Afraid? Alone? Tempted?

feetAs I closed the day in prayer, the Spirit of God whispered, “why do you allow yourself to be fearful?”  As I pondered that challenge, I realized there are several areas in my life where I had allowed fear to take root. It is not that I am cowering behind closed doors, a recluse. The fear with which I must deal is a ‘presence’ that lurks just outside of my conscious mind. It shows up in ‘what if’ questions.  It makes me defensive, keeps me on edge, and steals the joy of the Lord.  Most likely this fear is, in part,  left over from the stress of Bev’s illness and death which redefined so much of life for me, shaking the foundations of life and faith. So, I will do the spiritual and emotional work that will let faith rise.

Are you afraid? Do you spend an inordinate amount of time living defensively, protecting yourself from threats, real and imagined?

The ancient prophet Habbakuk is a companion to those who struggle with fear. The opening words of his book reveal his struggle to keep faith: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence!” I cry, but you do not come to save.” (Habakkuk 1:2, NLT) That is one gutsy prayer, isn’t it? “Hey, God, what up with this? I thought you would answer my call and it feels like You walked away.” Habbakuk saw the growing threat of the Babylonian Empire and thought God would step in to deliver His people. Instead, God revealed that He would allow that nation to conquer Israel. The ancient Jews lived with the assumption that because they were the people of the Lord and Jerusalem was the home of the Temple of the Lord God, He would never allow their city to fall, defending them against all enemies regardless of their personal faith or practice.  Then the Lord tells the prophets that disaster is coming!

What does one do with such a vision?
How does one deal with those things that redefine our assumptions about what is true?

It’s what we struggle with when we pray to be healed and God says, “I’ll be with you but I won’t take away the illness.”  When we  pray for deliverance from temptation and God says, “No, we’ll walk together through the fiery trial,” we feel uncertainty grow. Habbakuk gives us a prayerful voice that waits and wonders at God’s often inscrutable ways. Ultimately, he comes to the place where he says, “God hang onto me. It’s the only hope I have.”

If you’re in a hard place today, brokenhearted, fearful, disappointed, confused – do not let the Enemy of God and good convince you are just weak or that you are a terrible Christian. Know that the trials of life, the testing and temptation that comes our way,  are the common experiences of those who follow Jesus. When we put one foot in eternity while we still live on earth, we invite a certain tension into our lives! We keep hoping when others give up and live small, hopeless lives. We keep working to make the world brighter and better when others settle for ‘what is.’  We press on for the reward of Eternity when others settle to live with no other purpose than to “eat, drink, and be merry!”

Habbakuk wrestled with fear and faith until he found an answer. I truly love the resolve that comes at the end of his little book. It is a glimpse of mature faith that gives away the need to control outcomes and instead radically trusts the Person of God. Let’s remember that when we are afraid, if we will reach out,  God’s grasp will tighten on our hand. We will surely be carried through the trial, if not over or around it. “O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy. “ (Habakkuk 3:2, NKJV) “Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NKJV)

Centuries later, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul gave us this word in the Word. May it silence the voice of fear. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-40, NIV)

Fear not! Live in faith! He is our strength and He makes us sure-footed in treacherous territory.
_________________________

Hold Me Jesus – Rich Mullins

Oh, sometimes my life
Just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small.
And I wake up in the night
And feel the dark.
It’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart.

So hold me Jesus,
‘Cause I’m shaking like a leaf.
You have been King of my glory,
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace?

Surrender don’t come natural to me.
I’d rather fight You for something
I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need.
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down,
I’m falling on my knees.

So hold me Jesus,
‘Cause I’m shaking like a leaf.
You have been King of my glory,
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace?

And this Salvation Army band
Is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin.

So hold me Jesus,
‘Cause I’m shaking like a leaf.
You have been King of my glory,
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace?

© 1993 BMG Songs, Inc. (Admin. by BMG Music Publishing) CCLI License No. 810055

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