It was a winding, narrow gravel road like any other country road. It led to Grandma Stearns’ farm. But there was a single stretch of that road lined with trees on both sides, as deep as you could see. Their limbs reached across the road creating a canopy overhead. This nature made tunnel was dark and cool. Sounds peaceful, right?
It might have been, if it weren’t for my older brothers. They informed me, while I was a young child, this stretch of road was called Sleepy Hollow. Now, I hadn’t read the book, and I didn’t know the story that well. What I did know was that a headless horseman terrorized and killed people in Sleepy Hollow.
Suddenly, that small piece of road became an endless tunnel of certain death. The shade became sinister, and evil lurked in the trees. I hated driving down that road. It made me anxious. Even today, as a logical adult, that old childhood anxiety sometimes tries to creep in. I blame my brothers.
Is it a trend for older brothers to traumatize their younger sisters? I can honestly say this isn’t the only time it happened in my childhood. And experiences like this one taught me that I don’t like feeling anxious or afraid.
I believe it’s part of the reason I’ve never gravitated to reading mysteries. The unknown, especially when there is a sinister plotline, isn’t fun for me. It keeps me up at night and fuels bad dreams. My two favorite authors have challenged this dislike at times, and because of them, I’m branching out. I’m learning that just because something is a mystery doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.
Linda Fulkerson proved this with her mystery, Dead Broke. I chose it to introduce myself to a new author, but I wasn’t quite sure I would like it. It’s a mystery. A mystery with the word dead in the title. But I tried to keep an open mind, and I’m glad I did. The mystery begins in the very first chapter for Andy Warren, a sports photographer. And as Andy goes back to her hometown, the mystery continues to grow, becoming more complex and dangerous for Andy. It doesn’t help that her hometown is the typical southern small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It gives Andy plenty of suspects and just as many doubts about each one. Every time she thinks she has it all figured out, Andy finds out something new that sends her back to the drawing board.
It’s these twists and turns that keep readers guessing, but they cause a lot of frustration for Andy. It’s a feeling most of us can probably relate to. There are lots of things scripture tells us about life. We know sin separates us from God. We know that God sent His Son to die so we could be forgiven. We know that when we accept God’s forgiveness, we come into relationship with Him and will one day spend eternity in heaven with Him. We know that the battle has already been won, and good wins over evil once and for all.
Knowing these things is great. They bring hope and peace into our lives. It’s the things we don’t know that sometimes cause us frustration. Life is messy. It’s full of twists and turns. We seek to live the way God wants us to live. We want to do His will. We trust that God has plans for us, just as it says in Jeremiah 29. But those plans aren’t usually spelled out for us in black and white. And even when we do know what God wants for us, unexpected situations come up and seem to throw everything out of whack. People hurt us, disaster strikes, jobs are lost, or people get sick.
Whatever the situation, we don’t expect it. We think we have it all figured out, and then something comes along to send us back to the drawing board. Sometimes, we’re still on the right path, but the path looks different than we imagined. Other times, the situations force us into a completely different direction. Whatever the case, the mystery, the not knowing, can cause anxiety, fear, and doubt. The things that cause people to love a good mystery novel don’t feel so fun when they become part of our daily lives. But even in the middle of the chaos and unexpected circumstances, we have something to hold onto that will calm our frayed emotions. We have the promises of God.
Scripture never says bad things won’t happen. The book of Job is a good reminder of that. What it tells us is that no matter how bad the situation is, God will use it to bring something good into our lives when we love Him (Romans 8:28). He also promises us strength when we feel weak. (Philippians 4:13, Isaiah 40:31, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We don’t have to worry about being alone because God promises to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). And these are just a few promises to help us through the circumstances we don’t understand.
You may think it seems too easy, but there’s nothing easy about it. When you’re going through the most difficult times in your life, easy doesn’t exist. The pain still cuts. But because of God’s promises, you can know peace in the pain and confusion. You can rest in His strength and look forward to what He will accomplish in your life through the circumstances. You can let go of your fear of the unknown, understanding that to God, your circumstances are not a mystery.
By the Book: What mysteries threaten your peace or bring you pain? Look up the verses above and search out other promises of God. Ask God to help you experience these promises in your life. Write them in a notebook or journal to meditate on when the unknown threatens your peace.