Fear Factor. Some of you may not know the show but it’s one that has been on TV in the past few years. I can’t say I’ve ever watched an episode in its entirety but I’ve seen enough to know the idea. Basically people come on the show to face their fears whether it is mice or spiders or heights or whatever. People have some pretty strange fears. As you can imagine the show is laced with plenty of drama, but I would expect nothing less on prime time TV. I often wonder, when these people go home, are they still afraid of whatever they faced on the show? I bet they are. I don’t know many people who can face a fear one time then handle it with ease on the next encounter. You see, I am deathly afraid of mice. It’s really quite silly. I know they are harmless but my imagination tells me otherwise. I know God made mice for a reason. I know they have a purpose (besides being eaten by cats I’m not sure what that purpose is). I know these things. But I’m still ridiculously afraid of them. And I’m certain holding a mouse on TV one time would not cure me of my silly but very real fear. I’ve told some of you before about the time Trevor casually said “mom, did you see that squirrel over there?” referring to a mouse that made its way into our home through the garage as we were unloading the van after a weekend away. He was about three years old and the story ends with me restlessly standing on a chair screaming at the top of my lungs, yelling at the three oldest kids (who were in the range of 3 to 6 years old at the time) to “hurry! get on my bed! run!” which caused all three of them to shed a lot of tears. They didn’t know I was freaking out over a hungry little mouse who was just trying to find something to eat. And then Travis came running upstairs to my rescue and said “what is going on up here?”. You can imagine his displeasure when he realized I was causing much unneeded fear for our kids over a simple mouse.
But life is like that. A squirrel comes into our lives and makes us restless. We imagine all kinds of scenarios that just might possibly play out. We wrestle our thoughts, we plan every scenario possible. We work ourselves up. Oh I get it. Sometimes those fears actually do come to fruition and life gets hard. Real hard. But other times we are our own worst enemy. Because we allow the real enemy just enough room to sneak in. To steal our joy. To recklessly take over and fill our thoughts with those four simple letters – F.E.A.R. Yet God’s Word is full to the brim with promises of peace. With love. With His covering over us. Yet I find it is often much easier to get caught up in the fear and the lies than to open my Bible and search out those tried and true scriptures which have proven themselves true in my past. Those same promises that have proven my God to be real. The Bible shows me my Savior who relishes in the moments when I release those fears to Him and rest in His promises.
You would think I’ve learned over the years how to combat this. That I’d have become a master expert at fighting fear. But the truth of the matter is yes, I may know all the verses to recite, but each moment of fear presents itself with different circumstances. And let’s face it. Fear is real. And it’s hard. Really hard to face. Because fear means I’m not trusting my Jesus. Fear means I’m allowing the circumstances of my life, most of which are temporary, to rule me. Fear means my imagination is going wild. Fear means I have a lot of work to do because my level of trust is down and my need to control is in high gear. I’m a work in progress. Aren’t we all! But the one foundation that will never change, the truth that stands the test of time, the knowledge that intersects the emotion of fear is this. God never changes. He doesn’t waver with the tides of the sea. He doesn’t falter with the force of the winds. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And with His steady hand on my back telling me peace is present when all I can see is the fear, the unknown, His gentle presence and the truth of His promises is what grounds me. What envelopes me with peace. His presence is my compass. His truth is my guide. His love is my energy. There is nothing this world can throw at me that I can not get through with my Shepherd. He is the one who leaves the 99 to find the one missing sheep. Oh imagine His comforting hands when He finally finds the one. God is passionate about His people. I can hardly take it in. What a concept that I mean enough to my Shepherd for Him to leave the rest to find me. He rejoices in our weakness. He rejoices when we get up, give up and leave all that fear at His feet. Because He calls us to trust, not control. He calls us to follow, not lead. He calls us to overcome, not give in.
It’s hard. Really hard. This trusting thing is not fun. I’ve spent plenty a night playing the drama acts while cozy in my bed. I lie in darkness and live out every scenario in my mind. It’s amusing the imagination we have when we think of all the ways our situation can go wrong. And then the fear comes to life. It overtakes us, it winds its way through our minds and hearts and souls like pesky weeds in a garden. If we don’t tend our garden, all the work, the fruits of our labor will die because of those weeds. The same can be said for our souls. Fear zaps us of energy. It fades our strength. It diminishes our faith. It robs our joy. It steals our witness. Trusting God in the midst of unknown circumstances takes work. And a lot of it. It’s like training for a marathon. We must train our minds to focus on the eternal promises of God instead of focusing on the daily events that may occur. I have found, especially in the past couple of months, the only way to combat fear when I am down in the dumps, feeling sorry for myself, letting my imagination go wild, forgetting the promises of God, allowing hurt to overtake me is to say the name of Jesus. There is nothing more powerful than the name of Jesus. And it works. When I catch myself in the self made pit of fear and despair, all I have to do is say the name of Jesus. Over and over and over again. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. His name is power and peace and comfort and truth. His name is the slap in the face I need to jolt me out of my despair. Because it works. Because God works. My situation may not be over, my hurt may still be present, my fear may once again take root at some point, but in that moment, God shows up and I know I am safe. I know He loves me. I know He is Jehovah Shammah – the Lord is there. And He is. He is there in my future. He is there up the road preparing the way for me. He is there bringing the answers that I can’t see today. He is there waiting to comfort me in the days and weeks and months to come. He is there waiting for me to praise Him in whatever I will face in the moments that I have not come to yet. He is there bringing others onto my path He intends for me to encounter. He is intentional like that. Because we are not on this journey for ourselves. We are all on this journey to show others who He is. These verses are some of my favorite. They are my tried and true recipes of life. I love to fill God’s Word with my own name, with my own circumstances. It makes it personal. It makes His Word come to life. Because His Word is for each of us.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified of ________, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can Man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6)
The Lord is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
But the angel said to you, Do not be afraid, Kim, you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hands and says to you, do not fear, Kim, I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13)
Let’s pray for each other. Many of us are hurting. Facing difficulties that weigh us down. Situations that seem impossible. Facing fears of what may happen. Literally fighting for our lives. Dealing with difficult people. The list goes on and on. But one thing I know to be true no matter what the details of our lives look like, no matter what circumstances today brings. God is good. He is always good. His ways are so much better than ours. He doesn’t need our help. He needs our trust. He is gracious when we make mistakes. He is loving when anger finds us. He is forgiving when we fail. His arms are strong enough when grief overtakes us. Call on his name with me and experience Him for yourself. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
Romans 10:13 – Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.