While living in Third-World countries as a global worker, I have been blocks away from shootings and bombings, been in a rickshaw on the road when a riot started, and seen a robbery at knifepoint.
Still, nothing compared to the day I found a 5-foot snake in my closet.
We were living in tropical Southeast Asia. In the two years we had been there, we had experienced plenty of rats, mosquitoes, and lizards in our home, but I had never seen a snake—even outside.
That week my husband was in another part of the country. I was at home; my Asian friend Naomi was there too. I went into my bedroom and opened my wardrobe to find a piece of clothing. After I opened the door, I accidentally touched something that felt, well, yucky.
A long, long snake was hanging in my closet!
I jumped back and then ran to the other side of the room. When I turned around, the snake had not moved. It was just hanging in the wardrobe like a long belt.
What in the world?
My first thought was that it was plastic, and my husband had hung it there as a joke. Why else would it just be hanging there?
So, I sent him a text message: “DID YOU PUT A SNAKE IN MY CLOSET??? YOU KNOW I AM TERRIFIED OF SNAKES!!”
He called me right away. No, he had not put a snake in my closet. He would not do that, knowing how scared I am of them.
As nice as it was to hear that my husband was not that insensitive, my next thought was, “Uh-oh, that means that is a real snake!”
So now what was I supposed to do?
I was not brave enough to touch it again, so I left the room and went to find my friend Naomi. “There is a snake in my closet!” I said.
Naomi followed me back into the room. When she saw the snake, she reacted about the same way I had, then went across the street and asked a neighbor for help. The neighbor came, looked at the snake, and asked if I had any salt.
I got some salt, gave it to him, and he threw it at the snake.
I did not know what was supposed to happen. So we all stood there for a moment, staring.
Naomi wanted our neighbor to take a stick and just kill the thing.
“I cannot kill it,” he said. “I am a Muslim.”
I wanted to say, “Well, you are a big help.”
Eventually he got a stick and with it captured the hanger, shirt, and snake. He then took the whole tangled mess outside. There we discovered the snake was dead. Apparently it had slithered through a small label in one of my shirts, and when it tried to get back out, it could not. Basically, the snake choked itself to death.
This was a matter of great interest. Soon the neighborhood kids came to see and poke the dead snake. Later a friend asked if he could take it home.
“Sure,” I told him. I certainly did not want to eat it.
Eventually, I found out why my neighbor was not allowed to kill snakes. Islamic folklore in our country fears that evil spirits sometimes take the form of snakes, and your children might be cursed if you kill one near your home.
What is the way to tell if it is only just a snake? Throw salt on it. If it moves, it is a real snake. If it does not move, it is an evil spirit.
Now, whether my snake visitor was an evil spirit or not, I will never know. What I do know, however, is that one of my worst fears had found its way into my room—and we never did find a hole big enough for a snake to get inside.
That night, as I got ready to go to bed, I should have been terrified. Did my snake have any friends or family out looking for him? Would another one come?
It would have been normal and reasonable to feel genuinely afraid—except, amazingly, I did not. I, who am terrified of snakes, and had been struggling with fear in general since my husband had left town, was not afraid.
Why not? The danger was real. That snake had been slithering around in my bedroom while I was sleeping and blissfully unaware. Why not be afraid?
The reason was simple. By God allowing the very thing I feared into my life, He showed me in a very real way that He is my Protector. He is taking care of me. No matter how helpless I am, I never need to be afraid.
God allowed that snake into my closet and caused it to hang itself! If God would do that for me, of what did I have to be afraid?
I have heard that God tells us 365 times in His Word not to fear—one for each day of the year. When God says something once, it is inspired. When He says it two times, it is very important. If He says something over 300 times, I am guessing that means He really, really means it. He does not want us to fear.
Why? Because fear is the opposite of faith. Fear means we do not think God is big enough, or strong enough, or cares enough to do what is best for us. Believers living in fear are misrepresenting God to the world. Furthermore, they are missing out on the abundant life Jesus intended for all of us.
God does not want His children going through life afraid. He wants us to trust Him in faith. At first, faith is often a conscious choice. I make the choice to trust God, by faith, and then let God take care of my feelings. When I do find myself afraid, a good verse to quote out loud is, Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you (Psalm 56:3).
Then I remind myself that my God is bigger and more powerful than anything that comes my way. Nothing takes Him by surprise, and nothing makes Him afraid. Not even a 5-foot-long snake—and any friends he happens to have!
Question to consider: How have you had to put Psalm 56:3 into practice where you are?