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
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.
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.
We pick up our series on fear with the second half of Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones’ counsel. We must not listen to ourselves, but we must also fill that space by speaking to ourselves.
Dr. Lloyd Jones explains:
“Our fears are due to our failure to stir up—failure to think, failure to take ourselves in hand. You find yourself looking to the future and then you begin to imagine things and you say: ‘I wonder what is going to happen?’ And then, your imagination runs away with you. You are gripped by the thing…this thing overwhelms you and down you go. Now the first thing you have to do is to take a firm grip of yourself, to pull yourself up, to stir up yourself, to take yourself in hand and to speak to yourself.”
“Talk to yourself out loud, if you have to” a pastor once advised me in the midst of one of my particularly intense battles with fear. So if you ever catch me muttering to myself, you’ll know why.
And what exactly should we say to ourselves?
“Faith reminds itself of what the Scripture calls ‘the exceeding great and precious promises’ says Lloyd Jones. “Faith says: ‘I cannot believe that He who has brought me so far is going to let me down at this point. It is impossible, it would be inconsistent with the character of God.’ So faith, having refused to be controlled by circumstances [or feelings!], reminds itself of what it believes and what it knows.”
Tell your soul—out loud if you have to—what it believes and what it knows.
“Do not Fear.”
“What? Not even a little?”
“No, do not fear.”
“Surely I may show some measure of fear?”
“No, do not fear.”
Tie this knot tight around the throat of unbelief: “Do not fear.” “Do not
fear” today. “Do not fear” tomorrow. “Do not fear” any day of your life.
When fear comes, drive it away and give it no space.
When the weather is rough, passengers on a ship can be comforted by the
captain’s calm behavior. One simple-minded soul said, “I am sure there is
no cause to fear, for I heard the captain whistling.” Surely if the captain
is at ease, the passengers can be at peace. If the Lord Jesus is at the
helm singing, do not fear. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him”
(Ps.37:7). “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, our God will come with
vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you”
“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?” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
This is revolutionary, biblical, fear-fighting counsel for mothers. And it comes in two parts:
1. Stop listening to yourself
2. Start speaking to yourself
First, we must stop listening to our fears. We must not give them any “air time.”
The critical moment is when a fearful thought first strikes our soul: “What if _________happens to my child?” or “What if my child never___________?”
If we listen—even for a moment, if we give this fear any attention, consider its potential, wonder at its source, soon we begin to believe it might be true. The more we ponder this possibility, the more believable the fear becomes. Soon it is joined by other, more fearsome, thoughts; and before we know it, we’re overwhelmed by hopelessness and dread.
A wise pastor once gave me this advice: “If any thought robs you of peace, it is an enemy of your soul; give it no recognition.”
Give it no recognition. Ignore it. Disregard it. Close your ears to it. Pay it no mind.
We must not yield the floor to fear. We must filibuster our fears by speaking truth to our souls.
Continuing the theme of fighting mothering fears with the promises of God, I want to encourage you to listen to this sermon by Jerry Bridges. He was at our church on Sunday—what a blessing!—and he spoke on “Trusting God.” Here’s one quote that stood out to me:
“Here’s a principle to keep in mind: The promises of god are as real as the circumstances you are in. Your circumstances say “God has forgotten you.” Your circumstances say, “I look for God, and just when I need God to come through for me, God doesn’t seem to be any place.” That’s what your circumstances say. The promise of God says, “I will not leave you. I will never forsake you.” And that promise is just as real as the circumstances you are in. And so by faith, we look beyond our circumstances and we look to the promises of God.” Whether you are tempted to fear over an errant teenager or a disobedient toddler, may God give you faith to look beyond your circumstances and remember the VERY REAL promise that God is with you and will never leave you.
Recently Justin Taylor posted the following from John Piper. It is worth re-posting here in its entirety:
* When I am anxious about some risky new venture or meeting, I battle unbelief with the promise: “Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will help you, I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
* When I am anxious about my ministry being useless and empty, I fight unbelief with the promise, “So shall my word that goes forth from my mouth; it will not come back to me empty but accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
* When I am anxious about being too weak to do my work, I battle unbelief with the promise of Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9), and “As your days so shall your strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25).
* When I am anxious about decisions I have to make about the future, I battle unbelief with the promise, “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
* When I am anxious about facing opponents, I battle unbelief with the promise, “If God is for us who can be against us!” (Romans 8:31).
* When I am anxious about being sick, I battle unbelief with the promise that “tribulation works patience, and patience approvedness, and approvedness hope, and hope does not make us ashamed” (Romans 5:3–5).
* When I am anxious about getting old, I battle unbelief with the promise, “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4).
* When I am anxious about dying, I battle unbelief with the promise that “none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself; if we live we live to the Lord and if we die we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose again: that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living” (Romans 14:9–11).
* When I am anxious that I may make shipwreck of faith and fall away from God, I battle unbelief with the promise, “He who began a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6). “He who calls you is faithful. He will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). “He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
“[T]ake the…sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Ephesians 6:17-18
To fight fear we are to “pray at all times.” But we have another weapon in our arsenal: the promises of God. We are to wield the Word against the onslaught of mothering fears.
We are to ”take” the Word of God and use it. To do this, we need to have it nearby. This means we need to be daily reading the Word and consistently meditating on it.
And we need to pull out the promises and put them into action. We have to pick up the sword and fight. A sword must be swung in order to deliver a blow.
We have a legacy of faithful, fear-fighting women to follow: “And you are [Sarah’s] children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” 1 Peter 3:6
John Piper writes: “[T]he 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.”
Let’s be daughters of Sarah and fight our mothering fears with the promises of God.
Christen sent us this question in response to the series on a mother’s fears: How are we to think as far as trusting God to save our children? We have no promise that he’s going to, but at the same time, we’re raising them in that hope. Can we say that we can trust God to save them? It might be better to say that we can entrust our children to God. We have no explicit promise that He is going to save them, that is true. But we have more than enough promises in Scripture to help us put off fear and pray with expectant faith. We must trust in God’s character—His sovereignty, wisdom, mercy, love and faithfulness. And we must remember His purposes, as Charles Spurgeon explained in his comments on Psalm 102:28:
“The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.”
“This verse is full of good cheer to us; we may plead for the Lord’s favor to our offspring…. God does not neglect the children of his servants…Grace is not hereditary, yet God loves to be served by the same family time out of mind…. We may, therefore, not only for our own sakes but also out of love to the church of God, daily pray that our sons and daughters may be saved, and kept by divine grace even unto the end—established before the Lord.” Throughout Scripture we see examples of God working through families; there are many verses that speak of God’s heart for future generations and command us to pray and preach the gospel to the next generation. So let’s entrust our children’s souls to a good God. And instead of giving way to fear, let’s fervently pray and preach the good news to them each day.