By: Jenni Walker
“When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)
“If you would live in victory . . . you must refuse to be dominated by the seen and the felt.” (Amy Carmichael)
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Our bodies have natural heightened responses when there is a perceived threat: Your body may be in shock after a car accident; your heart may race as you jump into action the moment when it looks like your child is about to take a tumble from the top of the swing set; your palms may sweat when you have a presentation to give to a large audience. To be sure, the uncertainties of life can easily produce situations in which we must navigate fear, nerves, or anxious responses. But God does not want us to live with fear as an ongoing part of our daily lives. The problem comes when we begin to live with the habit of feeding our fears.
Ladies, we cannot trifle with or make light of fear, worry, and anxiety. Fear is not something to address just because it is unwanted or feels unpleasant. Any fear, anxiousness, or worry that is allowed to fester divides our focus, holds us captive, and stymies the eternal impact that God has ordained for each one of us in our time here on this earth. So what do we do when we are faced with fear? That will depend on the habits and attitudes we have been cultivating day-in, day-out. We must build up our trust in the Lord and combat our fears with God’s help! Psalm 56:9-11 provides us with a beautiful description of how to do this in the face of fear: “When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me. In God (I will praise His word), in the Lord (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Is there an area of your life that you have been experiencing pervasive worry instead of unshakeable trust in the Lord? Do you find that you regularly “feed your fears”? Let’s look at three fear-feeding habits that we as wholehearted women need to be on guard about…
HABIT 1: PLAYING IT OUT IN OUR MINDS
All of us experience fearful or anxious thoughts that slip into our minds at various times. But rather than combating them immediately with the truth of God’s Word, many times people choose to entertain those thoughts. They mull them over, play out the various scenarios, and slowly that fear gets fed. Many of these begin with thinking about the “what-ifs” of life – what if I experience…
Physical harm from a natural disaster or a sudden illness?
A broken relationship like the one on that television program?
A disappointing reaction to something I worked really hard at?
The harm of a child when he/she is at a friend’s home or is learning to drive?
The fear of what others may think of you or might be saying behind my back?
King David of the Old Testament had plenty of opportunities to play out fearful scenarios in his mind. Did you know that many of his Psalms were written in the midst of great difficulties? And yet his responses demonstrate to us how to feed our trust in the Lord in the midst of circumstances that could easily produce fear:
- In Psalm 7, when a Benjamite named Cush was intentionally speaking slanderously against him, David prays, “O Lord my God, in You I put my trust; save me from all those who persecute me, and deliver me” (verse 1).
- In Psalm 56, when he has just been captured by Philistine enemies, he writes: “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me” (verses 8-9).
- In Psalm 57, David has fled from Saul’s murderous pursuit into a cave, and he writes: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by” (verse 1).
- In Psalm 63, when David is in the midst of the wilderness of Judah, he pours out his heart to the Lord: “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me” (verses 6-8).
King David was showing us how to do what Amy Carmichael, courageous missionary to India and rescuer of young girls bound in temple prostitution, referred to as “steeping your soul in His eternal truth.” When you are confronted by fearful thoughts, respond with the most powerful anecdote there is: the living and active Word of God (Hebrews 4:12-13)! Courageously, intentionally, and habitually feed your trust in the Lord in this way. In the words of Amy Carmichael, “We say, then, to anyone who is under trial, give Him time to steep the soul in His eternal truth. Go into the open air, look up into the depths of the sky, or out upon the wideness of the sea, or on the strength of the hills that is His also; or, if bound in the body, go forth in the spirit; spirit is not bound. Give Him time and, as surely as dawn follows night, there will break upon the heart a sense of certainty that cannot be shaken.”
HABIT 2: TALKING ABOUT IT WITH OTHERS
While it is important to seek wise counsel and to process about things in a healthy way, many women make airing their thoughts and opinions with one another about worrisome topics a regular habit in a way that elevates their fears over the lordship of Christ in their life. Does what you say align with the truth of God’s Word? Is it feeding your trust in Him? Is it demonstrating that your soul has found its rest and hope in God alone?
Well, I’m just a worrier, you may be thinking to yourself. Many times, we process our worries and fears by making light of them. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
“Oh, my co-teacher probably won’t come through, and then I’ll have to do everything for this weekend’s Sunday school lesson. We’re going to look completely unprepared!”
“My kindergarten son told a lie last night – again. I’m like, ‘Am I raising a delinquent?’ sometimes.”
“My daughter just got her driver’s license, and I can’t stop picturing her getting into an accident this winter. There are just so many reckless drivers out there, and her response time isn’t good yet. I can only imagine the car crashes she could cause when you add ice to the mix! Plus, she’s already kind of a worry wart. After that, she may never want to drive again, and then I’d be the one driving her around again all the time!”
In each one of these situations, there is a valid concern. But each woman is not practicing a godly response. Psalm 56:3 says, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Proverbs 3:5-6 commands us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” How do we keep a surrendered heart that trusts the Lord in the face of fear? Again, the answer is the same: we stop feeding our fears and, instead, feed our trust in the Lord even as we process an area of concern! “Blessed be the Lord, because He has heard the voice of my supplications! The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him” (Psalm 28:6-7).
