For a couple of weeks I have not felt well, dealing with nausea and pain, constant, but in varying degrees. A visit to my physician on Thursday was inclusive but given my medical history an intestinal blockage was a real possibility. Worse than the actual physical symptoms was the fear that began to take hold in the quiet moments. “What if … “ became a constant presence in my mind. I relived the days when I walked first my Dad, then my Mom, and then Bev to the door of Heaven.
My fear provoked speculation – “What if I have cancer? How will I endure a long, slow death? Who will care for those things that are still my responsibility?” It might sound laughable, that I should take the long leap from a bellyache to cancer, but in the moment it was not funny, at all. The fear was a nightmare. When a CT scan at the local hospital showed that whatever is going on in my gut is not related to a blockage or a mass, I felt real relief and gained perspective, once again. (Thanks for prayers for my healing as I am still dealing with the same symptoms.)
FEAR replaces reason, magnifies problems, and hinders faith! Jesus’ disciples panicked one day. Look at the story Mark tells. “When evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41, NIV)
That account of a moment on the Sea of Galilee holds a lesson for me and perhaps for you. The danger they faced was real. The boat could have sunk. What is tragic is that at the height of the storm, instead of trusting Him, they turned to accusation. “Don’t You care if we drown?” Is that not sad? The very One who cared for them, loved them, and led them was subjected to a question about His love. Fear stole their ability to trust Him. Jesus connects their fear to their faithlessness. “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”
The people of ancient Israel saw God deliver them from Egypt by a series of divine interventions. But, then as they journeyed out of their slavery in Egypt, just a few days into the exodus, they saw the dust raised by Pharaoh’s chariots coming towards them. Fear seized them and they promptly forgot all the wonderful things they had seen God do. “They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’ ” (Exodus 14:10-12, NLT)
There was a real danger, but their fear destroyed their perspective and faith evaporated. Moses steadied them by reminding them that God was still in charge of their story. “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Exodus 14:13-14, NLT)
Are you in the grip of fear this Monday morning? Has a real issue morphed into a nightmare? Has prayer stuck in your throat, your faith paralyzed by fear?
Does this prayer of the Psalmist reflect the state of your heart today?
“Listen to my prayer, O God. Do not ignore my cry for help!
Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.
My enemies shout at me, making loud and wicked threats.
They bring trouble on me and angrily hunt me down.
My heart pounds in my chest. The terror of death assaults me.
Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking.” (Psalm 55:1-5, NLT)
Let me speak from my experience and the Word to urge you to quiet your heart in His Presence.
Here is a word from the Word. Hear it, live it, and find FAITH that will drive FEAR away. “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.” (Psalm 46:10-11, NLT)
Let’s honor the One who loves us by trusting Him with a radical faith that is sufficient for this day.