Thursday, February 9, 2017

My Response to Fear: Experiencing God When You're Gripped with Fear


My answer to the question: "what is your greatest fear?" used to be pretty consistent and straightforward. I would usually dig up the one thing I believe can grip my heart with fear and that would usually suffice for an answer. Over time, my fears have gone through some mitosis division process, so much that, almost anything is capable of springing up anxiety in me. The most prevalent is the fear of what's to come; this has mastered me to the point where I go to bed with it and I wake up with it waiting for me by my bedside.

Disconnect 


Recently, a series of events have led me to confront my anxieties with honesty. Something was not quite matching up with the promises of God and how I was experiencing life. 
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love."-1 John 4:18
If truly I have accepted the perfect love of God in me, why does fear still overwhelm me so much to the point of mental and emotional paralysis. Why do I shrink God only to allow my fear be magnified beyond control? There was a disconnect and it is not from my ignorance of God's words but my failure to truly experience God in the midst of my anxieties. I've been listening to a message by Chip Ingram on "Experiencing God When You're Gripped by Fear" and it inspired this article. It led me to a deeper meditation on Psalm 46 and I hope you're encouraged as I walk you through my response to fear found in the heart of the Psalms.

Our Source of Hope 
"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.- verses 1-3
My response  - The Psalmist starts with God as a source of refuge and strength; this is the focal point. Often times, I find that my first instinct when I am paralyzed by fear is to spend so much time quantifying the size of it. I already feel defeated just by thinking of the possible ways an issue can cause havoc. The Psalmist does the opposite. He starts off by stating a very important fact- His total dependence on God as his source of strength and notice he made no reference to his own abilities here. He first reminds his body, soul and spirit, who was in control here before even facing the reality of the issue. Seeing this, I learn that my first response to fear is to re-establish my source of hope and by so doing, I am not deceived into thinking I can tackle whatever it is with my feeble ability.

And then he goes ahead to establish another equally important fact- The Omnipresence of God. He does this to disprove whatever ideas that the presence of chaos, war or anything capable of causing fear separates us from God. It was the confidence in this very fact that led the apostle Paul to say these words:
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."- Romans 8: 38-39
Finally, the Psalmist describes the issue itself. He doesn't deny the reality of the imminence of the problem but rather, faces it strategically. 

Our Reason for Hope 
"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts."- verses 3-6
Now, the Psalmist creates a contrast here; one that is rather mind-blowing for me. In the preceding verses, he describes a chaotic scene of the waters roaring and foaming and then almost immediately, switches the scene back to the serenity of the river and the calmness in its flow. This is the effect of the presence of God. Just try to picture a battle ground- bullets flying in the air, people being slaughtered before your very eyes; so much confusion all over the place. Now imagine a little bubble being created around you and in the bubble, you're lying on the beach enjoying the breeze. Maybe a little extreme, but this very representation can be seen in Mark when Jesus calmed the storm:
"And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"- Mark 4:37&38
Again, the Psalmist doesn't deny that there's indeed crazy chaos around him, but there was even something much more captivating and comforting- the presence of God.

God's Calling to Experience His Presence
"Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.The Lord Almighty is with us;the God of Jacob is our fortress"- Psalm 46:8-11
 God calls us to experience Him in our time of greatest need and how do we practically do this?
"The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth."- Psalm 145:18
We call on Him. We long for His presence: we seek it, dwell in it and savor every bit of it. In the presence of God, His majesty is so infinitely magnified that we cannot help but take our eyes off every other thing and give it our full attention. When we continuously re-establish the sovereignty of God in our hearts, our fears are shrunk to microscopic sizes. It has to; it is hardly ever possible to be so intoxicated by the presence of God that one is paralyzed by fear at the same time.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."- John 14:27

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