The Sniper Who Tried to Shoot My Husband: Facing Fear
Bill was an angry man, abusive and poised to be a poisonous powder keg. His paranoia and psychotic rage caused him to force a pistol into his wife’s mouth, threatening to blow her brain out. As Carol raced to safety, she called my pastor-husband Roger. Carol, a pro golfer and a committed Christian, had made a generous donation to our building fund. Bill, her unbelieving husband, exploded with rage when he discovered the check stub made out to the church.
The paranoid schizophrenic scratched out a hit list with twelve names on it. Roger was #3 on the list. For two months, undercover policemen sat in the congregation and my hubby sweated through his vest while he preached four services, looking over his shoulder and shaking in his boots. One spring morning before dawn, the madman went on his spree. He jumped into his Dodge Ram, packed up his pistols, rifles and four hundred rounds of ammunition. Then he careened down I-10 to a nearby town and shot the first family on the list. Those of us on the “Tucson” list were next. The police cornered him on the highway after a high-speed chase and Bill shot himself in the head before they arrested him. I grieve for him. I really do. But I have to admit, I don’t miss looking at those cops in the service, or the stake-out on our cul-de-sac.
Roger preached in his bullet-proof vest 40 times. Armed undercover cops scanned the congregation for suspicious onlookers. I don’t know why my husband came under attack so often. Perhaps Tucson, our home, was still part of the Wild West. We pastored our beloved congregation for 30 years. God was great and glorious. Satan was always busy.
One spring Sunday morning, Roger and I prepared to preach a team sermon on “When Fears Come True” from the book of Job. This time, the threat was sent to me. Now I had to wear the Kevlar. Surprisingly, I wasn’t afraid. I felt God’s power and anointing all morning.
Churches are filled with hurting people. Even crazy ones. Vets with PTSD, convicted felons trying to forge a new life, psychotic patients who need acceptance. Abused wives and recovering alcoholics sat in our pews. I even led a contract killer to Christ. What a colorful congregation!
My missionary friends daily face the horrors of ISIS threats, poverty and starvation every day. I chat with them on Facebook, or pray with them on my iPhone. Though I have had my share of cares, I know nothing of the dread they feel.
We all quiver and shake with anxiety occasionally. Worry contaminates our faith and destroys our joy. So how do we conquer our fears? Let me suggest four ways God can bring your peace and confidence.
1. Every time fears come to your mind, defy them in prayer. Pray without ceasing. A few paltry prayers won’t be enough. Pray honestly and candidly. Put words to your fear. Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Jesus prayed, “Lord, take this cup away from me.” He prayed specifically about His fear. This is an important step.
2. Remember a time when God protected you in the past. How did young David face gargantuan Goliath with such confidence? Each trial, each obstacle David faced increased his faith. He experienced God’s protection shepherding his sheep. Ferocious lions and bears threatened his little lambs. He felled them with a slingshot and a stone. So the skinny, smelly shepherd assured King Saul he could handle the bully. David learned to trust God with his fears. Goliath was not a giant to David. He was just an “uncircumcised Philistine.” "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (1 Samuel 17:37). David faced the enormous thug because he had faced the lion. Every circumstance in life can build your faith.
3. Satan is the author of fear and must be resisted. Paul pens this promise to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV). A spirit of fearfulness and timidity does not come from God. Satan deceives, intimidates and accuses. He deals in lies, shadows and suspicion. We must actively drive out fear by recognizing his tactics and claiming God’s promise. Rebuke spirits of fear. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” I John 4:18 KJV
4. Fear can only be replaced by faith. We need to understand that faith is not something that we can produce in ourselves. Faith is a gift: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. KJV The Christian's faith is a confident assurance in a God who loves us, who knows our thoughts and cares about our deepest needs.
Too often we quake in our boots over fears-real or imagined. You can’t talk yourself out of being afraid. Picture God, shining and strong. Picture yourself, safe in His arms. Don’t let the past cripple you or the future frighten you. Experience God’s peace and protection today.