In a dark and noisy world of fear, two paths emerge. One is an illusion. One leads to joy.
As much of the world is doing lately, I’ve found myself meditating on the subject of fear. Fear is trying to fool us, even more than usual, into thinking he is the ruler of our universe right now.
Fear tells us he is in charge, but as believers, we know that is a lie. It is not fear that rules the universe, but God. And yet, even knowing this, we so often live and walk in fear.
Fear – A painful emotion or passion excited by an expectation of evil, or the apprehension of impending danger; an uneasiness of mind, upon the thought of future evil likely to befall us.
I feel somewhat qualified to talk about fear, because I’m really good at it—at being afraid. I’ve spent much of my life in fear, as a result of poorly healed wounds, events, and trauma in my life.
Fear, in and of itself, is not inherently bad. God built into us this safety mechanism of fear which keeps us from doing dangerous things, like jumping off of cliffs or hugging poisonous reptiles. Fear is meant to be an internal alert message that says, “Danger! Move to safety.”
The problem with fear comes when we take that natural, God-given alert message and instead of moving away from fear towards safety, we grab onto fear and move away from safety.
Instead of letting go of fear and moving towards God—our High Tower, our Rock, our Shelter, our Hiding Place—we elevate fear to a place of authority in our lives and turn our eyes away from God. Fear soon morphs into a lying, vicious, enslaving false god.
I distinctly remember a moment in my youth when I made the conscious decision to never again let my guard down. “You should never really relax or fully enjoy anything, because bad things always happen when you least expect it,” was the thought pattern that emerged.
What I didn’t realize at that young age, was that in consenting to this harmful belief, I was slowly dethroning God as the ruler and guide of my life, and replacing Him with fear. In a backwards way, I believed that fear could protect me better than God, and through this belief, fear became my god.
Did God—the true God, that is—leave me? No. When faced with fear, I took the wrong path and yet He walked along it with me, guiding and protecting me all the while. What love! But it has taken me a long time to see and understand the magnitude of that love.
When faced with fear, we have two paths we can choose from: we can choose the path of trust, or we can choose the path of control. Trust leads to peace and joy. Control leads to everything but.
Control has historically been my default in fear. I don’t say that to shame myself, I just state it factually. In fear or anxiety, I would turn to control. Not so much the control of people, but the control of my environment and circumstances in order to keep myself and/or loved ones safe from pain or harm.
The thing about control, though, is that it is an illusion. I can’t really control my environment or circumstances past a very limited point. I can’t control my future. I can’t control what will happen this afternoon, or tomorrow, or next year, no matter how hard I try.
In trying to keep myself safe through control, I inevitably live with my heart and mind stuck in either the past or the future, and I fail to ever fully live in the present. This struggle for a control we can never have grows within our hearts anger, resentment, discontent, worry, anxiety, frustration, and discouragement, choking out any space for joy to grow.
When I am stuck in the past or living in fear of the future, I fail to really live at all, because where fear dwells, love does not. And where love does not dwell, joy cannot. Without joy in life, there really is no life at all, is there?
So how do I get from a fear-filled life to a joy-filled life?
And what even is joy, really?
Joy – the state of delighting in the present or looking forward with hope to the future, trusting that the Lord is working to bring good to pass.
It is letting go of fear and moving towards trust—resting in the grace of today and the hope of tomorrow.
How do we let go of the fear-filled illusion of control and move toward joy-filled trust?
We cannot scold or beat ourselves into trust or joy. When we are afraid or anxious, telling ourselves or others, “Just have faith and trust God!” produces nothing but shame. Shame never produces good fruit. Thankfulness, hope, and trust are fruits of love. It is love that casts out fear, not control or shame.
For me, letting go of life-long fear is a matter of repentance, acceptance, stillness, and delight.
I repent of my fear worship.
I put my eyes back on my Abba who has never left my side.
I let go of my struggle for control by accepting that I never had any control to begin with.
I get still and rest in my Father’s incredible love and care for me.
I delight in Him.
This state of delight can only come from a heart that is filled with love. Perfect love casts out fear. My love is not perfect, but God’s is and His Spirit lives within me. When I relinquish my illusion of control to the power of the Holy Spirit and rest in Him, love takes over and builds a home.
Where love dwells, fear cannot.
When fear is cast out, thankfulness, hope, and trust flourish. Where thankfulness, hope, and trust flourish, joy overflows.
When you find yourself paralyzed in a state of fear, worry, or anxiety, instead of trying to scold yourself into trust, try pausing and resting for a moment.
Find a quiet place. Close your eyes and take long, slow, deep breaths to help your mind quiet down. Remember that as a child of God, your Father is right there with you. His Spirit is in you. He’s with you when you are trusting and when you are afraid. He isn’t scolding you or shaming you for your fear. He isn’t yelling at you, “Just trust me, already!”
He’s simply inviting you.
“Walk with me.
Talk with me.
Sit with me.
Tell me what’s going on inside of you.
I can help you.
I love you.
He’s inviting you to rest in His presence.
He’s inviting you to let go of your desire for control and hand it to Him. Open your hands and let go of the grip you are trying to maintain over your circumstances and the people around you.
He’s inviting you to be still. Stop struggling to somehow muster up faith, trust, or joy. Struggling only produces more anxiety and fear.
He’s inviting you to sink. Sink into the cool, clear waters of His will and His plans for you. Let those waters carry you into peace.
He’s inviting you to partake. Partake of the grace He has given you for this present moment in this present day. You have been given the grace for this moment. You have been given the grace for this day. That is all you need. Tomorrow, there will be more grace. There is hope in that. Rest in that hope.
He’s inviting you to listen. His words bring peace when we truly listen. Quiet the other voices in your world so that you are able to hear His.
In the quiet, bring to mind all that you have to be thankful for.
A place to sleep.
Water to drink.
Food to eat.
People to love.
A blue sky.
Or a gray sky.
Shade in the heat.
A ray of warm sunshine.
A rustle of leaves in the trees.
God Himself and all of his attributes.
You, and all that God says you are.
There is so much to be thankful for. In thankfulness there is joy.
Child of God, He is in you. He is with you. He is all around you. He is love. He is peace. He is rest. He is joy.
Accept His invitation to let go of the external and lean into all that He is.
In His presence—the presence of perfect Love—you will find the hope and trust which cast out fear and fill you with joy.
Two paths emerge in this world of fear.
One is an illusion.
One leads to joy.
Suggested Scripture passages for comfort, encouragement, and meditation:
Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust. O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD,
Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight….
The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup:thou maintainest my lot.
The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.
I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
I John 4:15-19
Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
1 Peter 1:6-8
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
O 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 unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.
The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.
Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?
Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.
The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.
He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.