How I Found Freedom from Fear by Seeking God First Janet Perez Eckles

How I Found Freedom from Fear by Seeking God First

Janet Perez Eckles

With paper towel in hand, I sank to my knees to wipe the puddle of apple juice off my kitchen floor. I paused. The sound of the garage opening cramped my stomach. Not long ago, that same sound had made me smile. My husband, Gene, who loved me, was home from work and I anticipated lovely moments together.

But not now. Not anymore. His recent announcement that he couldn’t go on with our marriage because he found someone else shook my world.

He had someone else. And what I had was his rejection. The car door slammed and moments later, he came into the house. I groped to find the trashcan and tossed the wet paper towel. I turned in his direction and bit my lower lip. Those shoulders I hugged so many times during our eight years of marriage, I now wanted to shake. And that cheek I had kissed so often, I wanted to slap. I wanted to shout, “How could you? How could you betray me this way? Why now when I need you the most?”

But I didn’t. Rather than answers, he had excuses.

“Where are the kids,” he said under his breath.

“Playing in the basement,” I said.

My recent and unexpected blindness caught us both unprepared. At first he showed support during our desperate visits to specialists, to herbal healers, and even acupuncturists. We looked for hope. But instead, found the devastating confirmation that this retinal disease had no cure. And now, neither did our marriage.

Torment and Sleepless Nights

We met in front of his fraternity house in college. Crazy in love, we were wrapped in romantic dreams of happiness. But in a few years, adversity dismantled them and turned them to nightmares.

He plopped his computer case on the countertop and headed to the refrigerator. Silence screamed in that kitchen. No questions about my day, and I offered him no kind words either.

How could love have disappeared like this? We vowed to each other for better or for worse. But I didn’t expect “the worse” to be so painful. I swallowed my tears, pretending to be strong. And I faked smiles before our 3, 5, and 7-year-old sons. Protecting them was my priority.

The moment they heard his footsteps, they dashed upstairs. Among giggles, they called, “Daddy!” They hugged his legs competing who would get his attention first. And although his affection toward them remained, his tender words toward me stopped. But what didn’t stop was the torment that visited me each sleepless night. Soaking my pillow with tears, I asked God time and time again, “What will happen to me? Where are you in this devastation?"

"I was everything but fine."

Adding to my grief, each story about Jesus healing the blind became cruel reminders He had forgotten about me.

“How are you doing, honey?” my mom would call and ask.

“I’m fine,” I lied. I was everything but fine. My marriage and my future had turned black. And though I could use her help, I refrained from asking. She had her own burden as my father who was also losing his sight to the same disease. He carried the gene that I inherited, and now Mom had to help him deal with his blindness.

And as I faced my own, I started each day repeating over and over again, “Help me, God.” And the cry became more intense when I took on the chores—the cleaning, the laundry, and cooking. What had been so simple when I was sighted, now unable to see, they became frustrating and sometimes dangerous.

"And now the next challenge..."

“Mommy, I want to play soccer, here’s a note from my teacher,” my 7-year-old son said as he placed a paper in my hand.

I fought the lump in my throat and leaned down toward him. “Sweet boy, can you read it to Mommy?”

He did. And now the next challenge: how would I get him to practices and games? Relying on neighbors and friends for transportation had a limit.

Pleading for a Miracle

But what had no limit were the tormenting thoughts. One night, as my little guys slept, I sat on the floor, buried my face in my hands and cried out to God, “show me the way out from this darkness, how will my sons grow up with a blind Mom?

My pleas never stopped. I asked and asked again for a miracle. For healing of my marriage. For my eyesight to be restored. For my life to be normal again.

"I received what I hungered for..."

No miracles. No answers. But one day when desperation and despair attacked with even more force, I received an invitation to visit a Christian church.

With tears wetting my cheeks, I held on to my friend’s arm.

She led me to the church pew. I sat beside her with tissue in hand, ready to receive something – anything to ease the heartache.

And I did! I received what I hungered for – not a miraculous healing or my husband appearing remorseful and begging forgiveness. Not at all. Instead, the answer came in one simply powerful verse: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33). God instructed me to seek Him first, and He followed with a promise that He would add all things.

"Calmness ushered in not only reassurance, but also wisdom."

Seek Him first? What I had been seeking first was to be set free from my horror. I felt overwhelmed with heartache when I realized my mistake – I had placed God in a lower priority. I gave a big sigh and vowed to make it right by changing the order of my priorities.

I began to listen to Bible verses and biblical teaching while folding laundry and mopping the floor. Doing this day after day fed my soul and satisfied my longing for peace. With each verse, each teaching, and promise, the veil of confusion and desperation lifted. Calmness ushered in not only reassurance, but also wisdom. I recognized my life was like Joshua’s. He became discouraged about going into a foreign land. I was fearful too because the land of blindness mocked me with terror. But God spoke to Joshua. And he spoke to me too:

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

Changed by God's Love and Strengthened by His Promise

God would be with me in my blindness, loneliness, and sorrow. My heart smiled for the first time. I tossed fear away, and with confidence dancing in my soul, I lifted my head and declared God’s promise: I’d never be alone or abandoned for He would be with me.

With His love by my side, I changed. I wasn’t that hysterical and afraid young woman anymore. Instead, my identity was secure in the conviction that I am a daughter of the King. And blind or not, He loved me. He saw my tears and knew my thoughts. His love washed away my worry about the future.

With worry gone, faith-fueled boldness filled me instead. I had courage to face the heartache.

“I also have someone else in my life – His name is Jesus.”

“You’re free to go,” I said to my husband one evening when he came home late. “I also have someone else in my life – His name is Jesus.”

He said nothing.

“And also,” I added, “our sons and I will be fine. I know God is the only one responsible for my joy. He’s the one who makes me whole. And He will guide and protect me.”

Days later, Gene sat me at the kitchen table. “I made my decision,” he said. “I want to leave everything else behind, and I want to be devoted to you and our sons.

"...and we began to pray together."

I held up my palm like a stop sign. “Wait a minute,” I said. “You and I will never make it together. We have to invite Jesus into our marriage.”

He agreed, and we began to pray together. We talked. We became best friends. We fell in love all over again, and we just celebrated 42 years of marriage.

Today, when I hear the garage door open, I take a deep breath of gratitude. As I hug his broad shoulders, I embrace a new life nourished by courage. And with the eyes of my heart, I see the victory over fear that, ever so sweetly, brings on a new freedom.

"And with the eyes of my heart, I see the victory over fear that, ever so sweetly, brings on a new freedom."

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