We hear a lot these days about the high levels of ‘anxiety’ that people are experiencing at this time. I think that what we call ‘anxiety’ is what the bible would call ‘fear’, and we know that the bible is full of exhortations, in both the Old and the New Testament, not to be afraid- to ‘fear not’.
When we read verses in the bible about ‘not being afraid’ it is never because there is nothing to worry about. No, it is usually because ‘the Lord is with you’ Joshua 1:9 or because ‘the battle is the Lords’ 2 Chronicles 20:15 or because ‘He is my refuge and my fortress’ Psalm 91:2. The antidote to fear is always the presence of God in some way. Jesus too gave His followers a good reason for not worrying or being anxious, and it is the fact that they have a heavenly Father, who cares about them and who ‘knows’ what they need. Matthew 6:31.
As a young person, I had a lot of fears about a lot of things, and when I became a Christian I found that the Lord was gradually setting set me free from my fears. I noticed that whenever I found myself in a situation that provoked fear in me, as I turned to the Lord to praise Him, the fear would go. Not always immediately but it went. Then, while reading Psalm 34:1-8 I began to understand why.
David, who wrote the Psalm, while fleeing for his life, had real fighting enemies, of whom he was afraid. It’s a bit different for us. Many of our fears or anxieties are about non physical enemies, like our bank balance, our jobs, our health, our relationships (or lack of them). We may be afraid for our childrens’ future or our own, and the fear can grow if we feel powerless to do anything about these things.
In those verses from Psalm 34 David says, ‘I sought the lord and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears’, but those verses are preceded by ‘I will extol the Lord at all times, His praise will always be on my lips’. So what is the connection between thanking and praising God and being delivered from fear?
Well, fear is the opposite of faith. Like darkness and light they can’t exist together. David says in another psalm ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?’ Psalm 27:1
If we are in a dark room and turn on the light, the darkness goes in an instant, light and darkness can’t exist together. In the same way fear and faith can’t exist together. Fear can’t thrive where there is faith. So instead of feeling bad about our very real fears, or trying to battle them ourselves, or persuade ourselves that ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is, will never happen, we need to get ourselves filled with faith.
So how do we get ‘full of faith’. The best thing to do, instead of focusing on the fear and trying to rationalise it, is to turn our thoughts away from the fear towards God. We can then welcome faith filled thoughts into our minds to drive out and replace the fear. And, wonderfully, because it is something we can do, ‘thanksgiving’ is the door through which that faith will come.
Love ‘fights’ fear. In fact perfect love (the Jesus kind) drives out fear. 1 John 4:18 and as I thank the Lord that He is with me in the fearful situation, and as I add to that my thanksgiving that He cares for me 1Peter 1:7, that He loves me and knows me, that He is for me in this situation, and even more than that, that ‘in all things He will work for my good’, Romans 8:28 my faith will grow and fear will go!!!
Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces are never covered with shame, Psalm 34:5