Say to those with fearful hearts

At the amusement park, after we’ve parked  the minivan and handed over our passes to be scanned and our bags to be checked, we head for the measuring station .

Only one of my kids still needs to be measured.  My girls have long since passed the point where they can ride anything in the park because of their height.

My son, though, is still tracking his growth progress through wrist band colors.  Each color tells him what he can ride based on how tall he is.

Somehow between the start of summer to the early fall, he shot up through three different colors on the ride chart.   That means technically he can ride his first big roller coaster.

This is thrilling to him.  He announces to each member of the family what color he’s on now.

But when I ask him if he really wants to ride any of the bigger rides—any of them at all—-he says, “I’ll do that when I’m 7.”

He’s taller than he is brave.

I remind him that the colors don’t really matter if we’re not going to ride any of the higher, faster rides, but he’s thrilled just the same.  He celebrates physical growth and that’s enough for him.

Not all of my kids have been like this, but most of them have (three out of the four).  We are timid about these things,  more likely to enjoy the small swings,  the bumper cars and the kiddie roller coaster long after others have moved on to bigger thrills.

We’re not born brave.  We’re  not naturally bold.  Courage isn’t part of our DNA.

(I’m still not a thrill-seeker.  At almost 40 years old, I’d rather not ride any rides at all . Even the spinning teacups aren’t my favorite.)

I can have fun at an amusement park without the speed and the rush and the drops that I hate so much.

But in life, fear can be so  much more crippling than this:  stealing joy, stealing peace, stealing boldness for the gospel and courage for Christ, stealing sleep.   It’s not about preference—rides or no rides.  It’s about fear holding me back from obeying Christ or keeping me from fully entrusting myself, my family, my kids to God.

Sometimes, all the anxiety over taking a next step can be utterly paralyzing.  What I really need to  do is just do  it.  Just take the step.   Just have  the conversation.  Just sign up or just step down.  Whatever God is asking me to  do, I need to do in obedience.   Faith over fear.  Trust over timidity.

Still I waiver so often.

Still I feel that paralysis of indecision and anxiety.

Still I try so hard to keep control over the many things I cannot control.

In the Everyday with Jesus Bible, Selwyn Hughes reminds me of what fear does and why it’s our enemy:

Fear sinks us:  When Peter stepped out of the boat, he “saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord,  save me!'” (Matthew 14:30 CSB).

Fear knocks us down:  When the disciples saw the glory of the Lord at the Mount  of Transfiguration, their fear sent them to their knees.  But, “Jesus came up, touched them, and said, ‘Get up; don’t be afraid.'” (Matthes 17:7 CSB).

Fear hides our treasures and gifts:  The man with one talent in the parable said, “I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground.”  His talent was wasted, buried in the earth and shoved into a hole in the ground because of fear.(Matthew 25:25 CSB).

Fear puts us behind closed doors:  After Jesus’s resurrection, the disciples gathered in secret, “with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.”” (John 20:19 CSB). 

“Fear drives us underground:” Joseph of Arimathea was “a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews” (John 19:38 CSB).

I wonder how often I let fears from my past hold me back in the here and now.  Maybe I’ve grown. Maybe I’ve gone up a few colors on the growth chart, and yet I’m still sticking to the same-old same-old, the easiest and the most comfortable things before me instead of moving on.

Isaiah the prophet said:

Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

Maybe these are words we can speak to fearful hearts around us.

Or  maybe this is the reminder our own fearful heart needs:  “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming….”

It’s because of his presence, His strength, His might, His mercy that we fearful ones can take the next courageous step.

 

Why you don’t have to be afraid

christmas

I remember thinking that I would have done the same thing.

At the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, I picked up a tiny booklet with a name and a story inside.

My booklet told the story of a survivor.

My friend’s, however, did not.  Hers was a mom with a young daughter.  When the death train stopped outside the concentration camp, guards tried to push the crowd into two separate lines: Those who could work and those who could not.

The women could work.

But the kids were considered a burden without benefit, so they were immediately sent to the gas chambers.

This woman, though, refused to be separated from her daughter.  She must have clung insistently, desperately, stubbornly to that little hand.  I imagine her words, “Don’t be afraid.  Mommy’s with you,” even as they walked into death together.

I hope I would have done the same thing.  I’d want to be there with my kids for every frightening, fearful, terrifying thing they might face.

