What happens if the thing we fear comes upon us? Will we be destroyed or will it make us stronger? Those questions and others like them have plagued me for most of my life. Unfortunately, being a Christian didn’t really provide the comfort that it should have. In fact, in all honesty, it probably made me feel worse for worrying about it at all because I was aware that the Bible is full of verses that command us to not be afraid over and over again.
“What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.” (Job 3:25)
Deep down, I knew that I didn’t believe that my faith was big enough or strong enough to withstand either what life would hurl my way or what God would allow me to endure.
“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
Swapping out the word “wondering,” to “fearing,” in the above quote by C.S. Lewis would be a more accurate reflection of my ability or, more accurately, my inability to trust God!
What Did I Fear?
As a child my fears were primarily concerned with what would happen if I weren’t good enough, both at home and at school. Inexpressible fears for my safety occurred due to being sinned against; I feared the dark and not being in control.
When I grew older I dreaded all the usual things that keep people tossing and turning at night: illness, financial ruin, death of a loved one, and so on. The addition of a husband and children provided endless opportunities for worry.
As if that weren’t enough, I had my faith-based fears to keep me anxiety ridden with the most worrisome being that I would somehow irrevocably disappoint God.
It haunted me, this nagging sense that when it really mattered most I would fail to please my Heavenly Father, the one Being I most wanted to honor. In short, I doubted my salvation. I was tormented because I thought I was doing all the right things and still… the fear lingered and I didn’t know what to do about it.
I longed for the reassuring words of refuge and protection found in Psalm 91 to be true for me.
“He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.“
But the fact was that I did fear, “the terror of night,” and, “the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,” not to mention the “plague that destroys!” So I tended to identify with the wicked because I knew in my heart of hearts that fear was my constant companion. All that claiming scripture and praying harder did was reinforce the feeling that I was somehow not appropriating God’s word effectively.
Without a doubt, I was not experiencing the promise found in Romans 8:15.“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'”
The Results of Fearing
A lifetime of fearful living cannot be sustained without negative consequences.
I became weary. My faith journey felt like an act that I no longer had the strength or interest in performing anymore. During this time of disillusionment God used His Holy Spirit to reveal that I had allowed fear to consume me. It had become an idol that I looked at and worshipped more than I looked towards and worshipped Jesus. To me, fear was infinitely vaster and more powerful than God.
When Jesus showed me that fear was a sin that I had been allowing to control me, He also broke through the darkness in my mind that had doubted God’s ability to keep me safe in His love.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Sweet relief became mine as I released my fears to Jesus in confession and repentance. The difference in outlook that I experienced when the oppression I had lived under for so long was finally gone is indescribable!
Slowly, the first two verses of Psalm 91 began to make sense.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
The Secret of Not Fearing
Finally the light dawned on me that it really is possible to dwell in His shelter; not just make a mad dash to it when I need help in an emergency. Psalm 91:9-10 go on to make the point even more clear… “Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place – the Most High, who is my refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.”
Before, I was living or dwelling in fear. It’s no wonder that I was such an anxious mess all the time! But just as the reality of living outside God’s presence is endlessly frightening, the opposite is also true. Abiding in Christ is endlessly joy filled; it’s a deep soul satisfaction available to those who say, “yes,” to the promises God that can only be found in Jesus, and “no,” to harboring fear within our hearts.