Welcome to a series here at Patheos to follow up on my post How to Stop Being Afraid with wisdom from Psalm 46.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I feel afraid, I start think about what I can do. I look for some way to solve the problem. I confess that my first move for overcoming fear is often to trust in my own strength and not in the strength of God.
I don’t think I’m alone.
Yet as the infomercials so commonly tell us, but wait — there’s more! The first step to overcoming fear is remembering who God is both as our defense and our offense.
God Is Our Offense
Let’s face it. It doesn’t take much strength to hide in a tower. Surrender and humility, maybe. but not much strength. And that’s OK. Sometimes bunkers are necessary for survival.
But bunkers and towers are not for living victoriously and overcoming fear. For that, we must venture out, still trusting in God as our defense, but going on offense by walking by faith in obedience to Him.
For example, we can rest in His comforting arms when our employer acts unjustly toward us, but we must also speak the truth in love to him or her. That takes courage — and strength. Usually more than we have. We can find comfort and confidence knowing that God will supply all of our needs, yet we must step boldly out in pursuit of our dreams by His strength.
Overcoming fear then calls us to rest in God — but not on our rear ends! He calls us to take action in full dependence on His strength and not our own. [My post To All Those Who Want Safer Schools in Newtown unpacks more of this innate tension between safety and risk.] As David says in Psalm 18:29, “By my God, I can leap over a wall!” That’s certainly not doing nothing. It’s doing something, but by God’s strength and not our own.
After all, we really don’t have much to contribute anyways. I posted on this very topic [Help! I need Somebody!] recently when God moved me briefly to a place of physical helplessness. It reminded me that none of us are as safe and secure as we’d like to think. And that the strength we do have is a flimsy thing. Especially in the face of the crippling challenges a fallen world can hurl our way.
Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. (Ps. 46:2-3)
Translation? Even if all hell breaks loose, we need not fear. The strength of God will fight for us.
A Conditional Promise
When Joshua gave his farewell address to the Israelites in Joshua 24, he shared two truths about the strength of God in the face of great difficulty. He reminded them of God’s strength to that point in their mission and encouraged them to “hold fast to God.” He told them to keep going in taking possession of the land God have given them with two critical reminders:
- The strength of God would fight for them. Joshua made clear that it would be God who would grant them success. One man would chase 1,000! When we trust in the strength of God, He doesn’t just even the odds. he tilts them rather lopsidedly in our favor. But only if….
- They must continue to love God. “Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God. Or else…. know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you.” (Joshua 23:11-13) He goes into detail to explain that by loving God, he means obeying God. Not surprising, since Paul later affirms that “Love is the keeping of the Law [of God].” (Rom. 13:10)
I’ve written about my own journey of faith and fear [What If God Wants Me to Fail] and [Is What You're Attempting for God too Big to Fail?]. It’s a daily struggle to lay down my own strength and wisdom and trust in the strength of God to do what seems to me to be impossible. But God is the force-multiplier extraordinaire! Even at 1000:1, He’s just getting warmed up.
Often our fear comes from seeing all too well the gap between who we are and who God is. Truth be told, it terrifies us. But it is in recognizing that gap that we become empowered to trust in the strength of God to rule the wind and the waves in our chaotic lives.
Like Solomon of old who acknowledged his need for God’s wisdom, we must begin overcoming fear by acknowledging that we can’t do it. Not alone. Not even together. Not even close.
Faith is trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse. ~ Philip Yancey
Apart from Him, we can do nothing. The sooner we come to terms with that, the sooner we can begin overcoming fear by faith in the strength of God.
When facing fear in your life, what ways have you found to ensure you are walking daily in the strength of God? Leave a comment to help us all grow.