I’ve watched in the school parking lot on those scary days when a school shooting hits the news.  Moms pull the minivans right over, climb out and take a moment to squeeze their children.

We all fear.  I do it, too.  After the news headlines, I want so much to retreat with my kids to a secluded cabin in the woods, my pitiful attempt to protect them from the madness of sin in this world.

Yet, that’s the truth of it all: we live on a sin-scarred planet and while there are hints of beauty here, and there is mercy and grace, there is also pain and sorrow.

So, what hope do we have?

How can we wake day after day, not in defeat, resignation or anxiety, but with the joy of the Lord and the peace of salvation?

The gospel message is all about hope for the hopeless, light in the darkness, joy in sorrow and peace in turmoil.

It’s for those hopeless enough to feel like one more day alive is too much to bear.

It’s for those of us watching the clock at night, too worried about bills and our kids, our marriages, conflicts with family, or problems at work to sleep in peace.

It’s even for a worrier like me, anxious over the little things like birthday parties and church program.

It’s for the daily troubles that we turn into crises and for the life-and-death struggles we sometimes face.

It’s the reminder that God came here to be with us so we wouldn’t be alone, and He will not leave our side.

That’s the hope we have.  Not us alone in a crazy, mixed-up, broken world.  Not us alone facing bills and divorce, depression or stress.

Not us alone against any road-bumps ahead in the new year.

Emmanuel.  God with us.

As it says in Isaiah:

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Fear not.

That’s the loudest message from the Christmas story.  The one grand announcement over and over: “Do not be afraid.”

That wasn’t just God’s plan for our past.  It’s been His passion from the beginning of Creation—to be with us.  It was His driving desire all those years of patiently planning for our salvation through Christ’s coming, His death, His resurrection.

It’s the great passion of God’s heart even now.  In the book of Revelation, we’re told that when the battle is over and Christ establishes His forever kingdom, God will say:

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

We close another Christmas season.  We stop playing the carols.  We pack up the decorations.

We make resolutions and plans for the new year.

But this is what we carry with us; this is the hope we have every single day:

He chose to be with us so we could choose to be with Him.

So we do not need to be afraid of facing anything in this life alone.

God is with us.

30 Bible Verses on Overcoming Fear and Worry

verses-fear

  • Exodus 14:13
    And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again (ESV)
  • Deuteronomy 31:
    Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
  • Joshua 1:9
    Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened,and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • Nehemiah 4:14
    After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
  • Psalm 23:4
    Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  • Psalm 27:1
    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 34:4
    “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
  • Psalm 56:3
    When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
  • Psalm 56:4
    In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?
  • Psalm 91:4-6
    He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
  • Psalm 112:7
    He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
  • Isaiah 35:4Say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, and do not fear,
    for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
    He is coming to save you.”
  • 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.
  • Isaiah 41:13
    “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
  • Isaiah 44:8
    Fear not, nor be afraid;
    have I not told you from of old and declared it?
    And you are my witnesses!
    Is there a God besides me?
    There is no Rock; I know not any.”
  • Isaiah 51:12
    “I, I am he who comforts you;
    who are you that you are afraid of man who dies,
    of the son of man who is made like grass,
  • Jeremiah 1:8
    Do not be afraid of them,
    for I am with you to deliver you,
    declares the Lord.”
  • Zephaniah 3:17
    For the LORD your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
    He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.[a]
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
  • Matthew 6:34
    Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
  • Matthew 10:31
     Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
  • Mark 5:36
    But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” (ESV)
  • Luke 1:74-75
    We have been rescued from our enemies
    so we can serve God without fear,
    in holiness and righteousness
    for as long as we live.
  • Luke 12:32
    “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
  • John 6:19-20
    They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, 20 but he called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!”
  • John 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.
  • Acts 18:9
    And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,
  • Romans 8:38
    And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
  • 2 Timothy 1:7
     for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
  • Hebrews 13:6
     So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
  • 1 John 4:18
    There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

 

