Lucy was a fearful dog. We brought her into our family as a tiny puppy who fit in the palm of my hand. She lived with us for many years and we loved her, cared for her, played with her, provided for her needs. But in spite of being loved, protected and cared for, she was fearful.
Storms troubled her a great deal. She could hear the thunder and sense the storm long before we could hear it. Her behavior began with a short chirpy bark while she ran nervously from window to window to door. I knew better than to let her outside as her craziness escalated exponentially.
One day she did get outside at the beginning of the storm. She took off running in the direction of the thunder and before I could catch her she had run across our neighbor’s field beyond my voice in just seconds. There was nothing to do but wait for her to come home. And she did. Soaking wet and completely worn out.
She also feared lights. Not just ordinary lamps or ceiling lights, but reflections of light. When I took a pan out of the cabinet to make dinner, the light glanced off the pan making a reflection that danced and played across the ceiling. Emptying the dishwasher produced the same flashing lights and it made her crazy. She ran around the kitchen barking, staring at the ceiling just daring the light to come close enough for her to attack. This could go on for a long time, especially in the evening when it was dark outside and the reflections became more pronounced.
I tried to tell her it was all fine. The thunder could not hurt her. It was only a sound and she was safe. The splashes of light weren’t a threat to her either, but only the natural occurrence of light hitting a reflective object. She didn’t listen. It made no difference to her what I said or how logical my argument was. She ran around and barked crazily, in complete fear of, well, nothing. True, there was a sound, a light. But absolutely nothing existed that was a genuine threat to her safety. Except it felt very real to her.
Fear. A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain whether the threat is real or imagined (dictionary.com). Certainly there are times when fear is warranted and saves our life. I want my grandchildren to be afraid of walking into the road. The fear of getting hit by a car causes them to look both ways and cross when it is safe to do so. Normal fear teaches us to be cautious in potentially dangerous situations.
But most of the time, fear is a liar. Fear attacks our core longings. It says things like: You are a failure. You are no good. You are not beautiful. You are not a successful mother/father/person. You are a disappointment. You are not safe. You are hopeless. And on it goes, spewing out lies with practiced ease. The trouble – the lies sound so true. And if you are like me, when the lie comes knocking, I stand with it at the door and sometimes I invite it in to have tea. I go over and over what it is telling me and recount all the ways that this might actually be true. In other words, I meditate on it. And after awhile, it makes sense to believe fear’s lie. It begins to seem irresponsible if I don’t believe it and act on it.
John the apostle wrote three short letters to various people and groups. They are organized in our Bibles as 1, 2 and 3 John. His first letter is written to the church in general. He is telling them of his eye witness experiences knowing Jesus. Throughout the letter he emphasizes the love of God shown to us in the life of Jesus. In chapter four (read it here) he talks about God’s love and putting our trust in His love (verse 16). So, what difference does it make if I trust in God’s love for me?
Here’s the hard truth. When I live in a state of fear and anxiety, I am trusting something. It might be my intellect, my ability to control the world, my ability to take care of myself, my strength, my knowledge…well as you can see, I am trusting ME! As I focus more and more on Fear’s lie, I become more frantic and the lie gains strength. My strength wains and hopelessness grows.
Placing my trust in God’s love produces dramatically different results. He brings confidence and peace that I don’t understand (Philippians 4:7). Joy begins to bubble up from within and strength grows (Nehemiah 8:10). Hope takes root and blooms with beautiful color (Romans 15:13).
Practically speaking, I used to be very afraid to stay home alone. When it came time for bed, Fear whispered that I would not be safe (one of our core longings is safety and security). It used words other people said to make the lie more believable. The lie seemed right and true. After all, bad things do happen to people at night when they are home alone. So I rehearsed those things, without really wanting to, as I crawled into my bed. And I didn’t sleep well as I trembled throughout the night waiting for the bad thing to happen.
Something had to change. I needed to actively trust God’s love for me and that meant I needed to change what I meditated on at night. As I crawled into bed, I armed myself with scripture, especially from the psalms. And I mediated on those truths. I imagined sleeping peacefully until morning (Psalm 4:8). I imagined angels filling my house with their light (Psalm 91:11). I imagined Jesus sitting with me (Psalm 3:5). I imagined my house surrounded by guards (Psalm 34:7).
As I meditated on truth, I exposed the lies of Fear. It makes ALL the difference when I trust God’s love for me. The Bible tells me that I am his child. I am chosen. He loves me. He is for me and not against me. He sings songs over me and delights in me. So great is His love for me that He sent Jesus to conquer sin and death. Paul prays in Ephesians 3:18-19 that we would all experience the power of knowing the depth of God’s love for us even though it is too great to fully understand.
I confess I don’t yet fully understand God’s love for me, but I trust in what I do understand. And because I do, Fear, with its bag of lies, has to take a hike. Do scary things happen in our world? Do we face opposition? Is life difficult? Absolutely! All the time. But my trust in the infinite, matchless love of God for me makes it possible to face the day without Fear. After all, he is a liar!
I don’t know what Fear tells you. Whatever it is, it’s a lie. Fear wants you to stay weak and powerless in your life. Fear wants you to live afraid that your core longings will never be met. Fear may have convinced you to do something illegal or morally wrong. And now you live in fear of someone finding out. I proclaim right now, EXPOSE THE LIES!!! Fear only has strength and power when it lives in secret places. Brought out into the light, it will shrink and fade away. There is a song by Zach Williams entitled “Fear is a Liar.” I encourage you to take a few minutes to listen to it.
If you have never placed your faith in God’s love for you through Jesus, I encourage you to do that now. He loves you infinitely more than you think or imagine. His plan for you is good. In this world, there will be trouble. But Jesus said, take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Until next time…
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.