s nanny was a follower of God, but if only she had sought Him before moving, maybe she would’ve been clued in on the fact that the news she received was not all there was to be believed. The past informed her present, but she didn’t know that this moment was exclusive. God was doing a new thing. She didn’t know David was coming and that he had made an oath with Jonathan that would ensure Mephibosheth’s safety. While she was running toward perceived safety, she didn’t realize that true safety was on the way.
When you respond in fear, with the purest of intentions, you are simply seeking security. You want to fight, flee or freeze based on your perception of what will make you feel most safe— emotionally or physically. But there’s a reason Scripture states over and over again not to move by what you see or the fear you feel. There’s always more to the story. There’s always more glory in being careful to allow the Spirit of God to lead and there’s always more pain as a result of moving on your urges. There’s always more than you can see through the dysmorphic perception caused by your own traumas.
Although I don’t think the physical injury Mephibosheth’s nanny caused could’ve been undone by her recognition, confession, repentance and changed ways, I do wonder if those steps taken would’ve changed the way 2 Samuel 9:8 was written— “Mephibosheth bowed down and said, ‘What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?’” It wasn’t just his legs that were marred, Mephibosheth’s entire self-worth was destroyed. Perhaps the harm your fear has caused didn’t break someone physically, but instead shattered their perspective of themselves. While I’m a huge advocate of no shame or condemnation in Christ Jesus, there is a responsibility you hold to right your wrongs when you’ve been made aware of them—it’s called accountability. While you cannot change the past, you can alter the course of the future. If you can identify with the nanny in the story, your reputation doesn’t have to go silent after the destruction like hers did. You can do the work necessary to be a part of God’s plan in working all things together for good. I want to encourage you to do that. I want to nudge you to move forward in love above all else, humility at all cost, submission to God’s will only, and hope that the time lost will be restored.
Parents. Spouses. Siblings. Friends. Colleagues. Any relationship you can imagine can be impacted when fear has wreaked havoc in your world, but God is ultimately in control. Surrender to Him and walk in His ways so He can do what you can’t. People may have given up on you or chosen to guard themselves from being further hurt by your decisions. There may be those who have made the choice to sever the relationship and you must be willing, as hard as it is, to accept the loss knowing you could’ve done better. After all, what would you have done if the tables were turned? No matter the circumstance, it’s never wrong to do right by making a move toward restoration. Do your part and leave the rest up to God. I’m praying for your heart that it would be mended in such a way that you’d bring more healing than hurt to those around you for the rest of your days.