15 Bible Verses and a Prayer for Courage

verses-on-courage

  •  Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV
    Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
  • Joshua 1:9 NIV
     Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
  • 1 Chronicles 28:20 NIV
     David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.Do not be afraid or discouraged, for theLord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.
  • 2 Chronicles 32:7 NASB
    Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him.
  • Psalm 16:8 NASB
    I have set the Lord continually before me;
    Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
  • Psalm 27:1 NIV
    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 27:14 NASB
    Wait for the Lord;
    Be strong and let your heart take courage;
    Yes, wait for the Lord.
  • Psalm 31:24 NASB
    Be strong and let your heart take courage,
    All you who hope in the Lord.
  • Psalm 56:3-4 NIV
    When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
         In God, whose word I praise—
    in God I trust and am not afraid.
        What can mere mortals do to me?
  • Isaiah 41:10 NIV
    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.
  • Isaiah 41:13 NIV; psalm31-24For I am the Lord your God
        who takes hold of your right hand
    and says to you, Do not fear;
        I will help you.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV
     Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith;be courageous; be strong.
  • 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV
     For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
  • Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV
     Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
    “Never will I leave you;
        never will I forsake you.”
    So we say with confidence,
    “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid
       What can mere mortals do to me?”
  • 1 Peter 3:13-14
    Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”

prayer-for-courage

Fear of Blank Calendars and A New Year’s Verse

Afraid.

That’s how I feel.  Maybe it’s pessimism or a sort of realistic pragmatism, but pulling out that blank calendar for the new year, all those empty spaces soon to be filled to overflowing with notes, events, appointments, due dates, and reminders, makes me nervous in an awkward and embarrassed kind of way.  It’s the kind of fear that you want to hide and cover over with nervous giggles and by abruptly changing the subject.

I’m no believer in superstition, and yet I battle this one mysterious fear-mongering belief that if the first few weeks of the new year begin poorly, I’m in for doom and dismay for the next twelve months.

Like the year I threw up on New Year’s Eve as a teenager.  Even I knew that seemed like a bad omen.

Truth be told, I don’t look at that empty dayplanner with excitement and anticipation about all the unknowns in the coming year.  I don’t like surprises and the unexpected makes me nervous.  I’d rather see the pages filled out in advance so I can brace myself for the ride with all its twists, turns, high rises and low points.

I guess I’d be a failure as a mountain climber or an adventurer of any kind.  I’d never really look forward to what’s over the next peak or around the next bend in the road.  Instead, I’d likely be trekking backwards, always back.  Even if the ground were difficult, at least it’d be familiar.

It’s a foolish thing really, this fear of mine coming so soon after Christmas.  The consistent message of the Christmas story, heard in the prophecies of Isaiah, the announcements of the angels, the pronouncements of Almighty God, is “Do not be afraid.”

All year I flip open my Bible to these words, returning again and again to take comfort in the promise of an angel to a virgin and the host of heaven to shepherds keeping a night-watch in the fields.  God with us.  Fear Not.  Do not be afraid.  Emmanuel has come.

And then I sit just days after Christmas staring at this white-paged calendar, worrying and fretting anxiously, preparing for the worst instead of expecting the best.

How quickly I forget the promise and stumble into this now-familiar pit.

And I need to stop.

I don’t want to be a backwards-traveler, confined by foolish superstitions and held captive by the sin—yes, sin—of fear and worry, refusing to trust my Almighty God who carries the the whole world in His palms and who loves me so passionately and lavishly that He’d sacrifice His Son to spend eternity with me.

It’s uncomfortable at first, awkward like a baby stumbling through those first few steps.  Maybe it’s even unnatural, me learning slow to walk by faith, letting go of the comforts of the known within my white-knuckled grasp.

So I’m choosing this week to meditate on a verse that reminds me to be excited about the new work of God in my life, the blessings and beauty He has in store for the year ahead.  I’m reminded to take joy in the promise of a new year in His presence and in His care.

Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland
(Isaiah 43:18-19).

It’s a Gift

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you (Psalm 56:3)

We called her our Roller Coaster Baby.  My middle girl was a fearless climber and intrepid explorer in her younger days.  When she played with Daddy, she always wanted to go higher and faster.

We thought she’d be a mountain climber, an adventurer, a bold and brave pioneer, who wouldn’t be intimidated by peer pressure or life’s obstacles.

Then she learned the word “scared.”

From the first time that word rolled off her tongue, she changed.  Her reaction to every movie or TV show, every playground, every game was, “I’m scared.”  To emphasize it, she would clutch her arms around her body and tremble.

Now, she’s growing up afraid.  Even the Grover roller coaster at our Busch Gardens is off-limits.  No roller coasters for her.  No fast rides, high rides or anything that makes your belly flip flop.  She’s all about bumper cars and slow-moving swings.

