Posted tagged ‘Flying Fear’

A Fear of Flying

January 6, 2011

I’m writing this post on the one year anniversary of our trip to Hawaii. We were living in Reno, NV at the time. This was a memorable trip for many reasons, such as the breathtaking natural beauty of Hawaii, but also for an event in my life that strengthened my belief in the Almighty God. For some reason, many months before this trip, I got this severe fear of flying. I’m pretty sure it is, as my wife tells me, because of the countless number of hours spent online on youtube watching air crash investigation documentaries such as “Seconds from Disaster” and “Mayday.” I encountered some strong turbulence on a trans-atlantic flight coming back home to NY from India in 2008 and that caused me to do a lot of research online into air crashes and start watching these documentaries on YouTube. What it also did to me was make me realize how many things can go wrong that are out of my control that instilled in me a strong fear of flying.

My wife was looking forward to the trip since we both got bit by the travel bug in the beautiful western states and this was a state that both of us wanted to see. I kept my new-found fear of flying pretty low-key from her and only told her after my fall semester ended at UNR around December 15. We were set to travel from Jan.  6 to 12 and I had to book the tickets soon. I procrastinated in buying the tickets as long as I could. One day after Christmas I just told her about my fear of flying. She was surprised and a little sad at first but then she told me, in her usual humble way, that if I wanted to cancel the trip she would be ok with it. I was sad because I knew she really wanted to go and this was a good opportunity for us since we were living on the west coast and closer to Hawaii and because we could get away from the cold winter in Reno. I decided that I had to do something about it.

I used Google and found that many people shared this same fear and there were many seminars and lectures and cd’s/dvd’s that you could buy to help you “get over” this fear. One promising one that I really thought about seriously was the SOAR program created by a former United Airlines pilot. What was weird was that, here I am, a born-again Christian and I am looking for help in every other place except by going to the God I’ve come to know. When that realization struck, I remember searching online for various audio or video recordings of sermons that addressed the topic of fear. I searched and came across a sermon called Overcoming the Voices of Fear by a man named Carter Conlon. I downloaded the sermon to my computer and must have listed to it 4 or 5 times before the trip.

Listening to that sermon gave me great hope and I decided to go through with the trip putting my faith in God that He will help me somehow get through the flights going there and coming back. I finally booked the tickets only 3 days prior to our departure! Luckily, we still got an OK deal. Well, January 6th came around and we made the drive to Sacramento (that’s where our flight was departing from). We spent the previous night at our cousins’ house in Sacramento and there we found out that the Hawaiian Airlines flight we were scheduled to go on was delayed because of a bird-strike into one of the engines when it was coming in to land from Hawaii the night before. The airline said the delay would only be a few hours and so we headed to the airport to find out more information and wait there. We waited and waited. We found out that the flight was supposed to leave at 7 am was pushed back to 1pm and then to 7pm! Worse, we saw the plane at the gate with it’s engine dismantled and mechanics working on it. I’ve never seen a jet engine opened and being worked on in person before but it is disconcerting thing to see at your departure gate. Especially when you come to the airport with a strong fear of flying!

Our plane being worked on

Our plane being worked on!

Turns out that the jet engine could not be repaired that day and they would reschedule every one for the next day at 7 am. The airlines gave everyone an option of going on a night flight at 1 am by quickly turning around a flight from Hawaii that was set to arrive at Sacramento around 11pm. After much thought and prayer, we decided to take the night flight since it would give us more time to spend in Hawaii without losing an entire day. All in all, we ended up waiting at the airport for over 16 hours! We did get free food vouchers, a $300 voucher per passenger for the inconvenience to be used on a future flight, and we got to spend a few hours in a hotel room to freshen up before our flight. But I was still anxious about the flight and now the anxiety of changing your flight (and some say your destiny) was coming on strong. From the hotel room, we called our parents to let them know our plans. I then called our Pastor in Reno, Pastor Roy Koshy, who is always a comfort when I talk to him. He prayed with us over the phone and assured us that God would be with us and take care of us.

We boarded the plane and I took out my Bible to keep in my lap during the flight. During the 5 hour flight, I listened to Carter Conlon’s one hour sermon about 4 times through the mp3 player on my cell phone. I kept it on till the very last announcement to put away all electronic devices before landing. It was a comfort to me because of the BOLD preaching of Carter Conlon from Psalm 34. He talked about how if you are a believer, you have to believe there is God who is real and is hearing your prayers. He talked about how there are pastors out there today who are not sure of such things and are even more unsure and scared than you when you go to tell them about your fears! He said that a real child of God should not fear anything because they should know there is God who is looking out for them as evidenced by the countless men and women of faith throughout the centuries who relied on Psalm 34. Even David who penned Psalm 34 wrote it from an experience of fear but ends the psalm trusting in God and triumphing over his fears.

Any time I felt turbulence, I clutched my Bible and recited the promises in Psalm 34 in my mind. There was turbulence. I did get scared. But the sermon and the Bible in my hand helped calm my nerves and made all the difference.

We landed safely in Hawaii – albeit 13 hours later than expected – and we had a wonderful week of great weather and breath-taking scenery and events. On the return flight back home, I was more calm than going there. I still clutched my Bible in my lap but I listed to the sermon only once and just dwelt on the words of God in Psalm 34. I was more calm on the flight back even though we had much stronger turbulence (the kind where people even whimpered audibly in fear) on the final approach to land amidst a dark and stormy night at the airport with the most bird-strikes on the west coast. But there I was, calmer than ever! Praise God for such a change! I know it was because there was a power in me that was greater than my fear!

It was a memorable trip by God’s grace. We never had any regrets of not going because I didn’t have to cancel this trip due to my willingness to test my faith. Perhaps God used this trip to test my faith and teach me to rely on Him. What’s amazing is that from this trip, I gave a testimony in our prayer fellowship in Reno in front of everyone of this fear and how I overcame it by trusting in God’s word. God used this trip and created a witness of his power through my experience!  Now that testimony is going out to the whole world through the power of the Internet. Praise God!

I wrote this post for any one else – believer or non-believer – who is experiencing a fear of flying and is looking for a real and lasting solution. I put my trust in a real and living God. Why don’t you trust Him to do the same for you? Listen to the sermon I linked to above if you are in the same situation. Read Psalm 34 or Psalm 91. This worked for me and this is my testimony. I experienced God in real way on this this trip and nobody can take this experience away from me or explain it away because it was my reality.I give all honor and glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has once again proven his existence in my life in a real way and answered my prayers the way the Bible says.

Psalm 34:4

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Postscript: Turns out that unknown preacher I listened to was the Senior Pastor of Times Square Church in New York City. I made a vow that when we return to NY, I am going to see him in person and maybe one day thank him. It turns out that we are now worshiping at Times Square Church about once a month. I’m still holding onto the hope that one day I will thank Carter Conlon in person if God will arrange it.

Sunset in Hawaii

A sunset in Hawaii that we captured