This month we have dedicated every post around the theme of fear. Fear can lead us to sin and poor decision-making. It also can drive us towards God. We address these differences in our first post for a month of fear. We realize that along with the ebb and flow of life, different kinds of fears come up. Old ones like to resurface in new ways, and brand new ones are birthed through time, life, experiences and age. So what drives us, and how do we end up living out fear?
On the surface, what am I afraid of? Spiders? Used to be, but it’s more of a dislike today. (Unless they are really really big.) Snakes? Not really those either. A friend of mine and I came across the path of a rattlesnake while hiking in a popular area where I used to live in Thousand Oaks, CA. We definitely jumped back at the warning of its rattle, and our hearts were racing and we were filled with adrenaline, but I wasn’t afraid that it was there. We only wanted to make sure we were out of the reach of a possible strike.
Getting a little deeper, I am afraid of large bodies of water. I like water and swimming and have been to the beaches of Southern California many times in my 17 years of living there. However, I am not a strong swimmer and I don’t like going where I can’t touch the bottom, or where waves can come and either push you under the water or pull you out farther into its vastness. My fear of water plays out in how I think other people should behave or react while in those same situations. When I used to watch my kids go out into the ocean waves, my stomach would churn and do flip flops as I was certain they would get pulled out or pushed under. None of them are afraid out there.
When we take my six-year-old daughter swimming in a pool, I get nervous as she plays and often drops under the water’s surface. She’s the only one who can’t swim yet, and at the same time she still has no fear of being in the water.
Now let’s get a little more real…
…those things that were my guides and measures growing up and well into adulthood. They have haunted me in my past and some led me to make detrimental life choices.
In my past, I have had a fear of people not liking me. For the most part, it wasn’t really a big deal. High school type stuff. You talk about what others want to talk about because then you feel included. You listen to music that your friends, or a boyfriend likes, even if you don’t really like it. Seems like it was always the depressing, yucky, life stinks kind of music too. Never was that something that I really liked!
The problem is that the “little kid” and “high school” type stuff turns into grown up nightmares when it hasn’t been dealt with, kept in check and eventually driven out by the Lord. It’s one thing to listen to music or watch shows that others like in order to please them, until that music, or those movies are things that no one should be putting their eyes, ears and mind to. The transition grows from an unnecessary fear of people not liking you into a fear of man that can then overtake you.
The Bible speaks clearly on the fear of man. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”
For me, because my fears were kept hidden and unchecked, they grew into a lifestyle of trying to please man and not God and then fearing what I couldn’t control because it wasn’t going the way I wanted it to. All of this was highly magnified before I was even 21 years old! I had my first son when I was 18, and I had always just wanted to be in love and be married. When I realized that I was not going to be able to marry my son’s father, I secretly sought out that same recognition, attention, being liked kind of attitude, only this time it was geared towards looking to get married.
I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be loved. I wanted people to not think that I had messed up my life by getting pregnant in high school. If I could find a way to make that happen, to make it all look good on the outside, even if it wasn’t really matching the inside, then I figured that would be ok. I was strong. I was tough. I could handle it and make my life be what I wanted others to believe that it was.
Because I cared about what others perceived, I was willing to ignore relationship red flags, continue to engage in sexual activity, lie or cheat or steal to make things go my way, put on a false image (mostly from myself) and I wanted no one to know about it. All the while, I was not getting what I really wanted, which was to marry my son’s father. I was not looking to God in an honest way, and I was masking my hurts by hurting myself and others further.
I did end up marrying someone else and in that choice, led by fear mixed with a raging stubbornness, I truly did bring a snare…so many snares…upon my life and the lives of my children, family friends and church members.
“But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels.” Psalm 81:11-12
Truth. I love how I have watched God work in my life and in the life of others around me over the years. I don’t necessarily like going through the difficult processes and walking the tougher road, but I am thankful that I was never forced to love and obey God. His hand has ALWAYS been extended, and He was long-suffering alongside me while I did things my way. In retrospect, I can absolutely see why God allowed me to fear man (even though He says not to) and to live with a stubborn heart (again, offering warnings about this kind of hard heart) so that our relationship could be real. I have my very own real understanding of what the Lord was trying to teach me in having a genuine fear of Him. A respect for who He is, what He is capable of and how deeply He loves.
At a time in my life where it seemed everything was crumbling and all that I had thought or known to be true was either stepped away, or proven to be a falsehood, God was there. When I felt alone and afraid in my circumstances, God’s word came in and washed over me with a peace that strengthened me for the battles I would face. As I turned to Him and fell deeper and deeper in love with Him, He showed up in ways that I could never have fashioned on my own. I trusted Him in the storm. I didn’t do things my own way. My fear was now based on my belief in God and a complete reverence in allowing Him to do His job as my heavenly Father.
No longer was I fearful of facing those things that could appear scary and unwanted, because now I knew who I was in the eyes of the Lord. I had no need to fear man any longer. I now could make my decisions based on God’s word and what He said about me. The world can still not make sense around me, yet my response to the unsettling whirl of the appearance of the ways of the world could be of peace, joy and hopeful anticipation in watching time pass and God’s promises unfold in my life.
What does God think of me and of you? And what does He say in His word to us? He says that we are loved. Loved with a love so great that He is willing to forgive me, and you, for anything. Literally anything. It says that He has a plan and a purpose for our lives. He tells me to never fear, but to wholly trust in Him and believe Him at his word.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore, do no be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us I Christ Jesus before time began…” Paul speaks to Timothy here in 2 Timothy 1:7-9, and this speaks to us still today. We do not have, nor do we need, to fear when we are in Christ. We do not need to feel bad or beat ourselves up for the dumb, the hurtful, even the wicked things we have done in our lives. Those are part of God’s story of redemption in each one of us. We will continue to have struggles, trials and face unwanted things in this life on earth, but we can fully trust that God knows and is working out a greater story than we can imagine.
As recently as two weeks ago, as I was nearing the time of my foot surgery, my husband and I went through a roller coaster of insurance nightmare details that were going to either allow me or prevent me from having the surgery. This continued right up until the day before it was scheduled to happen. I noticed myself getting worried and then relieved, trying to figure out how to fix things myself and then relaxing in the arms of my heavenly Father who had each detail under control. The good news is that I was recognizing what was happening and realized that I was wavering in my trust of God with my circumstances. My old fear of things not happening the way I expected them to was peering at me from a distance with a sly grin. I shared with Rob my concerns and brought it all into the light so that we could pray about it all and put the outcome before the Lord. I did this fully knowing that God already knew what the outcome was, and I was submitting “my way” of things going to His way and trusting that regardless. He knew what was going to be best. I was stretched and my faith was tried. I allowed the peace of the Lord to come over me as I watched everything unfold and the details come into place. I was thankful to be able to rejoice even before everything was fully known and allow God to receive all of the glory.
How are you being stretched in your life today when it comes to your fears? Where do you see old patterns of thinking and either unrealistic, or unnecessary fears coming in to distract you from your focus on God? Are you still daily living with fear of some sort? I pray that today you will be wiling to give those fears to the Lord and to trust Him in His sovereignty.
Allow Him to turn your fears of man and the unknown into a fear of Him that drives you deeper and closer to Jesus.