Are the words that you speak demonstrating your trust in the Lord? Are they a reflection of your choice to meditate on God’s Word and to feed on His faithfulness in all circumstances (Psalm 37:3)? No matter what circumstances, uncertainties, or opportunities for worry that you are facing today, remember that God is your everlasting strength, that He is with you, and you are His (Isaiah 26:3-4; 43:1-3). Meditate on the truth of His Word and keep a singular focus of mind, heart, and word on the Lord. Make sure that your words and everyday conversations are aligned with the promise of His faithfulness! “Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is.” (Amy Carmichael)
HABIT 3: LETTING IT INFLUENCE OUR CHOICES AND DECISIONS
At any given time, a thought like one of these might pop into your head or out of your mouth:
“Oh no, I could never do that.”
“I’m just a mom/wife/employee…”
“I’m afraid that this is not going to turn out the way I’d hoped for.”
“I’m just not that kind of person.”
“What I have to say probably won’t be accepted, so I’ll just keep it to myself.”
“I just don’t have what it takes.”
This list of fear-based thoughts and phrases is only a scratch on the surface. The enemy will use certain tactics to affect how we see ourselves, to rattle our cage, and to keep us from action. (Check out C.S. Lewis’s intriguing and insightful Screwtape Letters from more thoughts on the matter!) Has fear become your master in a thought pattern? In the way you talk about a certain area of your life? When we let habits 1 and 2 go unchecked, we can find ourselves allowing those fearful or worrisome thoughts and spoken words to keep us from making courageous choices, choosing wise decisions, and walking in fruitful freedom as wholehearted followers of Christ!
Perhaps there is something that the Holy Spirit has been tugging at your heart about, but you have been feeding your fears instead of a cultivating a courageous willingness to step out in faith. Pastor Chris Hodges address this well in his book entitled Four Cups: “Fear-based procrastination keeps people from living life to the fullest…[God] loves taking ordinary people and using them to do extraordinary things.” Our Lord calls us to be a holy and courageous people who refuse to let God’s plans and purposes for their lives be stunted, stalled, or hindered by fear but who, instead, seek Him in their decision-making and are on-mission for Him in all that they do!
Is fear or worry holding you back from being who God has called you to be? From doing what He has called you to do? From getting out of your comfort zone and putting the results in His hands instead of yours? In addition to feeding your trust in the Lord through the promises of His Word, one of the best ways I know to be spurred toward action is to learn about heroes of the faith who have gone before me. As I read about them, I observe how they kept their souls stayed on the Lord (Isaiah 26:3-4) in their mind, emotions, and words. They were real women who processed emotions honestly and poured out their hearts to the Lord, yet they refused to let their actions be mastered by any surfacing fears, worries, or uncertainties. They knew what to do with those fears: to refuse to feed them and, instead, to feed their faith and trust in the Lord! In doing so, they each became examples of great and courageous faith for us to follow. Here are just a few of my personal favorites:
Elisabeth Elliot – She stayed for a time as a missionary with the Quichua Indians in South America even after her husband had been speared to death by them in attempt to reach them with the gospel. But this was only the beginning of her story. Much of her life after that was comprised of diligent service to the Lord as a twice-widowed wife, a mother, speaker, author, mentor, and grandmother. Every part of her life was done in service to the Lord according to His precepts, and He expanded her audience tremendously.
Ruth Bell Graham – She had desired to be a missionary and gave up that dream when she felt God calling her to marry Billy Graham and to be a stay-at-home-mom and homemaker. While her husband traveled as a world-renowned evangelist, she did not fear loneliness or insignificance but lived each day with a holy purpose and with a deep love for the Lord, His Word, and for others.
Gladys Aylward – A missionary to China who, among countless acts of courage for Christ, infamously walked into the midst of a murderous prison riot, took authority over the situation as she commanded each of the men to stop fighting, and then continued to demand of the prison guards that the men receive better and more humane treatment to prevent such outbreaks in the future.
Amy Carmichael – Before her missionary work in India even began, Amy faced seasickness and the possibility of her ship capsizing near Japan in the midst of a typhoon. Upon reaching Japan, she experienced great difficulties not only with the language, but her time there was both physically and mentally taxing. She was sent home fifteen months later and could have given up her belief that she was called by her Lord to “go ye…” as a missionary. But she continued on courageously, finding herself in India soon thereafter and spending the rest of her days there on mission for God’s kingdom purposes!
NO MERE TRIFLE
I would like to close with the words of Amy Carmichael, who wrote “What is the secret to great living? Entire separation to Christ and devotion to Him. Thus speaks every man and woman whose life has made more than a passing flicker in the spiritual realm. It is the life that has no time for trifling that counts.” Wholehearted women of God, let’s not trifle with fear. Are you playing out fear-based scenarios in your mind? Do you frequently hash out your worries with others in a way that builds up the fear rather than your trust in the Lord? Have your fears become consultants in your decision-making? Identify any of these habits, refuse to feed your fears and, instead, draw close to the Lord in thought, word, and deed as you feed your trust in Him!
“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:1-8)
Time to Reflect
1. Take some time to reflect honestly about today’s devotion topic. What is the Holy Spirit ministering to your heart?
2. Revisit today’s Scripture passages. What do these verses teach us about relationship with God? How do they change things? (i.e. The way that we live? What we live for? Our intimacy with God?)
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***Check out some of our recommended resources to learn more about women who have walked in intimacy with the Lord and courageously lived out their faith in Him! Click HERE: https://wholeheartedwoman.live/recommended-books/