“Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1
This is one of my favourite verses from Scripture. Again and again, when I am stressed, I say it to myself, and, literally, by a mental decision, exchange fear for trust.
I do not mean that what I fear will never happen (though most people’s fears do not materialize). I mean that God will help me deal with it.
I remember the moment it became real.
* * *
I have an in-law, who is insensitive, pushy and (diagnosed) bi-polar. She made our engagement, wedding preparation, the day of our wedding, and the day and days after very difficult with random angry phone calls in the middle of the night or early in the morning, temper tantrums, rudeness, randomly showing up at our house at 6a.m. ringing the doorbells, many bizarre and irrational financial and other demands. Totally disruptive!
I thought the very worst thing would be if this person were ever to live in my house, with the chaos and devastation she caused, and that was one of my mental resolutions: She will never come to stay.
Turns out though, that this in-law had organised her life around visiting people, for weeks, a month at a time, visiting anyone who was good-hearted enough, or decent enough, to agree.
We deflected this successfully. She lived “down under,” which helped. And then Roy’s brother moved to the US, where we were living. And I felt sure that she’d visit Roy’s brother, and then either visit us, or slander us if we refused.
* * *
So I was worrying about this visit from this woman who was rude and insulting about me to my face, and would slander me to Roy if she had a minute alone with him. And would absorb my hospitality and then slander me to all and sundry.
I was walking on my treadmill, about 10 or 15 years ago, listening to the Gospel of John when this verse jumped out at me, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Trust in God, trust also in me.”
And I thought, “Anita, do you really believe this? Can you let your heart not be troubled, and let it not be afraid?”
And then I thought, “Ah, but this woman. She’s nuts. She cares for the good opinion of neither God nor man. She just wants what she wants.”
And then I thought, “But can God manage her?”
Believe it or not, I had to think about it for a while!! Could God deal with someone so closed off to him? And I decided, “I will trust him, whatever she does.”
And I felt peace.
* * *
And, as matters turned out, Roy’s brother, David, did indeed move to the US. But before that, we had moved to the UK.
And she did indeed visit David in the US for a month….
And she had, apparently, as I had feared, decided to visit Roy when she visited David. And so, though we were in Oxford, she bought a US-UK ticket, without telling us, and one day, as we were minding our own business, the phone rung, and she announced that she was in the UK for a surprise visit of 2 weeks.
It was the busiest time of our lives. The school and university term were in full swing. Roy was still a professor of mathematics, with a Chair in Applied Maths, head of a research group, and was spending all his extra time helping me out with our publishing business. We were hideously behind with the latter, with fulfilling orders, customers breathing down our necks, and didn’t have a minute to spare.
Besides, we teach people how to treat us. If I had let her stay, she, diagnosed manic-depressive, would buy a ticket to our house whenever she felt high, without warning, as she had now done. If I had let her stay, I would never have been able to breathe freely, never knowing if the door-bell was her.
She visited Roy for a day in his office, but did not set foot in our house. She stayed with other relatives and tangential connections, and has never paid us another “surprise” visit.
* * *
Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Most of our fears do not happen, and the ones that do, God can help us deal with.
The visit I feared as crazy-making, and depressing and boring and an explosion of lies and evil into my life has not yet happened in 24 years of marriage.
And if it had, God would still have protected me, I believe.
It is always safe to trust him, I believe.