Disney movies are off-limits and Pixar films a no-go.  They have bad guys and dramatic scenarios where the heroes and princesses are momentarily in jeopardy.

That’s too scary.  In fact, it’s hit the floor and scream in the middle of the movie theater scary.  It’s run out of the room crying and hide under your blankets frightening.

Unfortunately, this middle girl of mine is passing her fear on like a worn-out, unwelcome hand-me-down.

My youngest baby girl has discovered Tangled, the Disney movie about Rapunzel.  If I let her, she’d keep it on continuous play all day.  She acts out the scenarios, sings the songs, and calls her baby dolls, “Rapunzel” instead of Sally or Jane.

My toddler wasn’t afraid of the movie until she watched it with her older sisters the other day.  They hid their faces, fast-forwarded through tense scenes, and whined, “It’s too scary.”

Suddenly, my youngest learned that you were supposed to be afraid.  The movie that hadn’t given her the slightest quiver of fear now sends her to my side every few minutes to announce, “I’m scared.”

I’m discovering that fear is a cursed gift we sometimes pass on to one another.

At the very least, I know one thing with certainty–fear isn’t something given to us by God.  It’s never part of His plan for us.  He wants us all to be intrepid explorers, brave pioneers, and valiant defenders of what is right and true.

Instead, we are run-out-of-the-room afraid.  We are hide-our-heads-under-our-blankets scared.

How has this happened? Paul wrote so clearly that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV). 

When Jesus left the disciples, He gave them another precious gift:

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, ESV)

So many of us sing the song Trading My Sorrows in our churches.  We proclaim, “I’m trading my sorrows.  I’m trading my shame.  I’m laying then down for the joy of the Lord.  I’m trading my sickness. I’m trading my pain.  I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.”

We sing that, but we do the opposite.  We trade in the gifts that God’s given, of power, love, self-control and peace, for a fear-filled life and anxious hearts.

It’s a learned trait.  At some point, someone we respect and believe in tells us to be afraid and suddenly the childlike fearlessness of our innocent days is tainted and torn.

Or we are hurt and abandoned, abused, or neglected and we learn what it means to be terrified.

Or circumstances just loom so impossibly over our shoulders and our practical minds assure us that destruction is imminent.

Or Satan, the father of lies, fills our hearts and heads with doubt and discouragement.  He tells us, “God’s not with you.  You’re alone.  You have no hope.  This is impossible.  Nothing can save you now.”

Whatever our story is and no matter who or what it was that first shoved fear into our hands, it’s time to stop agreeing to the exchange.  It’s time to stop accepting hand-me-down terror.  It’s time to start rejecting Satan’s offer to trade in peace for worry.

It’s time to fight for the gift God’s already given us—peace in His presence.

Remember that “with His love, He will calm all your fears” (Zephaniah 3:17) and even “though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

God’s Word also reminds us:

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 (Isaiah 41:10)

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

We don’t know the future.  We don’t know all the reasons for evil and pain in this world.  We don’t understand everything that happens and we’re not guaranteed perfect lives of comfort and prosperity.

But we don’t have to be afraid.  God has lavished us with perfect gifts—peace, love, self-control, power.  He promises to be with us, wherever we go, whatever we face.  That’s a gift worth keeping.  Don’t trade in that promise for anything.

To find more verses on fear and worry, click here to read Verses on Fear and Worry.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Weekend Walk, 11/26/2011

Hiding the Word

I’d like to spend some time this season meditating on the Christmas “story.”  It’s too easy to nod our heads at the same old-same old telling of the tale, but this year I want to sink deep into it and recognize the miraculous glory of it all.  I want to recapture joy.

Do you remember how incredible the news of Christ’s birth was?  How excited the angels were to take to the skies and trumpet the birth announcement to a crowd of nocturnal shepherds hanging out on the hills that night?

How after 400 years of silence from Malachi to John the Baptist, God’s presence could be felt on this earth!  Four hundred years of waiting for a Word from God.  Four hundred years of celestial silence.  Surely that beats any of the waiting room seasons we’ve endured in our faith walks!

How God told each of the principal players in this event, “Do not be afraid.”  And how He says the same to us today.  Fear not.

So, that’s my starter verse this week as we prepare our hearts for the Christmas season.  It’s the announcement of the angels and the reminder that Christ brings us great joy—joy for all the people, and that because of Him we need not fear.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).

