Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
Proverbs 29:35 The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.
A godly woman is called to be fearless. A quiet heart, which in God’s sight is very precious, is not in a tither of worry (1 Peter 3:4). Married women are called to fearless submission to their husbands. Should not a single woman submit fearlessly to her Creator? The call to “do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:6) is a call to every woman, because her hope is in her God (1 Peter 3:5).
Physical Safety and Fear
As a single woman living and working on my own, safety can feel like a constant burden. I am often tempted to worry about safety… and I often give in. If I want to justify my worry, I can draw up a long list from headlines around the world and from personal experiences of my friends, family, and myself. For example, one night, my roommate and I came home at 11 p.m. to find someone had broken into our apartment. While nothing came of it, the invasion of privacy, of knowing someone was in my home and I didn’t know what they had done, gave me a sense of violation that I hadn’t felt before. There was the fear that it was actually a neighbor. Or maybe it was a former resident who had kept a copy of the key. Would they come back? Had they left hidden cameras? Had they done terrible things to my toothbrush? We threw away all our open bottles and asked the apartment office to transfer apartments. This was the year we started using a home security system.
Maybe that’s what comes of single girls being too independent and moving away. Maybe I’m supposed to wait until I get married. Was I being too independent? My thoughts started sounding like some circles of thought that depend more on the teaching of tradition, and not Scripture. Living with parents or away from them is only a sin if discontentment, rebellion, fear, or hate fuels those decisions. While my roommate and I prayerfully took the next steps, and lived with my parents for another month before a new apartment was available, the mercies and graces of the situation became more apparent to us. We had not been hurt. Our loved ones were not hurt. An unknown someone(s) had sinned against us. We didn’t know how or why this had happened or even all that had happened. But God knew. And He provided our safety. We only had to keep trusting and He kept providing.
For me, I can fuel my discontent in singleness by dwelling on the perceived protection a husband could provide. While I do take more precautions now, I realize that precautions will not keep me safe. A locked door is not omnipotent, neither is a husband. My safety doesn’t depend on the quality of my security system. God wants me to trust Him to give protection.
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:2
When I am strong in this dependence, I can find myself feeling rather haughty against my married friends who confess that they are afraid when their husband isn’t home for the evening because they aren’t used to being alone. I think I appear to listen patiently, however my thoughts are in a darker place. ‘Welcome to my world,’ I think smugly, ‘how would you like this to be your whole life?’ This pride is every bit as dangerous to my soul as my fear – perhaps even more so. My perceived strength in my perceived dependence on God is no refuge at all. Far from it, a haughty spirit comes before a fall. My ability to trust is a result of faith, which is a gift of God. If my hope is in anything, it is not that I know I will be fine, but that God is good to me and that everything that comes to me can only come because He allows – even sends – it. My hope is in God Himself.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
For my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
My might rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62: 5-8
Like all other sins, however, fear is persistent and keeps creeping back in. It comes whispering during the lonely nights my roommate is out of town. When a possum rattles my window in the early hours of the morning, I am afraid. When I turn on the alarm and turn off the lights, I feel fear creep in behind me. Perhaps it is our cultural association with evil and darkness, but when the night hours roll in, evil seems more real to me than it does during the day. Perhaps this very fear is a grace to help me remember that as real as fears may be, God is more real. As strong as they are, He is stronger. Plans made for evil, God uses for good. In the dark hours, I realize that my hope is not in a fairy tale ending, but in the Creator of the Universe Himself. His promises and plan endure whatever evil there is in the world. He cannot be thwarted. And He uses the whispers of fear to make me cling to his promises in his word.
One of my favorite verses is Psalm 56, which was written by David when the Philistines had captured him in Gath:
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me? 56:3-4
David was in a dangerous place. The man after God’s own heart was afraid. Notice the grace revealed through David’s admission: when I am afraid. God graciously works in his child to remove fear. He commands us to fear not. And yet, He does not listen because I am fearless, but listens to my pleas when I am afraid.
I often forget that the spirit world is every bit as real as the physical world. In other countries Christians witness first hand demonic possession in people and even in places. In the USA, that is usually brushed aside and only entertained in horror films. As real as spiritual terrors are, however, God is greater still. The Jesus who commanded the legion in Mark 5 still delivers from the legions oppressing his people.
In my first couple years of teaching, I had times of experiencing demonic nightmares. One particularly bad month, I cried almost every night before bed. I was exhausted, but I dreaded going to sleep. The images in my dreams were vivid and filled with a terribly dark and oppressive evil. The nightmares were keeping me from getting rested because I would wake every hour or two in a panic. The only difference between the dreams and being awake was that I could no longer see the evil that terrified me when I awoke. I could, however, still feel it near me in the dark, quiet room. This troubled me more than the dreams. After about an hour of crying and praying, I would fall back asleep. Many nights, this process repeated itself as many as three times during the night.
When I was little, I remember calling out to my dad and mom after a bad dream. The comfort of their loving arms and their prayers helped me go back to sleep. As a grown single woman, I often wished that when I woke up from one of these nightmares that I could roll over, wake up a stronger person (i.e. my husband), and ask them to hold me until the fear went away. I may not have my parents or a husband in my house to calm me, but I have something even more beautiful and comforting. The God of all comfort did not need to be awakened, because he had never stopped his watch over me. I could pray scripture – His very words to me, put there be his spirit – until I fell asleep again. I learned to trust deeply in the truths of Psalm 56:
You have kept count of my tossings;
Put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
In the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
In the LORD, whose word I praise,
In God I trust; I shall not be afraid…
For you have delivered my soul from death,
Yes, my feet from falling,
That I may walk before God
In the light of life. Psalm 56: 8-11a, 13
About a year after these occurrences, I didn’t have dreams, but the sound of footsteps and the presence of someone who wasn’t there consistently woke me up every morning about 2 am. One of my roommates at the time wisely led us in prayer for God to protect the house so that no evil spirit could enter and that I would stop having nightmares and hearing noises. The 2 am occurrence and nightmares never happened again.
Since then, it became a tradition on the first night in a new home, either alone or with my roommate, to walk through the home and pray over every room, specifically that the presence of God would fill the home, so that all human and spiritual powers could know that it belonged to Him alone. I also started doing this with my classroom. Through these experiences, God showed that my trust should not rest in a security system or a husband – although there is nothing wrong with those – but that the heart of my home should rest in His protecting presence.
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2