What is Fear Costing Us?

The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)

I have known the Lord as my helper for years, but I am still afraid.

What will man do to me? Well, for starters, man doesn’t always approve of me. Sometimes man rejects me. When I succeed or fail, man watches and judges my worth or value.

Or so I think. I’m beginning to suspect that others think far less often of me than I might guess, everyone’s thoughts being as centered around themselves as mine are around me.

And the more I study fear – in the Bible and in real life – the more I see that fear is a trap, particularly for those who say they trust God.

The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted. (Proverbs 29:25)

There is no telling how much hurt and heartache the Christian Church has caused because we have feared man more than God. I don’t want to be a part of that mess. The writer of Hebrews calls across the centuries,

Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say,

The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:1-6)

The same fear that has driven God’s people in history and right now, drives me.

Let love of the brethren continue…

I feel called to love as Jesus loves, but some within my Christian community and even family think I’m taking it too far. Accepting people and things that are unacceptable. I’m too touchy feely, I’m not safeguarding the Gospel, I’m not defending God’s Word.

Will I love anyway?

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers… Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. 

I read about immigration and the racial biases implanted in our justice system, and my heart breaks. If I speak publicly about this, it’s seen as political, not befitting my position, I’ve “gone liberal.” Will I show hospitality and remember prisoners (and work to right these wrongs) anyway?

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have…

Ouch. This one hits close to home. Is my character free from the love of money? What role does fear play in my spending habits, in my debts, in my lifestyle choices, in the difference between what I spend on myself and what I give in generosity to others? What role does fear play in my willing participation in the over consumption embedded in our culture, to the harm of the earth and my fellow humans? How much does the love of money affect my politics, the issues I care most about? Is contentment or comfort my driving goal?

I want to love the brethren, welcome outsiders, stand with those who are mistreated and imprisoned. I want to continue to honor my marriage, and I badly want to be free from the love of money, to find real contentment. HOW?

… for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”  so that we confidently say, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraidWhat will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:1-6)

The voice of fear is loud. But Jesus Himself says He is with me. Do I believe Him?


 

This post is the latest in the NO FEAR Devotional Series. Check back every Tuesday for the latest, and you can read the previous posts in the series here.

If this devotional resonated with you, feel free to share it using one of the links below: That really helps people to find this site, which hopefully will bless them as it has blessed you!


Photo in image by Apostolhs Gkoutzidhs on Unsplash
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The Opposite of Fear is…

A few years ago we made the decision to move from homeschooling our younger two sons and sent them to school, 3rd grade and kindergarten. This was a rough transition for both of them, but particularly (and understandably) for our 3rd grader. Like his mama, he was afraid of failing, of standing out, of doing something wrong. He mourned for the safety of home, even when what he really needed was the risk and reward of the big wide world.

We talked to him nonstop about bravery, “Be brave!”, “You’re so brave!”, “You can be brave!” I’m embarrassed to think about how frustrated we got with him when he refused to be brave, especially considering my own wealth of personal experience in this area.

When has telling myself to be brave EVER helped me be less afraid??

Answer: Never. It has never helped me.

I should have known that courage is not the opposite of fear. Courage is being afraid and doing it anyway.

So what is the opposite of fear?

As I’ve studied verses from the Bible about fear, I think I’ve found if not THE answer, then at least AN answer. Continue reading

The One Thing that Helps Me Face Fear

Are worry, anxiety, and fear the same thing? I’ve never been a worrier, and hardly ever identify myself as anxious. But I’ve been afraid my whole life.

I’m afraid of failure.

I’m afraid of abandonment.

I’m super afraid of rejection.

I’m so afraid of embarrassment I don’t enjoy movies or shows with embarrassing characters (See also: I’ve never watched a full episode of The Office.)

I’m afraid of making wrong decisions, of being misunderstood,  of doing the wrong thing, of not being enough, of being too much.

My life, my decisions, my relationships, my ministry, have all been shaped by fear.

Fear calls me to live a safe life, a life as protected as possible from failure, abandonment, rejection, embarrassment.  But a life without risk is also a life without adventure, connection, love, and freedom.

Continue reading

The Last One chosen for the Team and Other Childhood Trauma {No Fear Devotional}

From my distress I called upon the LordThe Lord answered me and set me in a large place.
The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?
The Lord is for me among those who help me; Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord Than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord Than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:5-9)

My grade school days taught me a life-long aversion to picking teams. There isn’t any situation in a standard PE curriculum for which I wouldn’t be the last one picked for the team. (Too bad we never chose teams for reading. Or making up stories. Or bossing around younger siblings.)

Through the years I’ve found myself in job searches which stirred up that “please pick me” feeling again. Is there anyone in the world who enjoys interviewing, attempting to sell themselves as the best candidate for a job?

In my pre-marriage days, I loved the independence singleness offered, along with the freedom to be fully available to friendships and serving my community. I did not love situations that required a partner, highlighting my “table of one” status, making me feel like the last kid chosen for the team, again.

Surely no one likes feeling unwanted, like the last one chosen?

As human as these feelings are, they are also a danger zone for me, leading as they do into the fear of man. My desire to be chosen quickly escalates into idolatry of the person in charge of choosing. I am easily fooled into giving human beings rights to my heart that belong to God alone.

I walk into a room, and feel like people are talking about me. I wonder if they like me, if anyone here wants to be my friend.

I watch a co-worker, whose areas of excellence overlap with my own, succeed. Rather than celebrating her success, I’m suddenly stuck on the sidelines, while she is chosen to play in the big game.

