When fear for our children grips us, we often look for something “new” to help us deal with it. But instead, we must rely on the true and the tried strategies from God’s Word. They are:
Prayer: “...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Promises: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
Saints throughout the centuries have leaned on God’s promises and called out to Him in prayer. And each and every time, they have found Him to be faithful. “I sought the Lord,” David tells us, “and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
So let’s follow the example of David and that “great cloud of witnesses.” Let’s seek God through constant prayer, and in the space of His promises, let’s park our souls.
~from the archives
Last week we concluded our series on fear. It began as “A Mother’s Trust”, but in the end, it was for everyone. We pray you were encouraged to trust in our wise, loving, and sovereign Savior. You can download the pdf or review the posts online. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
“Not only will He never leave you—that’s the negative side of the promise—but He cares for you. He is not just there with you. He cares for you. His care is constant—not occasional or sporadic. His care is total—even the very hairs of your head are numbered. His care is sovereign—nothing can touch you that He does not allow. His care is infinitely wise and good so that again in the words of John Newton, ‘If it were possible for me to alter any part of his plan, I could only spoil it.’”
—Jerry Bridges, Trusting God, p.199.
Sometimes I struggle with feeling guilty that I don’t feel like doing the next thing. Even though I have repented from fear and anxiety (and will keep repenting and talking to myself) the feelings of fear still linger. But aren’t we supposed to do our work with joy and gladness as unto the Lord? How can I glorify God in my work if I still feel anxious? I wonder. So just as I pull one foot out of the ditch of fear, the other one falls into the pothole of condemnation. But there is a firm and level path for us in God’s Word, which John Piper points out in this meditation on Psalm 126:5-6 called “Talking to Your Tears.” He’s counseling people who are sad and suffering, but I think it also applies to those of us who feel anxious:
So here’s the lesson: When there are simple, straightforward jobs to be done, and you are full of sadness, and tears are flowing easily, go ahead and do the jobs with tears. Be realistic. Say to your tears: ‘Tears, I feel you. You make me want to quit life. But there is a field to be sown (dishes to be washed, car to be fixed, sermon to be written). I know you will wet my face several times today, but I have work to do and you will just have to go with me. I intend to take the bag of seeds and sow. If you come along then you will just have to wet the rows.” Even if we sow in tears (or fears) we will one day reap with joy. Read the entire meditation and then do the next thing—whether you feel like it or not.
“First Peter 3:6b shows us what hope looks like in the stresses and threats of real life. ‘And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.’ The presence of hope drives out fear. The daughters of Sarah do not fear anything but displeasing God. Or to be more accurate, the daughters of Sarah fight the anxiety that rises in their hearts. They wage war on fear, and they defeat it with the promises of God…. They fight fear with the faithfulness of God—‘Sarah considered him faithful who had promised’ (Hebrews 11:11). And then they do what Peter says in 4:19, ‘Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.’ They affirm the sovereign rule of God over their suffering and that they do not suffer apart from his will, and they rest their souls in the firm and omnipotent hands of a faithful Creator. They cast out fear and they hope in God. And so they prove to be the daughters of Sarah and heirs according to the promise.”
—John Piper, Mothers Day Message (May 1986).
There’s at least one more “weapon” we must learn to wield in our fight against fear: obedience.
We fight fear, not only with prayer and promises, but with action that declares to God and everyone else: “I will not let this fear dictate my life.”
This advice comes from Elisabeth Elliot (again) in the form of an old poem (emphasis mine):
“Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment my moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, ‘DO THE NEXT THING.’
Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His Hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ’neath His wing,
Leave all resultings, ‘DO THE NEXT THING.’”
As an act of faith, I must pray, “Lord, I believe you are going to deliver me from this fear. I am asking for your help. I am going to keep asking for your help. I am going to keep speaking truth. But in the meantime, I’m going to do what you’ve called me to do.”
Then I have to get off the couch and do it. Something. Anything. The next thing.
So what’s your next thing? It might be to simply get out of bed and take a shower. It might be to get in the car and drive the carpool. It might be to go talk to your teenager or be consistent to teach your toddler to come “right away, all the way, and with a happy heart.”
Whatever your mothering fear, cast it on the Lord and do the next thing. And, as JC Ryle encourages parents: “It is in the going forward that God will meet you.”
