Praying the Bible: When Gripped by Fear

20100430-scared-woman-300x205 Before the Fall there was no fear.  No shame.

When Adam and Eve rejected God’s good for them, a torrent of fear rushed into their souls. Gripped with fear, they tried to hide from God, but to no avail.  All of humanity was thrust into a shameful existence . . . fearful of the Creator, fearful of one another, and fearful of the world which was once a beautiful, welcoming garden.  But God did not leave us alone in fear.

Dear Christian, we have a loving Heavenly Father.  He who did not spare His own Son, but freely delivered him over for us all, will he not also give us all things? (Rom. 8:32).  Since your Heavenly Father has taken care of your greatest need of forgiveness for your sin, will He not also care for all your lesser needs?  Yes, He will for my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:8)  When we truly grasp His great love for us, the grip of fear in our lives is broken.

To Pray When Gripped by Fear:

Psalm 91

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.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find rest; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.  You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.  You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.  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.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.  You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.  When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

For additional resources on Fear, see Resources for Your Walk.

When Sparrows Fall

sparrow back in handThis past week one of my closest friends sent me a link to a sermon from Matthew 10:28-31, “When Sparrows Fall,” given several months ago by her pastor, Britt Merrick, at Reality Church in Carpenteria, California.  I listened to it alone one night, and then I shared it with my husband a couple days later.  It was such a needed and powerful encouragement to both of us that I want to share it with you, too.

After a leave of absence from the pulpit for ten months, Pastor Merrick shares with his congregation the lessons he learned as his eight-year-old daughter, Daisy, continued to battle cancer.  During his sabbatical from the ministry, Merrick learned that in his darkest hours, the question to ask was not “Why?”, but rather “Who?”  Speaking from experience, but even more importantly speaking from the Word of God, he genuinely and passionately offers the hope and encouragement that is only found in the presence of our heavenly Father. 

Are you in a dark hour?  Are your trials (in the family, work, ministry, or your own heart) so heavy and heartbreaking that you cannot seem to find your way? Remember what Jesus said: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. . . So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Please listen . . . and find Rest for your weary soul.

God in the Storm: Jonah 1

This past week I was in a storm.  It was not a storm of wind and rain.  It was a storm of the heart and mind.

I was despairing and angry about my circumstances.  I was facing a dilemma for which I had no solution . . . and that just frustrated me to no end.  I did not run to the Lord.  Instead, I fled from His wisdom and peace by sailing away in my fears and discontentment.  The storm grew, and I was sinking.

By no chance, I have been studying the book of Jonah with some dear friends.  Near the end of our hour together this past Saturday morning, the question was posed, “What did you learn about God from studying Jonah 1 this week?”

As I sat back and listened to their answers, I was convicted.  And I was comforted.  I would like to summarize for you some of the answers that were shared around my dining room table as these women recounted who God was in the storm of Jonah 1—and in the storms of their own lives when they also have fled from the Lord.

1.  God is sovereign over the storm.  “The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up” (Jonah 1:4).  Not only did God use the storm, He sent it!  The Creator exercises power and authority over His creation (including calamity), and He is also sovereign over the smallest details of life:  “Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.’  So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah” (Jonah 1:7).  As it says in Proverbs 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the Lord.”

2.  God is present in the storm.  “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.  So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. . . Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, ‘How could you do this?’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them” (Jonah 1:3, 10).  The saying, “He can run, but he can’t hide,” was first attributed to the American boxer Joe Louis, but Jonah was one of the earliest examples of this truth:  You can’t escape the presence of God; His dominion is not limited; He is everywhere, even in your storm.

3.  God is purposeful in the storm.  “He said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea.  Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.” However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them . . . So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging” (Jonah 1:12-13,15).  The storm achieved the purpose for which God had sent it—to get Jonah back on track.  It was not a storm of fate.  It was not a storm of vengeance.  It was a storm with purpose, and God always achieves His purposes in the storms of our lives.  As it says in Isaiah 46:9-10, “I am God and there is no one like me . . . saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish my good pleasure.”

4.  God is mercifully pursuing through the storm. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Ninevah the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me. . . Then the men [sailors] feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. . . And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:1, 16,17).  God pursued Ninevah.  God pursued the sailors.  God pursued Jonah.  It was a storm of correction and discipline, redemption, and declaration.  In His mercy, not because of any merit of their own, God went after these people to show them the error of their ways, to pour out His grace upon them, and to declare to them the greatness of His name.  Likewise, the Lord pursues us in our storms.  What a tender mercy.

Quit Listening and Start Talking!

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.

Somebody is talking. Who is talking? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.’…

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’– what business have you to be disquieted?

You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’– instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.

Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.’”

–D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965/2002), 20-1.

Truth for the Journey: Why are You Afraid?

Last night, I woke several times with concerns for various people and situations.  As my mind wandered the halls of worry and fear, the Holy Spirit repeatedly reminded me of Jesus’ words that I read yesterday in Mark 4.

In Mark 4:35-41, the sky over the Sea of Galilee had become dark and stormy.  Clouds gathered, winds blew, and the sea began to rage.  The disciples’ fishing boat was no match for the power of the tumult.  Fear gripped the men on board, and they were frightened for their very lives.  Their end seemed sure.

Quite peacefully, Jesus slept in the boat.  As a reminder of His humanity, we find Him exhausted after days of rigorous ministry.  The storm did not wake Him, but the cries of His disciples rose Him from His slumber. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” they cried.

Without fanfare, Jesus turned to the sea and wind and commanded them with the simple words, “Hush, be still.”  They obeyed.  Then turning to His disciples, He asked a most poignant question,

“Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”

For many days, these men had been watching Jesus’ every move and listening to His every word. They had seen Him perform miraculous wonders. They had heard Him teach with unmatched authority.  And yet, in their moment of need, their faith was trumped by fear.

And now, as their boat gently rocked on a sleepy sea below a smiling sky, they stared at Jesus with amazement.  They quietly asked one another, “Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

We know who Jesus is.  In His Word, we have read of His humanity and deity, His words and works, and His suffering and glory.  In our own lives, we have experienced His salvation, presence, provisions, and blessings—both physical and spiritual.  Because of what we have seen and heard, we declare with Peter that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).  How is it that we know all this, and yet at times we can become so afraid?  How is it that we choose to fear instead of trusting Jesus, that He—in the fullness of His power, wisdom, and goodness—will care for all of our concerns?

Is this convicting?  Yes.  Is it condemning? No.  For the same God who spoke, “Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?” is the same God who promised, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  Jesus was patient with His disciples.  He understood their place of weakness, but that is not where He left them.  By His grace, He grew their faith.

Jesus is patient with our lack of faith, too.  He graciously proves His care for us over and over again.  Our seas of concern and worry present no challenge to the Lord of heaven and earth.

And in that I rest.