At work, decisions are being made that could affect my future. I feel threatened, attacked, unappreciated. I am convinced that my future and well-being are in the hands of people who care nothing for me.

I really wish life did not include so many situations that tempt me to believe that my value, my worth, my future, were things that other people get to decide for me.

What if these minor annoyances and major struggles are actually opportunities? Here I find a chance to live in the belief that I am not at all the last one standing, but in fact “chosen and dearly loved” (Colossians 3:12).

Here I find an occasion for turning from my fear of man, taking back the right to name me as wanted, chosen, valued, protecting that privilege for my Maker God alone. God is FOR me.

In every situation that sends me back to that PE gym, feeling unchosen, unwanted, not good enough, I find the possibility to choose trusting God rather than trusting in man.

Pushed to the wall, I called to Godfrom the wide open spaces, he answered.
God’s now at my side and I’m not afraid; who would dare lay a hand on me?
God’s my strong champion; I flick off my enemies like flies.
Far better to take refuge in God than trust in people;
Far better to take refuge in God than trust in celebrities.

(Psalm 118:5-9, The Message)

How about you? What makes you feel unwanted, unchosen? Do you find yourself trusting in human help, human favor, human solutions to your problems?

Be encouraged: The beautiful NO FEAR promise in Psalm 118 is bookended by an even more beautiful promise. Psalm 118 begins and ends with the words:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

The good Lord, full of everlasting lovingkindness, is for me. And for you. We will not fear.

This post is the latest in the NO FEAR Devotional Series. Check back every Tuesday, and read the previous posts in the series here. And If this resonated with you, feel free to share it using the link below: That really helps people to find this site, which hopefully will bless them as it has blessed you!

Picture used in image is by Kyle Fang on Unsplash

Fear + Enemies

I’m determined to continue studying the Biblical command “Do not fear,” but I’ve run into a road block. A mind block. Six books into the Bible (beginning with Joshua), and I’m only finding verses where the context of “do not fear” is enemies.

Now the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. (Joshua 8:1)

“Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him. (2 Chronicles 32:7)

When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.” (Nehemiah 4:14)

Battle, conquest, even the wholesale slaughter of people groups as Israel takes and keeps the promised land. These stories need more context than I have the time to present.

But more importantly, I find myself in a world where culture and even the church regularly tells me who my enemies are: Whom I should hate, who I am against, who is evil and with whom we should do battle.

I believe the Bible is God’s Word and we should be guided by it. But I’m not sure I want ancient cultures naming enemies for me, or prescribing my response to the enemies I might have. I have to follow Jesus in these things, and He leads in a different way.

And frankly, in a week when I’ve had to take a break from the news, from the sound of gunshots in schools and deep divisions over how we can curb the violence breaking out among us, I don’t want a Bible study that is centered on war and naming people as my enemies.

Continue reading

Fear Not: Willing to Wait

“Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great.” (Genesis 15:1)

As God’s story unfolds in the Bible, Abraham is the first person to hear “Do not fear…” from God. Let’s sit at Abraham’s feet and see what we can learn from his life about freedom from fear.

We meet Abraham as Abram in Genesis 12, as God says to Him,

“Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Abraham’s is a story of faith, and Abraham’s is a story of promise.

God says GO, and Abram goes. Abram goes in God’s promise to make him a nation, to make his name great, and to make him a blessing. Abram becomes the father of Israel, and through his descendant Jesus, all the families of the earth are blessed. Every promise Yahweh made to Abram was kept.

Abraham’s story is a story of faith and promise. But those promises of a nation and a prosperity and a blessing are given when Abram is 75, and childless. Without a child, Abram could not father a nation, or have a great name, or bless all the families of the earth.

At 99, Yahweh repeats His promises to Abram, and gives him a new name, one with the breath of God inserted in the middle. Abraham’s story is a story of faith and promise. But Abram waited for 25 years before a son was born to him, before he had even a glimpse of God’s plan, the keeping of his promise.  Continue reading

Fear Not: The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom

I feel God calling me right now, to something new or different. I don’t want to be melodramatic, so let me be clear: I don’t know how new, or how different, and I suspect that the new or different isn’t what I expect. I also don’t think He’s calling me to something bigger. I’m guessing it is something smaller, actually.

But I do feel like He’s calling me.

That sounds pretty romantic, but the truth is that I am scared to death. I trust God, but I don’t like change, and my life already has plenty of change coming, thankyouverymuch. I’m scared.

Afraid of mis-hearing God, of making wrong decisions.

Afraid of disappointment.

Afraid of failure. (Really, really afraid of failure.)

I’m afraid.

I decided a long time ago not to make decisions based on fear, but I’ve found that fear leads me in super sneaky ways.

So I’m going back to my roots, Bible study wise, and I’m doing a Word study. I’m going to look at every place the Bible says any version of the phrase “fear not” or “do not be afraid.” I think I’ve read somewhere that “fear not” is the most repeated command in the Bible, so I’m guessing this will take a while.

I probably won’t write about every single verse I find, but I tend to learn more when I  communicate what I’m learning. So I’m inviting you to join me on this journey. Most Tuesdays you’ll find some “fear not” thoughts here, as I work out this truth in my life. I’d love to hear what you’re afraid of, and the areas where you need to hear God’s invitation to “fear not.”

I’ll probably study in chronological order because that makes the most sense to me (Hi, I’m Renee. I like to go in order.) But my verse of the year is from the middle of the story, and it’s another return to my roots (as this is something of a life verse for me.) Continue reading