Pray for Ukraine


The Fear of God

May 18th 2023
HART's field project coordinator, Pastor Yevhen Taran, shares some harrowing experiences and lessons he's learned while delivering relief aid to civilians and soldiers on the front lines.

Sometimes paradoxical things can happen to your emotional state, especially during war. Many are saying Ukrainian people are now getting used to the war, and frequent shelling doesn't illicit the same kind of response as it did at the start.

In the war zone, I have witnessed how people react to shelling and the sounds of explosions nearby. Some calmly go about their shopping in the market, others continue to plant their gardens or glance in the direction of the shelling and then go back to whatever they were doing. Recently, such paradoxes have been happening to Ukrainians quite often, and, unfortunately, I can attest to this sort of behavior.

I have seen parents with small children casually walking on the streets of a city while the air-raid sirens were blaring. Those people seemed to have no fear whatsoever, which is not normal! I am convinced that getting used to all the horror around us is not natural in human nature: this state of mind is instead a kind of psychological trauma caused by the war. Sadly, this is the reality in Ukraine today.

Since 2015, I've been delivering aid to the military and civilians in war zones. Whenever I come under fire, which is a frequent occurrence in these areas, in no way do I feel like I am used to it – in reality, I am absolutely terrified.

I remember the first time I came under mortar fire. My first reaction was fear mixed with panic, and my mind raced in a hundred different directions. I was driving a car at breakneck speed on a road littered with mines, which was no less dangerous. If I hadn't had an experienced soldier by my side, I would have probably gotten myself into serious harm, if not death. At that moment, all I wanted to do was stop the car and find someplace to hide underground, but I followed the explicit instructions of the soldier sitting next to me, which saved us. Once we got to a safe place, we quickly got out of the car and hid in the basement of a destroyed house. It was only there that I remembered to pray.

Another time, a pastor friend of mine wanted to go to the war zone with me. It was his first trip. Along one section of the road, Russian snipers started shooting at us. We had to drive on a semi-destroyed pot-holed road at 120 km per hour. At this speed, it is difficult for a sniper to hit a moving target. This dangerous zone was about one km, but it seemed like we went through it in seconds. My friend did not talk at all until the evening, and the next day he was hospitalized for two weeks due to nervous stress.

I would also like to tell you about another fear that I have experienced: it is the presence of God. I was on my way to deliver relief aid to a military unit; however, as I got closer to the location, I realized the road ahead was blocked, and there was no one at the checkpoint. It was already evening and was getting dark, and it was clearly not advisable to be driving in this area, but it was important I get to my destination. As I surveyed the situation, I noticed another entrance to the territory, which for some reason, had barbed wire across the road. I quickly dragged it to the side and drove my van down the road.

After arriving at the camp, I started unloading the vehicle. Two soldiers came up to me and asked me which road I had taken to get there. Suspecting nothing, I calmly showed them where I had come from. The soldiers were visibly shocked and couldn't hide it. They explained to me it was a miracle that I was alive because they had just mined that road with anti-tank mines the day before. According to human logic, I should have hit a mine with 100% probability.

Not knowing about the anti-tank mines, I was driving with no fear at all, but as soon as I found out about the danger and what could have happened to me, I was overcome with a completely different kind of fear, which is difficult to explain – the fear of God's presence. At that very moment, I realized that it was the Lord who had saved me on that road. I experienced a kind of fear because I really felt the presence of God right there beside me.

My latest trip to the war zone was one of the most stressful trips I have ever been on. I got lost on the way because the GPS navigator wasn't working well due to poor cell phone connections. I was trying to find my way by memory and asking local people for help. When I reached one of the villages, I decided to ask for directions. The streets were empty, except for one girl walking toward my van. However, before I could talk to her, she quickly turned and ran in the opposite direction. At first, I couldn't understand why she was running away, but suddenly I heard a deafening whistle - a shell was flying in my direction! A moment later, a powerful explosion made my car shake. A few seconds later, I heard the same sound. All I could do was put my head on the steering wheel and clutched it tightly.

My fear was so overwhelming that I could not think about anything at that moment. I did not think about God or pray, nor did my life flash before my eyes. I just tensed my whole body, expecting an explosion and then death. There was another explosion. I was still alive. Thank God, it was over. I ran out of the car, looking for cover, and immediately saw a Russian fighter jet flying a few meters above my car and firing missiles in the other direction. I realized that I was not the target.

I quickly got into the car and drove away from that place as fast as I could. After driving for a few minutes, I stopped. I was shaking with fear and couldn't drive anymore. Then I began to pray, thanking God for saving me and asking Him to forgive me for not thinking of Him at that moment. Only late in the evening did I calm down and could plan my next steps.

From similar stories that happened in my life and the lives of people close to me, I realized that fear exists and is normal. People react to, and experience fear in different ways. It is common for everyone to feel fear, but it's not natural for us to get used to horrors, suffering, death, and destruction. Therefore, one should not be ashamed of feeling fear. Moreover, we need fear to survive. After all, this emotion gives people a basic sense of self-preservation.

There is another kind of fear: the fear of feeling the presence of God. This emotion is different from fear for life. This state is more like awe, a feeling of the incredible greatness of God who is standing next to you and whose eyes you do not have the courage to look into, falling down before Him in reverent worship. І would like to wish everybody to feel the very same fear – the presence of God. With this feeling, living faith, strength, and victory come into our lives, which Ukraine needs so much now!

Rich blessings to all of HART's supporters. Pastor Yevhen.

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