So, it isn’t technically Friday today, but I felt like I needed to get this post done for some reason. So here we are.
This devotional is a good follow-up to this one: What Was Last Year? Turning The Darkness Into Light.
This practical devotional about fear may also be helpful: When Fear is a Stump That Needs to be Removed.
Now that we’re half way into 2021, it’s a bit more clear to all of us that hard circumstances haven’t suddenly gone away. Are we prepared for uncertain, hard things that are going on in our lives? Emotionally prepared? Spiritually prepared?
When we face sudden trouble we generally respond in one of three ways:
- Flight or
I would also add
These responses are driven by fear and self-preservation. But where do they lead us?
My most natural instinct is flight – to run away from the problem. And sometimes a bit of fighting depending on the situation. Sometimes we do have to run away from things. But running off blindly every time there’s trouble is not a good way to react. We are not prey animals. Unfortunately, we can’t run away and shut the door on the pandemic situation. I hope that the coming months bring relief from the pandemic. I really do. But I’m not expecting the pandemic and the multi-faceted effects of it to suddenly disappear. And, as always, there are other challenging life events that pop up for all of us, causing fear to rear its ugly head.
Even if we’ve dealt a blow to fear in our lives, it is not completely abolished. Why? Because fear is one of our natural emotions. Feeling fear is normal. If you never feel afraid then we might have to start discussing psychological disorders. It is what you do with the feelings of fear that matter. To have courage is not to be void of fear, it is to step out despite your fear. There is no place for apathy when it comes to dealing with hard times. Let’s get prepared.
How are we going to choose to respond to the troubles that life brings? If we suddenly find ourselves in a place of darkness, what will we do?
|Fight||Try to fight our way out of it by attempting to control our own minds and circumstances?||Grows: pride and self-sufficiency.|
|Flight||Try to fight our way out of it by attempting to control our own minds and circumstances?||Grows: fear and avoidance.|
|Freeze||Become paralyzed by fear and not know how to move forward?||Grows: fear and apathy.|
|Denial||Pretend that the darkness doesn’t exist and try to barge your way through it, hurting others and yourself in the process?||Grows: pride and selfishness.|
None of these options work very well without adding God into the process. For God is light. There’s a lot of darkness in the world, but sometimes we don’t realise when darkness has seeped into us and is growing unhealthy things in us. I think the best response we can have in times of trouble is: Turn. Turn to God. Ask him what to do. Ask him to help. Then whatever we do is grounded in him, not in our own thinking. This is driven by and grows humility and faith. When we turn to God, he helps us to fight. On his terms and against the right things.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:13-14
If we walk closely with God, he helps us to choose and do the most important things every day. If we seek his wisdom, he gives it. So we have no need to fear sudden changes in our environment. If we find ourselves in a place of “But I haven’t done this”, “I should have done that”, “But I need this!” or “What if this happens?”, it’s time to examine how closely we’ve been sticking to God’s side. Who is in control? Be honest with God about your thoughts and feelings.
If our thoughts, attitudes and behaviours are driven by our circumstances, we are going to end up disappointed with, scared of or scathing about another day, another month, another year. But if we seek God first, our days become about hope, joy and peace and finding silver linings in the middle of the storm, not when the storm is over. The storm isn’t over. But have you found your resting place? And are you turning back to it over and over again? We don’t have to keep trying to outrun the storm. Good things aren’t just for when the storm is over. We can steal away to our special place with God whenever we choose to. God can heal the broken or distorted things in our minds. He can calm the storm within us even when the storm around us keeps raging. That’s what true peace is. Wait for the Lord.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:17-18
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. – Psalm 91:1-4
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27
Life hasn’t been entirely easy for me lately. We had The Husband’s hospital scare with the Emergency Department and then there were two weeks in a row that I had to take him into the hospital for investigative procedures to rule out scary things that could be wrong inside his body. Nobody wants to face these things with their spouse, but least of all when you’re carrying a baby inside you in your third trimester. Aside from dealing with tiredness, my own health issues, soreness, heightened emotions and trouble keeping up with physical tasks, fear started to get a grip on me. I’m not very good at being vulnerable and incapable.
With mere weeks before the baby was due I was thinking about birth decisions to be made in light of my tough recovery last time around. And then about an extended family member who died of cancer during lockdown last year. It was possible that The Husband could have that kind of cancer and we were about to find out. To be honest, sometimes that terrified me. I was scared that I would lose the man that I loved, our family’s breadwinner, father of my children, one of whom was due to be born soon, or that he would have to go through horrible treatment and unwellness that I wouldn’t be able to handle with the baby situation. I felt like my main support person who I needed desperately could be ripped away from me. I found myself fleeing by not talking about it. In my time of weakness I was letting the darkness seep in by not bringing my thoughts and fears into the light. Leaving my husband at the hospital again was the worst part. All the memories of long hours on hard chairs in the ED with an unknown diagnosis and having to leave him there flooded back to me.
