2017 has been a wild year. Hurricanes. Fires. Terrorist attacks. Just to name a few highlights.
It has been a year filled with death and tension and dissension… and fear.
Fear is a tricky thing. There is healthy fear. Fear of danger keeps us alive. “Fear of the Lord,” pricks our conscience and keeps us in a love relationship with the One who is enraptured with us. Good fear.
But there is a fear that leads to despair. A fear that leads to despondency. Fear that controls us, consumes us, shapes our todays and robs us of our futures.
It seems we have become intimate with this thing called Fear in recent days, haven’t we? We have wept, we have cried out in anguish, we have cursed in anger, we have asked God, “Where are You?!”
And Fear answers: we are utterly alone.
It feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it?
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
/ / /
Dear one reading this, you are not alone.
If 2017 was like trudging through the fires of Hell…
If you have lost something or someone along the way…
If you are shattered or furious or desperate and you just know that there’s a change going on in your heart that you feel you just can’t fight off (and maybe you don’t even want to fight anymore)…
You. Are. Not. Alone.
Fear of this sort is the worst 4-letter word. It’s a tactic from the enemy to distract and consume.
And I have been in the clutches of the dark night many times. So have many of my friends, family, peers, mentors. At one time or another, we’re all caught off guard.
Fear doesn’t waltz up to our doorsteps, bang on the door, and ask sign a contract to rent a room in the home of our hearts.
Fear is insidious and charismatic. He disguises himself so that we invite him in as an honored guest. I have called him “Wisdom”, “Life Experience”, “Heartbreak”, “Discernment”, “Rejection”, “Loss”, and “Grief”. But whatever name he went by, the result is always the same: we are shackled to a despair that did not allow us to move forward in faith.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15
I have felt that heart clenching panic of the great, “What If?” The fires of rage from unforgiveness have nearly consumed me. I have plumbed the wells of grief, expecting to be comforted and filled, only to come up hollow and empty. Fear has taken me captive in those moments of loss and injustice and instability in order to dismantle the foundation of who I was and who God was.
If this is where you are, you are in good company. We have all been there at one time or another.
We don’t give up and we don’t give in to fear. You rule over it, or it rules over you.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
If you’ve been on this planet for any amount of time, you’ve lost something. Small things like keys. The left sock. Teddy bears. Big things like people. Innocence. Sense of security. I’ve lost things too. Big things. I feel the ache in the deepest, most tender places. It flares up in moments and makes it hard to breathe sometimes.
But God is bigger than the chaos. He is outside of time itself. He sees how every seemingly insignificant decision affects the fabric of human history, because He knows it from beginning to end. Death and destruction and chaos isn’t what He wanted, because it isn’t who He is. But He’s bigger than those things too and He uses them as tools for freedom, the same way the enemy uses them as shackles for bondage.
You have a choice. I have a choice. 2017 can be a launching pad for fear or for faith.
Fear frames our world in our losses and our failures. Faith builds our world on opportunities for God to be God.
“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:21-26
When I slam the door on fear’s face and refuse to allow him to occupy the spaces in my heart and mind, I open another door to allow God’s blessings to flow into my life.
When I uproot the stink of death and decay that fear brings into my thinking, I breathe new life into everything I say and do; living waters can flow from me into others and I become a fountain of grace.
When I say no to self-pity, I shout yes to God’s glory to shine in my life. I can wallow in grief and anger and fear and whine “but God!”, or I can revel in His grace and peace and learn what long-suffering means and confidently proclaim in the wake of tragedy, “But God.”
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” -1 John 4:18
I am not advising to ignore/repress/deny your feelings. Grieve when bad things happen. Acknowledge when life sucks (because often, like so many times this year, it just does). But don’t sit in the rot; it’s death to your soul. Don’t bind yourself to fear and allow it to rattle the foundation of who God is or who you are.
Bind yourself to His love and fear will flee.
Peace and blessings, dear ones. You are always in my prayers.