It always makes me a little sad, taking down Christmas decorations. All the tinsel and lights and evergreen beauty – even as an adult, it still seems a bit magical. But now it’s over and time to get back to work.
And then there’s the new year.
It used to fill me with excitement and hope. I would dream of what lies ahead and celebrate with anticipation. But I’ve noticed an unwelcome change in my heart over the last few years. Maybe I’ve become pessimistic. Maybe I’ve just come to love a simple life and don’t want things to change.
Actually, I think I’m afraid.
Afraid of what lies ahead. Afraid of losing what I love or of the discomfort of change. Fear can wield such a vise grip on my heart. Indeed, it has been one of the greatest struggles of my adult life.
This is no small matter for a follower of Jesus, because fear sabotages faith.
When fear moves in, joy and peace get pushed out. Trusting God is replaced by anxiety and “what if’s.” And the longer fear is entertained, the more it takes over. Where fear once was a nagging thought, it begins to command center stage. Instead of walking by faith, self-preservation becomes the goal. Instead of eyes fixed on Jesus, I’m distracted by myself and my surroundings.
But thank God, He’s the Lifter of my head. Thank God, the Holy Spirit is my Teacher. Thank God, He doesn’t leave me here. Thank God He still quiets raging storms – even storms of the heart.
And He reminds me…
He is completely in control. There’s not a ruler or a nation, an organization or a terrorist, a tragedy or a trial, a sickness or even death, that He is not Lord over. He is more powerful than any “giant” I will ever face.
He is abundantly good. There is a lot in life that is not good. A whole lot of things are just downright horrible. But our heavenly Daddy is always working for our good. While He allows free will and human choice, while the evils of a sin-ridden world run their course, He promises to bring good out of it for His own. His intention toward us is kind. Love is the heartbeat of our Redeemer. And He Himself is well-acquainted with grief, so He’s able to comfort us when we need it.
I am of great value to my God. When Jesus taught His disciples about overcoming fear, He based His command “Do not be afraid” on this fact: God notices every bird that falls to the ground. We (whom Jesus calls His friends!) are of much greater value than the birds, so there’s nothing to fear! Nothing in heaven or on earth could cause Him to forget His friends. He is ever attentive to our prayers and our plight.
I am never alone. Sometimes I catch myself dwelling on “what if’s.” But if I stop to think about it, I realize that the presence of God is noticeably absent in these scenarios. Here’s the reality – never will I face a trial or a struggle on my own. The indwelling Spirit of God, with all His infinite power and wisdom, is forever my Companion.
So when fear invades, this is how God is teaching me to respond. (This, of course, relates to unwarranted fear. In truly dangerous situations, fear can be a God-given response compelling us to “fight or flight.”)
Ask God for discernment. Is there a legitimate danger I need to face or flee? If not, then…
Notice whose “voice” I’m listening to. The devil’s native tongue is deceit, and he’s a master at distraction. If I’m entertaining fear, I’m most likely believing something that’s not true. Or forgetting something that is true.
Seek God for the truth that counters any lie.
Respond in faith, based on the truth. Quite often, the response of faith is opposite of what fear is driving me to do.
So, as I face the new year, I rejoice that our God became man, conquered death and is forever with us through His Spirit. He has good things stored up for His kids, and one day He will set all things right. In the meantime, His nearness is our good.
“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works!” Ps 73:28.
May we treasure that nearness and trust His heart.
What about you? How do you respond when facing uncertain times? I’d love to learn what God has taught you!
Don’t take my word for it! Check out these passages:
Ps 31:19; 89:6,8; Rom 8:28,39; Eph 1:5,9; Zeph 3:17; Isa 53:3; 1 Jn 4: 8-10; Matt 10:29-31; Lk 12: 4-32; Isa 49:15-16; Heb 13:5