“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” Deut 30:19
The Bible tells us over 365 times to fear not – do not be afraid.
The Lord knew we would fear. He knew things would go bump in the night. He knew we would worry about our daily bread, the health of our family. He knew we would be faced with illnesses and national insecurity. He knew the world would become a dark and scary place and we would have valid reasons for wanting to shelter in and protect.
There are legitimate things to be aware of. We need to be aware of how racism forces people to be extra vigilant. We need to be aware of how hatred moves some people to behave. We need to pay attention when our children complain of pain or when we notice something not right. We need to take care of ourselves and make each day count.
But we cannot let the things we need to be cognizant of become fear that overwhelms our life.
It’s reminding ourselves, and resting in the fact, we are not alone in things.
In all the cases when the Bible says, “do not fear” it is attached to a statement of God’s presence, protection, or provision.
…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (Gen. 15:1)
And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” (Joshua 10:8)
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Ps. 118:6)
Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. (Gen. 46:3)
Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:7)
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
The only fear we are supposed to have is a holy fear of God. That is not a cowering in the corner, fear of retribution, living under a vengeful ruler fear. It is not the fear of a dark alley, or if a venture will work out, or what will happen to our kids during this time. It is not focusing on anything but what will happen from this global pandemic and time of social distancing and isolation.
The fear of God is a reverence. It is humility. It is acknowledging His is God and I am not. It is turning our eyes from what we fear and putting in on the One who made it all to start with.
It is trust. It is acknowledging that all our worry changes nothing! It causes us a lot of anxiety and missed opportunities.
It is lifting our eyes up.
Let God Handle the Big Things
God wants us to feel safe. He wants us to know that we are not alone. He does not want us to deny pain, that things hurt, or that we face uncertain times. He wants us come to Him and admit where we fear:
- Lord, I don’t know how we’re going to buy food next week.
- Lord, I am scared these test results will be bad.
- Lord, I live in fear of something happening to the ones I love.
- Lord, the state of our nation scares me.
- Father, what happens if…..
God promises to take our fears, cares, worries and to give us comfort if we are willing to leave them at His feet! It might not change the outcome – but all your worry, anxiety and scheming won’t do that either.
What Does Your Fear Actually Do?
We cannot stop the bad things from coming. What we can do is spend time getting to know a God who can give us incredible peace in the midst of uncertainty. It can enable you to value people more, love more freely, and be there for those at a higher risk.
To reject fear takes relationship. It takes time in silence with the Father. It takes a true acceptance that we are not God. We are in control of nothing but our reactions. Worry cannot do anything but rob us of what He has repeatedly promised to give us.
I will admit, I have to remind myself of this almost daily. Especially when everything around us tells us to fear.
I watched my father go into cardiac arrest in November. He survived and has made a miraculous recovery, but that moment haunts me. If I am not careful I can convince myself that those closest to me are one breath from dying.
The state of our country scares me. If I do not stay in the Word I can be convinced that we are one inciting incident from another civil war and that everyone not like me is the enemy.
If I am not careful, watch the news too much and let my mind wander, I can convince myself that this cataclysmic pandemic will wipe out a third of our population and leave our world in ruins.
Truly trusting God gives us perspective. It allows us to acknowledge our fears and function in spite of them. Not in anxiety but in truth, love, and peace.
How do we do this? Admit that we are scared. Take every thought captive.
Take Every Thought Captive
We have the choice to not live in fear and anxiety. We can stop the spiral of our scariest outcomes. We do not have to watch the news 24/7 and live in a petrified state.
It is a choice to turn off the TV and open the Word. It is a choice to get off Facebook (get – off – Facebook!!!) and pray.
We do have a choice. We are not defenseless. Gathering more info will not make us more in control or empowered. It will only lead us to more fear.
Write down Bible verses that tell you to put your trust in God. Write down all of His promises to be with us, to never leave us, that He has got this. (Note: he does not promise we won’t go through pain and uncertainty, only that He is there). Every time you feel anxious, scared, fearful, etc. say these verses OUT LOUD. If the fear comes again, say it again.
Get on your knees, every time an anxious thought comes – pray it to God and leave it with Him.
Take every thought captive. We are not our emotions and not every reaction is valid. We do have the power to evaluate, discern, and dismiss our thoughts. Replace your fear with validations of who God is. Listen to worship music and just be still.
Now, I will admit reading this it might seem silly, or “where is the power in that?” See it like running for a marathon. Today you can run a quarter of a mile without stopping (way to go!). Keep training and next week it will be half a mile, then two miles! Soon you will be able to do nine then, eventually, the marathon!
Don’t pray once and then give up because you are still anxious. You are building your trust muscle here. It will take time, discipline, and belief – but if you take every thought captive and choose to take in something life giving, you will find that fear will lose its sting and anxiety becomes far more manageable.
This is what it means to choose life today.
Journal + Prayer:
Find a small box, a jar, a mason jar, etc. Decorate it in a way that makes you smile. Use stickers, magazine clippings, Bible verses, photos of your family. Make it something you feel joy when you see it.
Take some scraps of paper. It can be cut 3×5 cards, scraps you tear from a larger piece, anything you have.
On each piece write something that is causing you fear or anxiety. It can be a person’s name. It can be a situation. Whatever it is that makes you want to shrink back. If you want you can draw something around that situation – a face, a building, an emotion, a symbol. Make this as personal as it needs to be.
Then get quiet. If you want worship or instrumental music in the background that is okay. But no TV, no podcasts, nothing that will stop you from feeling this. If we are going to lay down our fears and anxieties we need to acknowledge and feel them.
Do what you need to do for this space to feel safe.
Take several deep breaths – in for 5, out for 6. Feel the air in your belly, then your chest and finally your throat. Do this until you feel calm and okay.
Imagine you are sitting with the Father. Where are you? Is it hot, cold, a perfect summer day? Is it night or day? Is there a table? A fire? Are you on a boat? Get a mental image in your head.
What does God look like to you? There is no right or wrong here. Let God be what you need.
Slowly, prayerfully go through your papers. Take each one to God and express your request. At the end put the paper into the box. This is your handing it over to God.
When you are done, take some time to just sit and let God minister to you. This will be draining. If you are like me you will want to flee. But instead sit, find a posture that feels good. Stay until you feel like God has what you have given Him.
Then come back, slowly. Take some deep breaths as you become aware of your surroundings again.
When you start to feel fearful, look to that box. God has it. He intimately cares about you and wants you to live free from unnecessary fear. He wants to use that time and energy on things that are good, lovely, beautiful, joyful, living giving, holy.
As you want, go back and review the papers. If you need to add more, do it! If you find that a situation has been resolved for you, destroy the paper. Burn it. Shred it. Tear it into 100 pieces. Do something to get rid of it.
Repeat as needed.