God’s Love is Stronger Than Fear
After hours of questions and abuse Dan was thrown into prison. Alone in his cell, the reality of his situation began to sink in. Dan prayed, “God, where are you?” He began pacing back and forth and banging on the walls. “I had never felt fear so intensely in my life,” recalls Dan. Throughout the night he went to the bathroom every fifteen minutes though he had not drank anything. He could not stop shivering, moving, or crying. The first three days he did not sleep, even for a minute. The only things he felt were fear and abandonment by God.
Dan was a missionary who joined Youth With A Misson (YWAM) in 1988. He lived and traveled in Central Asia, spending several years in Afghanistan and Turkmenistan where he worked as a volunteer for an eye hospital helping the Afghani people. In 1997, Dan went on a two week visit to Iran to share about the love of Jesus. While trying to return home, Dan and his friend were detained at the border and their passports were taken from them. Dan was arrested on false charges of espionage which eventually led to two death sentences on his life. Two weeks into his imprisonment, his faith was at an all-time low. “I had fleeting thoughts of suicide during the first days of imprisonment, but now it felt like suicide was my only option, the only way out,” shares Dan. Eventually fear won and he attempted to drown himself in the sink of his cell. On his final attempt something within Dan broke. As he lay on the ground crying uncontrollably Dan saw a vision of Jesus standing before him more beautiful than words could ever describe. He stretched out His hands toward Dan and reached underneath him saying, “I will carry you through this time.” The vision ended and Dan found himself alone in his cell. As he sat there meditating on what happened he became aware of God’s mercy in his life. Any thought of suicide was now gone from his mind. Dan says that day, Jesus rescued him from himself. After nine weeks in prison Dan was released.
Eighteen months after his imprisonment, Dan decided to return to Afghanistan. He tried to return a year earlier but fear overcame him and he canceled his trip. Before boarding the bus Dan prayed and asked for God’s protection. “The more I am overwhelmed by Jesus and put my focus on Him, the more I find the power to obey Him and do what He asks – whether or not my fears ever leave,” shares Dan. In 2009 Dan went to Israel. He again was detained and questioned about his stay. He began to have flashbacks of his prison experience in Iran. Memories of torture, beatings and the fear of death from twelve years earlier came flooding to his mind. Dan prayed and called out to Jesus for help. Instead of sending Dan back to prison the guards escorted him directly to his flight gate. Safely on the plane, Dan burst into tears. He was thankful for Jesus’ miraculous intervention.
TRIALS AND FEARS
Dan shares another story of how Jesus saved him from death in the mountains of Afghanistan. He was leading a medical team into a remote area to provide service to the villages. They hiked for two days to a base camp at about twelve thousand feet. As they passed through a clearing, they walked onto a huge boulder. Suddenly, Dan lost his footing and began to slide down the edge of the boulder. He was quickly approaching a five hundred foot drop. He knew he was going to die. In desperation, Dan reached his right hand up, grasping for anything. He caught two blades of grass and a thin root sticking out of a crack in the stone. Amazingly, he came to an abrupt halt – the root and grass held. Once he realized he was still alive he pulled himself up by strategically placing his hands in the cracks of the boulder. Dan knew Jesus had saved him. Three years later, at a YWAM conference in Colorado Springs, his friend asked if his life was in danger three years ago in the month of August. Dan recalled his close brush with death. His friend shared with Dan how God had woken her up in Brazil and told her to pray for him, to pray that angels would save his life. They were both amazed at God’s incredible love, power, and protection.
God also spared Dan’s life when he contacted a life threatening illness, hepatitis. He was exposed to the disease while working in a medical clinic in Afghanistan. He was diagnosed with the disease when he was back in America. His doctor said it was the worst case of hepatitis he had ever seen. Overwhelmed with the reality that he could die soon from the disease Dan quickly became depressed. He went home and cried. Later that evening, his mom and sister came over and prayed for him. Over the next three weeks Dan got better and eventually made a full recovery. He knew God had healed him. Dan returned to Afghanistan after his bout with hepatitis to continue the work God had done for him there.
PERSPECTIVE ON FEAR
Dan says switching his focus from fear to Jesus has been a process and a journey in his life. It has taken time, discipline, and faith. He says God is able to transform our experience of fear into an invitation to deeper intimacy with Him when we allow His love to place our fears into perspective.
- The Reality of Fear - “Getting over” fear is not the ultimate goal of faith. Living to discover God is. “When I have been afraid, it has not been the departure of fear but the knowledge of God that has brought joy, peace, and contentment to my heart,” reveals Dan.
- Fear of Losing Control - God is in control of the world that He created. Our primary responsibility in life is to God Himself, to trust Him and follow His plan. The problem is too many times we desire to feel in control because we want outcomes to be predictable and we want to know where we are headed. The fear of losing control is an invitation to trust God.
- Embracing Our Weaknesses – We do not like to be seen as vulnerable. We do not like our weaknesses exposed; it frightens us. Fear is an open invitation to run to God and so is our weakness.
After returning from Iran, Dan moved to Southern Colorado to join a YWAM training center and began working, training, and discipling young people. In 2007, he continued his discipleship work and moved to Kona, Hawaii where he joined the YWAM training center. Today he spends over half the year traveling and teaching in YWAM, churches and universities, challenging and encouraging people to run after and fall in love with Jesus. The rest of the year he is home at the YWAM Base in Kona, Hawaii, working with the Discipleship Training schools.