Welcome to a series on How to Stop Being Afraid with wisdom from Psalm 46.
Our quest continues to step two in the journey to learn How to Stop Being Afraid. We began by exploring the call in Psalm 46:1 to remember who God is and what that means. He is both our defense and our offense. We get grounded on Him in the face of life’s chaos and overwhelming storms that the psalmist so vividly describes:
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.
The second step to stop being afraid is bit more challenging because it requires something of us that just doesn’t come all that naturally. At least not to me. To overcome fear you must first remember who God is and then remember who you are.
Remembering who you are can be an uncomfortable experience for it means embracing two oxymoronic truths:
- We are nothing special.
- God has made us special.
A Lesson in Humility
Back in my college days — when I could pull an all-nighter and still function to some degree the next day — I stayed up all night writing a paper for a British literature class. I don’t recall the details of it. What I do recall is how I did it.
First, I procrastinated on the project until the night before it was due — trying to draft the muse behind Shelley’s Grecian Urn or Keats’ Nightingale, no doubt. Then I went shopping. I got a half-gallon of Bryers ice cream and two packs of coffee –espresso blend. If I had to write it, I was going to be wide awake to enjoy it.
Two pots of coffee and half a dozen bowls of ice cream later, I finally put the finishing touches on the paper. It was somewhere around 5 AM, just enough time to doze off for a bit before heading to class. When I awoke, feeling quite proud of my efforts, I opened the document file on my computer to print — only to discover that it was gone! In a drowsy stupor, I had deleted the entire paper just before confidently retiring for a quick nap!
I learned a few things that night/morning. First, how quickly I could rewrite a paper from memory. Second, when it asks if you want to save changes before closing, make sure the last thing you did prior to that request was not deleting everything. Third, I am much smaller than I like to think I am.
We’re all just one step away from stupid. ~ John Maxwell
I need to be reminded, occasionally, of how small and stupid I can be, as I wrote here: Help! I Need Somebody! Becoming humble is essential to truly trusting in God. And trusting God is vital if we are to stop being afraid.
Just How Small Are You?
No one likes to be reminded how small we really are in the face of life’s problems. But when it happens, we can relate to the psalmist’s poetic image of the earth being turned upside down. It’s a humbling experience. Or at least it should be. And that’s a good thing.
Here’s why it’s good to get humble:
- You can do nothing apart from God. Jesus said it best, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” He didn’t leave a lot of wiggle room on that one. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of our abilities to conquer our own fears have been greatly exaggerated. Instead of telling myself “I can do it” and summoning up the courage to lift the burden onto my own shoulders, I should acknowledge that I cannot do it of my own strength, that my talents are woefully inadequate, and that apart from Him I can do nothing.
- Your life is but a passing shadow. “Surely every man walks about like a shadow; Surely they busy themselves in vain.” (Ps. 39:6) “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14) Consider the image of a shadowy mist going up against the storm-to-end-all-storms and you’ll get the image the Psalmist is going for here.
- You’re are not in control anyways. We get frustrated when we think we should be in control of more than we really are and ever could be. By God’s strength, we can do a little. We’ll get to that next time. But first, we must come face-to-face with the reality Job had to learn: God, not you, is in control. Yet how much time do we spend worrying about stuff over which we we have absolutely no control?
- God guides and teaches the humble. According to Kevin Hall, the word humility comes from the Latin root humus. It is that most fertile of soils composed of rich organic matter that has decayed into the prime conditions for growth. It is within that soil — humility — that success sprouts. Success, it turns out, comes from a root that means to sprout. So it is in the fertile soil of humility that true success begins to grow — and God can begin to work wonders. His promise of “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” comes to those who have humbled themselves before him first by confession of their sin-filled state. (Ps. 32:11)
- God gives grace to the humble. “Unmerited favor” gets poured out on the humble, while He actively resists those who rely in pride on their own strength. (James 4:6) Those whose hearts are truly broken and contrite before Him earn a special place of favor (Ps. 34:18) We’ll explore it later in this series, but the psalmist hints at this special state of grace with this statement of our source of life through tough times: “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God.” (Ps. 46:4)
- God exalts the humble. As oxymoronic as it seems when we walk by sight and not by faith, it is only through becoming nothing special that we become infinitely special. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6) This is why it is impossible to please God without faith. Faith is necessary to become humble. To let go of our power — as if we had any — to embrace His promise to lift us up as He sees fit.
John Piper said of God, “If we do not see Him in his greatness, we will not desire him in his fullness.” Likewise, if you do not see yourself in your weakness, you will not feel compelled to desire Him. If you remember who you are, you’ll soon be passionate about discovering just who God is.
Next: You’re Not Just Good, you’re Gre-e-e-a-a-a-t!