Fear is the Real Killer

man wearing face mask

Photo by Korhan Erdol on Pexels.com

I have experienced absolute terror. The fear went on for many months in varying degrees of severity. It wrecked my body and my mind.  What could possibly have been so fearsome?

I felt so sick that I thought I might die. But what turned out to be far more damaging than that sickness was the extreme fear. Because of my fear, I was unable to sleep.  Because I was unable sleep, I became sicker.  Because I became sicker, my fear became unbearable. Because my fear became unbearable, I lost even more sleep.  I began to have horrific panic attacks and became obsessed with the idea of slitting my throat with a kitchen knife.

Do you see? Fear is the real killer.

This so-called pandemic (panic epidemic?) has me worried, not because I think Covid-19 will kill me or my family, but because the news media is deliberately spreading panic and fear.  It is affecting my kids, and it breaks my heart.

Fear creates enormous stress. And stress, when chronic, can be very damaging. We don’t know if that damage is reversible. (1)  Therefore, it makes sense to try very hard to make an accurate assessment of risk so that we will be motivated to take effective action in order to increase our level of safety, and at the same time,  not give in to undue or prolonged fear.

Our creator knows that fear hurts our bodies, our minds, and our hearts. Therefore, he inspired Bible writers to record many reminders for us not to fear, but to have courage. Here is just one:

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you. I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.” – Isaiah 41:10

God is telling us that our reason for courage is not because there is nothing dangerous out there, but because we can have his help just by asking for it in faith. He doesn’t want us to live in fear, but to rely on him.  He has even given us a reason not to fear death itself:

“…the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out…” – John 5:28

“He will swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will wipe away the tears from all faces…” – Isaiah 25:8

For most people, death is not the end.  It is the beginning. What comes after will be beyond our imagining:

“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”- 1 Corinthians 2:9

So do not fear what you are being told to fear. (Isaiah 8:12) Take reasonable precautions and rely on God for strength.

Further reading:

Why does God Allow Suffering?

What the Bible Says about Anxiety

What is the “Sign of the Last Days,” or “End Times”?


(1) Central effects of stress hormones in health and disease: Understanding the protective and damaging effects of stress and stress mediators  , European Journal of Pharmacology, volume 583, issues 2-3, 7 April 2008, pages 174-185.


Pet Power

Lilly Goat 004

Meet my dog, Lilly Goat – aka Lilly the Pill, Pilly, Pill Pill…I think you get it.  She’s a troublemaker.  But I love her.

Here’s a typical conversation between the two of us:

Me (in baby-talk): There’s my little stupid!  You a poop faced fuzz bucket!

Lilly:  I’ll eat you up I love you so! (Proceeds to try to ingest my toes)

Me:  You bad, bad!  You baaaaad witto pup pup! (playfully incite dog to further toe violence.)

Lilly gets into a toe eating frenzy, at which point I must take evasive maneuvers.

Lilly is more than just a fun companion.  She is also good medicine.  The Healing Power of Pets, an article originally written by Peter Browne and adapted from the August 200o Asian edition of Readers Digest by Martin Williams, says that “even desperately ill patients respond to this unorthodox therapy – a cold wet nose and a furry cuddle.”  I agree.  I’m no expert on the science behind the healing power of pets, but I do know what they’ve done for me, my family, and my friends.

Fourth and fifth grades were stressful for me.  I was the quiet girl in the funny-looking glasses and hand-me-down clothes.  The kids bullied me and math was a perpetual thorn in my side.  I’m not sure how I would have coped had it not been for our horses, Honey, Tobey, and Strawberry.  Going to the pasture was my way of decompressing. I sat there in the grass just to be close to them, listening to them munch while I drew.  There was something satisfying about the rhythmic crunch, crunching, the sweet, horsey smell, the quiet snuffling.  All the stress would drain away.  I could have lived in the pasture then.

The cats helped too.  I had a big fluffy tom called Mr. Moose.  He was a lazy good-for-nothing when it came to hunting, but his cuddles were medicinal.  He was my leg warmer in bed, my dolly, and a good-natured nuisance when I was trying to draw or read.  His purr, his warmth, and his loving and trusting personality were soothing to me.

This guy looks a lot like Moose

This guy looks a lot like Moose

I don’t want to underestimate my childhood miseries, but I had no idea at that time just how painful life could become.  Just a little over two years ago when I was enduring a horrible bout of insomnia, it was my dog Elsie who was there for me day and night.  When the whole world was asleep, and the screaming black of night threatened to drive me crazy, I would lie on the floor and hug my patient dog, a warm, living, loving creature, and I would feel a little less alone; a little less like my whole world was caving in.   I always knew by her constant attendance and the look in her warm dog eyes that she knew I needed her.  Elsie is gone now, but I will never forget her calm devotion.

Lilly came to us while Elsie was still alive, a white whirling dervish, the Tasmanian Devil of dogs.  We didn’t choose her, she chose us.  Once we tamed the little beast and she became aware of what was expected of her, she began to wheedle her way into our hearts.  John Muir said in one of his essays that terriers have “little tricksy ways”.  This is true.  Lilly makes us laugh, which is one of the things that make her worth every bit of trouble she causes.  Even on my worst days, Lilly can make me feel good.  She’s the house jester, my lap warmer, and my walking buddy.  Her energy level is very high, which is just what I need right now.  I need for her to make me feel bad if I don’t get up off my butt and take her for a walk.  She has no idea she’s being useful, she just wants to go.

Animals are pretty generous with their affection.  But the love should be mutual.  For example, my mother bought her horse, Honey, when she was thirteen.  The reason she was able to do this with her $100 of babysitting money is because Honey was considered a “dog”, which is horse person talk for good-for-nothing.  She had been horribly abused and given up as a lost cause.  My mother, though, could see potential in Honey.  And she was desperate for a horse.  So she took that horse and loved her with all she had in her thirteen-year-old heart, buying the best feed, again, with babysitting money, brushing and currying faithfully, earning trust by showing affection, and eventually, training Honey to be ridden.  When Honey eventually won reserve grand champion at a horse show, people were amazed.  A newspaper article was written about how a girl had transformed a “dog” into a prize-winning show horse.  My mother’s love and devotion to that horse is the reason I could safely sit near her in the pasture and listen to her graze.  It’s why I could approach honey and touch her soft muzzle, feed her apples, and brush her flanks.

Moose and Elsie and Lilly and many of the other wonderful animals I’ve had the privilege to know over the years had love to give because that is what they had received.  Animals have needs, and sometimes those needs can seem overwhelming to those who have never experienced the responsibility.  But the responsibility itself can be healing.  We need to be needed.  The knowledge that a living creature would suffer if we did not get up and feed them, that they would miss us if we weren’t there, is often enough to keep us going when we want to give up.  I know that’s how it was for my Grandma.  Her little dog was her friend.  That’s what she always said.  The night Grandma passed away, I sat in her favorite recliner and pet that dog like my life depended on the reality of her tiny body.  I love that dog because of what she gave Grandma during the last years of her life.  And I was grief stricken not for myself and my family only, but for Grandma’s little friend.

All animals have love to give.  But how much would an animal have to give if they seldom got enough to eat, never felt a caring human hand, or never heard a kind word?  What if an animal felt that humans were too unpredictable to be trusted?  How much love would they have to give?  To experience the healing power of furry love, we have to give love first.  And the rewards are priceless.

Photo by Richard Gillin