I did some hard praying. I know the Lord has certain plans for me in the future; promises and scriptures he’s given me to hold on to, but they are specific to my dreams and my relationship with God. The enemy was quick to point out that I hadn’t received any distinct guarantee that The Husband was a part of those promises. That I might have to do everything alone. The devil fights dirty. And so, I poured my heart out to God and told him that I wanted The Husband to be a part of those dreams, by my side. No matter where he was at now in terms of involvement, faith or anything else, I chose to believe that God would be faithful to show there wasn’t anything further wrong with him or that it would be healed so that he can be a part of those dreams and plans.
As I chose to believe and hope in God’s faithfulness, my fears started to melt away and God’s faithfulness shone through. I am totally stoked with God to report that everything is well so far, aside from the minor operation that we already knew The Husband needed to have. God has been faithful to us.
There are so many things out of my control right now. But… I’m prepared for battle. I’m still showing up for God every day, despite my weaknesses in my 38th week of pregnancy. Wait for the Lord.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Sometimes ‘anxious’ seems like a word we would use to describe other people, but not ourselves. But what “do not be anxious” really means here is do not be distracted by worry and do not dwell on uncertainty. Turn away from worry. Fix your thoughts on God.
Let’s not forget that we’re all on a battlefield. As hard circumstances rage on in the world, the war in the spiritual realm rages too. The enemy relishes every opportunity to plant fear, pride, anger, strife, disillusionment and despair in us in our moments of weakness or distraction. But on the other side, God and his armies bring light to the darkest places. God sows hope, peace, joy, thankfulness, encouragement, help and love right in the middle of the battlefield.
We get to choose which side we’re on. What we think about our life and what we do will be determined by which side we choose. There is no running away, no flight, from God or the devil. Freezing is only going to leave us wounded. Fighting in our own strength will hurt us and others. To ‘abstain’ from the battlefield in denial is to choose the enemy’s side. God says if we are not for him, we’re against him (Matthew 12:30, Luke 11:23). God wants us to turn and then fight under his wise leadership.
God will teach us how to fight for his goodness and his glory. If we spend time with him he will teach us how to aim for his character, how to sow his good fruit, how to hope and how to encourage those around us. He will teach us not just how to cling onto the edge the cliff but how to claw our way back up by grabbing Jesus’ outstretched hand. If we let him into the darkest corners of our life by laying our thoughts and feelings bare before him the light will come flooding in. Jesus will help us to clear, to fix and to clean everything that’s gotten messed up within us. Wait for the Lord.
for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. – Ephesians 5:14, 16-17
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. – Ephesians 6:13
To us, a troubling situation can seem like a spanner in the works, a curve ball, a plot twist that throws everything into disarray. But to God, it is none of these things. He can see what’s coming and he has plans for us through ALL of it. God is faithful. He doesn’t want us to be afraid. He doesn’t want us to fail. What does he want for us? That we would turn and live. That we would turn to him, every day, through all circumstances and live as he wants us to live. Wait for the Lord.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. – Isaiah 43:1-2
On a practical level, part of being prepared is setting boundaries. For example, I don’t read or listen to news in the evening because that’s the time when my imagination and fear can easily run away with me. In order to sleep well I need to wind down in the evening, both physically and emotionally. So I choose to do things that are restful for me. Or if someone wants to tell me stories about bad birth experiences or complications I can choose to stop that conversation if it’s not helpful. Just as God wants us to turn to him, he wants us to turn away from things that are unhealthy for us, even if that means speaking out and potentially offending someone. Knowing what boundaries to set for yourself comes from asking God for his wisdom. Everyone is different.
At the end of all of this intense talk about being prepared, what I really feel when I think about life is this:
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24
God has given us another day. Yes, it might come with trials, but it also comes with goodness. We have a choice: to be afraid of what life might bring or to be excited about what God will bring. That is a choice that pops up daily.
I would encourage you to stick some affirming words about God on your wall, your mirror, your car dashboard or wherever would be helpful to see them. Here are some suggestions:
- ‘God is in control.’
- ‘God knows what’s happening.’
- ‘God understands even when I don’t.’
- ‘God has a plan for me.’
- ‘God can see in the darkness.’
- ‘God can lead me through any darkness.’
- ‘Be a light to others who are struggling in the dark.’
- Any of the scriptures in this devotional or any others that encourage you.
- What is your most natural response in times of danger: fight, flight, freeze or denial?
- How can you use the understanding of that to develop godly ways and strategies of response?
- Are there boundaries you need to develop in certain areas of your life to help stop fear from growing into something bigger than a feeling?
- How can you encourage people on the battlefield around you?
All Bible verses are from the ESV (English Standard Version), 2016.