Here’s what Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas says about this: http://youtu.be/DKk9rv2hUfA

Weekend Rerun:

Fear Not
Originally Published 05/11/2011

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”
Isaiah 41:10

My older girls raced outside, tumbling over each other in their speedy way.  They jumped onto the swings and pumped their feet to go higher and higher.  They chased each other down the slide.

I watched from the kitchen window to make sure they were safe, were playing nicely, were obeying the rules.  Every time they travel outside my backdoor, we review.  Don’t leave the backyard.  Don’t go into the woods.  Don’t even go to the side of the house and certainly not the front.  Stay where I can see you through the kitchen window.  Come when I call.  You may say “hi” to our friendly neighbors, but do not enter their yard.  At all times, Mom needs to know where you are.

They’ve heard it so many times that I start the sentences and they complete them.

And as they closed the door behind them, I called them back for suntan lotion to protect their fair skin.

I sat down in the quiet to rest and read and then I heard them—two tiny voices screaming, hysterical, shrieking, piercing.  Not a hurt cry.  A fear cry.  More like terrified.  I ran, crossing over the gravel driveway without shoes, looking right at the two little girls perched at the top of the slide.  I could see them safe in front of me.  So, what was wrong?

Expecting a rattlesnake or tarantula, I arrived at the foot of the slide and demanded to know what had happened.  Were they hurt?  Were they bleeding?  What monster had threatened their well-being and brought me out here with my heart in my stomach, knowing they were in grave danger?

It was an ant.  A teeny, tiny, almost not visible black ant that had crawled onto their slide.

“It’s a fire ant, I know it,” screamed my oldest girl, face all red and hair wild, tears wetting her cheeks.

I bluster.  I don’t really know how to react.  It’s not a fire ant.  It’s the tiniest of tiny normal black ants that are only really scary at a picnic as they invade your lunch.  Even if it were a fire ant, it shouldn’t cause that much fear.  So, I calm them.  Then I instruct them.  I say, “God tells us that He “has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).  Then I tell them, “Even if it’s a  fire ant, even if it’s a spider, even if it’s a snake, even if it’s a monster, even then you don’t have to be be afraid because God is bigger than all those things.”

This morning, I gave myself the same instruction.  I read a devotional from a woman sharing about her childhood horrors from sexual abuse by a neighbor and it struck those familiar chords of fear that paralyze me just as my daughters were frozen in fear at the top of a slide.  In the car as we waited for school to start, I talked it over with my precious girl.  “If anyone hurts you,” I say, “you can always tell me.  It doesn’t matter what they say—if they threaten to kill me or dad or you or your cat.  If they say it’s your fault.  If they offer you candy.  No matter what, you tell me.” And in all the innocence of a child who doesn’t really know about evil, she said, “I don’t think my friends from school would hurt me mom.”  Yeah, I know.

This world really is a frightening place to live, though—for all of us certainly, and especially so for moms.  All of the evil that exists, the sin-state of this world, the reality that people hurt other people, people harm innocence—it’s enough for me to panic and want to hide away and take my children with me.

And it’s not just the big things that sometimes make me worry, but just the possibilities that exist in the unknown.   I registered my oldest girl for public school the other day.  In September, she’ll step onto a school bus with a driver I don’t know and other children I’ve never met.  I’m afraid.  It’s a true confession of what is lurking in my heart right now.  I’m afraid she’ll get lost in a school so big (if you knew my daughter, you’d understand this).  I’m afraid she’ll miss the bus and be scared herself.  I’m afraid mean kids will tease her and hurt her so sensitive heart.  I’m afraid of the influences I can’t control.  I’m afraid she won’t know how to maneuver the cafeteria system.

It’s true that this world can be a scary place to live at times.  It’s true that most of the monsters we battle are far more destructive than a tiny black ant and not so easily overcome.  It’s true that bad things happen and people get hurt.  But, there’s another truth I cling to in this moment; it’s what coaxes me down from the slide where my fears have pinned me.  God tells us, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

We don’t travel through this world alone.  Even in the darkest places when fears of the unknown transform into the horrors of reality, God is with us.  That is why we need not fear.  He does not leave our side and in the moments that we collapse with the overwhelming terror of it all, He strengthens us and helps us and lifts us up in His right hand to safety.  He commands us to “fear not” and then clasps our hand as we take those first uncertain steps into the shadowy places that we’ve been running from.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King