Fear is the emotion I hate the most. In my experience, it is the most debilitating. My other emotions come and go, but fear hangs around like a bad smell. No amount of opening windows, burning my scented candles, or plugging in my air freshener makes it go completely away – my feeble efforts just cover it up. For this reason, fear is one of the enemy’s most effective weapons against me (and you) which is probably why God addresses it so often in His Word. Quite often, God’s first statement to human beings He is interacting with is “Fear not.”
Fear is the subject of this blog because for the past several years this has been God’s top priority in my sanctification process. I had no idea that fear and anxiety were such consistent and influential companions until the Holy Spirit took me through a series of events that revealed how shaky my faith in God really was. Rick emphasized in his message February 9th, that God is the only person we can trust. We are ill-equipped to deal by ourselves with all the problems, challenges, losses, and messes so common in a fallen world.
The series of events started with God moving my only daughter and her family to Rhode Island from Southern California – probably the longest distance two people can be separated and still be in the continental U.S. I lingered two years in CA after they moved because I couldn’t figure out an easy and comfortable way to relocate. My past experiences proved worthless. No doors opened for paid employment in RI. My work environment at the university became increasingly hostile, even though my division was very profitable. In the fall of 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and Marg’s dad died of bone cancer. A month after my surgery, I had a serious accident involving a large pane of glass and the ER, and was on crutches for over six weeks. Life felt like one disaster after another.
Looking back, I saw the truth of Romans 8:28. God used the series of disasters for my good.
First, as a wake-up call to get me to finally move across country. I gave notice after Thanksgiving, packed my house in two big PackRat containers, had my car loaded on a transport truck, and flew to Rhode Island (encountering some major glitches in the moving process along the way.)
Second, I discovered that, although I had some faith in God, He was in major competition with my high level of trust in earthly things. When faced with the loss of family, health, friends, job/career, home, I became panic stricken. The moving costs were enormous. Fear was a great paralyzer. Every decision was agonizing. I saw just what a fearful wreck I really was beneath my façade of being in charge and in control. I literally had no choice but to leave things in God’s hands and trust everything would work out OK. I discovered I was afraid of a lot of things and the Holy Spirit was patient, tender, and wise as He worked to uncover the lies and renew my mind with the Truth.
I was afraid of being alone and He reminded me that God promises to “never leave or forsake me.” (Deuteronomy 31:6,8, 1 Kings 8:57, Joshua 1:5, 1 Chronicles 28:20). Jesus reminded His disciples (that’s us) that He would be with them “always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
I was afraid of being punished for my mistakes and frustrated I couldn’t do everything perfectly and He reminded me that “There is therefore now no condemnation in those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). He also reminded me that I was used to depending on the conditional love of other people rather than the perfect love of God – “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
I was afraid of lack and doing without and He reminded me to “keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5) and that “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that have all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”(2 Corinthians 9:8)
I was afraid of failing in my endeavors and despised my helplessness and He reminded me that God prefers to demonstrate His strength through my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) and that the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven are those that love, trust, and depend on God as children would their loving Father. (Matthew 18:3-4)
I was afraid of being abandoned and neglected and having no one to turn to for help and He reminded me of the importance of “casting all your anxieties (worries, concerns, fears) on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)
I found myself caught up in the past and obsessing about the future and He reminded me to live in the present – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)
I was operating out of my old nature and He reminded me that I am a “new creation in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7).
I also spent a lot of time reading and reviewing Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 6:25-34 where He reminded His followers of the extent to which God cares about His creation and the uselessness of worry. He specifically mentions the things that the Gentiles – unbelievers – strive after, seek out, and worry over: What am I going to eat, what am I going to drink, what am I going to wear? (I would add where am I going to live?) Jesus points out that if God feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field – both of which are of much less value to the Father than His human children – why would He not provide everything we need?
Now when the old dragon rears its head and fear floods my system, I stand on Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous Right Hand.”
I also love one of Paul’s final exhortations in his letter to the Philippians (chapter 4 vv.4-7) – rejoice in the Lord, do not be anxious about ANYTHING, present every situation and circumstance to God with a grateful heart, and get ready to experience the peace of God which passes all understanding because you have placed your burden in the hands of the One who can carry it.
You will have to wait until my next blog to hear about how God handled the situation where, during a recent ice storm, a large pine tree branch fell two stories and landed on my car, busting out the back window and t-boning the rear passenger side door. . . .