Recently, I heard a story about a woman who was gripped by fear in the middle of a dangerous storm. She got on her knees and asked God to help her trust Him, and instantly her fears vanished. She got up from her knees, got into bed, and fell asleep. Just like that. “I wish that would happen to me more often!” I thought. But I don’t usually feel less fearful the instant I pray or read Scripture. And then I worry that I’m doing something wrong or (mistakenly) assume that God’s solution for anxiety “isn’t working.” But my fearful feelings don’t mean that God hasn’t answered my prayers. Instead, as Elisabeth Elliot explains, “[God] wants us to learn to use our weapons.” He wants me to learn to persevere in prayer, he wants me to form habits of casting cares (1 Pet. 5:7) and befriending faithfulness (Ps. 37:3). He wants me to become proficient at speaking truth to myself. He wants me to learn to trust Him, even when I don’t feel like it. So if you think God has abandoned you in your fight against fear, think again. The ongoing fight isn’t a sign that He’s forgotten you, but that He’s teaching you to trust.
In addition to tuning out our fears and turning up the volume on truth, we must fight fear with laughter. Sound ridiculous, even a little irreverent?
Irreverence is precisely the point. We must not dignify our fears—sin-generated, false predictions of a graceless and God-less future—by giving them the attention and obedience due only to God and His Word. Laughing at our fears is entirely appropriate, because up against God’s promises they not only look, but actually are, ridiculous.
The Proverbs 31 woman doesn’t take herself, or her fears, too seriously: “She laughs at the future in contrast with being worried or fearful about it” (ESV Study Bible note, Pr. 31:25). This may sound flippant or naive if we don’t already know her to be a woman of diligence, wisdom, and strength. She trusts God, and so she laughs.
“One of Satan’s great lies is that God—and goodness—is joyless and humorless,” explains Randy Alcorn:
“In fact, it’s Satan who’s humorless. Sin didn’t bring him joy; it forever stripped him of joy. In contrast, envision Jesus with his disciples. If you cannot picture Jesus teasing them and laughing with them, you need to reevaluate your theology of Creation and Incarnation. We need a biblical theology of humor that prepares us for an eternity of celebration, spontaneous laughter, and overflowing joy.”
Laughter, not fear-filled wonderings, will properly prepare us for our future: our immediate future and our eternal future full of celebration and overflowing joy. So thank God for His promises today and “laugh at the days to come.”
Last Thursday, Nicole encouraged us to enlist our friends as allies in our fight against fear. Great advice. I have benefited more times than I can remember from friends speaking truth into my life.
But sometimes those trusted friends may not be available or maybe they are getting a little tired of saying the same things to us over and over. That’s probably how my friends feel! There is another group of friends that should be consulted daily in our fight for faith—books and sermons!
Books that are rich in truth of who God is, and sermons that faithfully declare God’s Word should be among our best friends. And hey, and the great thing is, they are never busy or unavailable! I have a few books and messages that I have read and listened to dozens of times in my battle against fear and unbelief. A few of our favorites are:
Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones,
Running Scared by Ed Welch
Trusting God by Jerry Bridges
Beside Still Waters by Charles Spurgeon (you can look up fear or anxiety in the index)
Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper
A Shelter in the Time of Storm by Paul Tripp
“Be Humble, Be Alert” sermon by Rick Gamache
“Antidote to Unbelief” sermon by Mike Bullmore
“The Troubled Soul” sermon by CJ Mahaney
So if you find yourself battling fear today, pick up a book or listen to a sermon. Your soul is sure to be strengthened!
Sometimes, when battling fear, I am unable to effectively speak truth to myself. I try, but it just doesn’t stick. In such cases, I need others to talk to me. So I tell them about my fears and ask them to speak appropriate biblical truth to those fears.
God anticipates our need for community in fighting unbelief: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Heb 3:13-14).
I need those who “have come to share in Christ” to help me “hold [my] original confidence firm to the end.”
It isn’t always easy to confess fear. We might fear what others will think of our fear! We might not want to appear weak. But in the very act of asking for help, we are opening the door of humility through which God promises His grace will always come rushing in (James 4:6).
So if you feel as if you are losing your battle against fear today, enlist an ally in the fight. Ask a friend who “shares in Christ” to help you hold fast to gospel truth.