And they will come. Fear will always find a way into our brains, our lives, our hearts. How could it not? We were not made for this world. We were made for so much more, and fear is a direct result of the fact that we know this world is unpredictable and mean. That people will let us down sometimes, crappy things will come into nice days, and (at some point) we will lose the people we love the most. Of course we will fear.
But…when the fears come…whether they sneak in slowly or hit us like a tidal wave, we have a choice as to whether or not we will let the fear grip us. We don’t have control over the things that creep into our minds, but we do have a choice over what we will do with them once we are there.
So, what then, do we do? We know that God asks us to be brave, be strong, and do not be afraid. But then what?
I constantly sift through the Bible for answers, for stories to show me hints and glimmers into the fuller life God wants for me. This week I found Saul. Once the chosen and anointed first king over Israel, Saul soon literally feared his way all the way to death. Success came upon him, but when failure threatened he feared. In 1 Samuel 15:24 “Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave into them.” Later on in 1 Samuel 18:12 “Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul.” Saul became a slave to his fears, acting only in accordance to what he thought could solve the problems his mind came up with. He committed his life to killing David, running always faster away from God and towards the ever changing, unreliable paths that his own fears created. As I thought on this more, I wondered…how Saul-like have I been in response to my fears?
Somehow I bought the lie that the only way out of fear is trying to fix it. Whatever the “it” is, my brain needs to find a way to make it better and so I react. Hence my extensive research on how to escape from sinking cars, understanding the tell tale signs a shark is around, and obsessively studying parents magazines to learn how not to mess up my children. And what about learning I would lose Gideon? Fear led me down roads that literally had me paralyzed with fear and sadness and at every “action” point I tried to take I found myself at a dead end. My Saul like fear actions finally caught up to me and it was either let the fear eat me alive or…find another way. There had to be another way.
David was the man Saul was trying to kill, and yes, David was very afraid too. In Psalm 55:4-5 David cries out:
My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.” And for some reason I find that this comforts me so! To see that fear is not associated with weakness and frailty, and that I don’t need to be ashamed when I afraid. To see that Saul feared, David feared, and yet they both handled it so differently. Psalm 56 :3-4 David goes on to say “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” And so, when I am afraid God I will trust in you.
It takes time and practice and a willingness to fight. But here are some David inspired steps that help me when fears come:
-Ask God to listen. Loud and clear, with boldness, let God know you need His full attention.
-Tell Him you are afraid. You might feel like it goes without saying, but there is power in confessing “I am terrified.”
-Unpack your crazy. For David this looked like literally asking God to kill Saul dead in his tracks. For me this looked like telling God, in detail, what I did not want Gideon to be like when he came. What I didn’t think I could handle and what I wanted God to do.
-Acknowledge God’s promises. The Bible is full of them, here are a few that I love…you might have your own. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.” Psalm 55:22 “In all your ways remember Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:6 “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
-Claim your trust in God. Say it. Mean it. Psalm 55:23 “But as for me, I trust in you.”
-Give God thanks. There is always something to be thankful for.
-Leave your fear there. Tomorrow it might be back, but for today? Leave. It. There.
Do you have examples in your own life of acting on your fears like Saul or trusting God with your fears like David?