“God, why is this happening?” This is a question Job asked poetically. He couldn’t understand, and he wanted to hear from God. Job’s older friends offered solutions, but they were incorrect. Job himself tried to conclude what was happening, but couldn’t find a reason. Job’s youngest friend, Elihu, offered an idea, but wasn’t completely right. As they were talking, God interrupted their conversation and began asking Job some questions.
Job 38 records God answering out of the whirlwind with a series of questions. Obviously, Job knows none of the answers, and one question may have been enough to grab Job’s attention, but God uses a long series of questions. Not to incriminate the questioner, but to help him develop a clear perspective of God’s almighty power. When God gives Job an opportunity to speak, Job does not have an answer. He fully realizes God is the one in control. In the midst of his storm, God answered Job.
Amid storms, God answers many of us. Not to incriminate us, but to give us a clear perspective. We may not always understand what is happening. Isaiah 55:8-9 says:
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
While we may not fully grasp what is happening, we can rest assured God is in control.
The Lord stayed with Job through his pain and suffering, and he promises he will stay with us as we may endure pain and suffering. The Lord says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
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Much fear has gripped many people over the past few months, and recent events are still causing many folks to battle with fear. Scenes of recent events startle us, and headlines provoke the natural emotion of fear to enter our lives. Individuals are fearful of what is happening around them; they are fearful of the days ahead. If you are saying, “That’s me,” you are not alone. There are a lot of people finding their way through a fearful season right now, and the Bible offers a suggestion.
David had fearful seasons in his life, and he writes these words in Psalm 56:3-4.
3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
We can find encouragement a few times in David’s words.
- David says, “When I am afraid….” Fear is natural and comes into life occasionally. Though he experienced fear, David was still a person after God’s own heart. Being frightened does not make us a bad person. It is how we handle the feelings of fear that make all the difference.
- Take note of how David handles his fears. He remarks when he is afraid, he trusts in the Lord. The Lord can deliver him from his fears.
- At the end of verse 4, David asks, “What can mere mortals do to me?” He recalls God is more powerful than the circumstances causing him to fear. The Lord says in Isaiah 41:10, “10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
When we are afraid, the Bible suggests we look to our trust in the Lord for strength.
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“At the beginning of A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown is in sad shape. It’s Christmas, and he knows he should be happy, because the pond is open for skating and he likes getting Christmas cards, but something doesn’t feel right, especially after Snoopy has entered a doghouse-decorating contest and his little sister is asking Santa Claus for money in the form of Hamiltons and Jacksons.
The commercialization of Christmas has left our hero searching for answers. For a five-cent co-payment—and the beautiful sound it makes rolling around in the can—neighborhood psychiatrist Lucy suggests some possible diagnoses for Charlie Brown’s depression.”
Lucy offers some suggestions for Charlie Brown’s depression as defined here, and eventually concludes Charlie Brown has Pantophobia. This is the fear of everything.
What is causing you to have fear this year?
Charlie Brown is not the only one who struggles this time of year. Christmas can be an emotional time. We celebrate Christ’s birth, but paralleled to our celebration can be feelings of loneliness and emptiness for many people. These are real emotions, so I certainly do not want to minimize them in any way. In fact, I wish I had a “magical” answer that could take away these emotions at Christmas time. Obviously, I don’t, but I can offer one piece of encouragement from God’s Word.
1 John 4:18 says, “Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”
It was this perfect love that caused Christmas. The Bible teaches Jesus was willing to leave the majesty of Heaven to be with us to save us. It is in this perfect love we find the Lord’s mercy and grace. It is in this perfect love we find the absence of fear, especially the fear of judgment. In this perfect love, Jesus says we are his friends, and we can be open with him.
This means we can talk with the Lord about feelings of loneliness and emptiness. This means he will be with us even if it is not a joyous time of year. God’s perfect love is what caused Christmas, and it is his perfect love that will carry us through the difficulties of the season. Jesus longs for you and me to shelter ourselves in his perfect love this Christmas season.
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Confidence even when bad news and opposition surrounds us. Headlines may be bringing bad news to mind. It does not seem there is a shortage of bad news in our current culture. Opposition may stand at every corner. It is easy to lose trust, but we can have confidence. Our bad news may not make the headlines and our opposition may not be as well-known, but it is as devastating to us. The relationship that ends and the job that is lost probably will not make the news, but it still shakes us. Even though our trust is shaken, we can have confidence. Psalm 112:7-8, in speaking of those who follow the Lord, says, “They do not fear bad news. They confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless, and can face their foes triumphantly.” Psalm 112 states this confidence in the Lord comes in true wisdom. It comes in following his guidance for our lives. Following the Lord will give us light in darkness. It will provide us with a path when it seems there is no path to be found. As you read today’s headlines and survey your current situation in life, ask this question. “Where is my confidence?” Confidence in the Lord will give us the boldness to tackle today and approach tomorrow.
It is freeing.
George Washington Carver became one of his generation’s most honored and beloved scientists by focusing on a simple peanut. Carver eventually found some 300 uses for this common food item. Carver attributed all of his scientific discoveries to God.
Carver remarked he once asked God to explain the universe to him, but felt God saying that was too large of a task. When he asked for something he could handle, he believed God directed his focus to the peanut. Carver said he would be helpless if God did not pull back the curtain of truth.
Telling ourselves the truth and recognizing our place in God’s plans can be a freeing experience. The truth reminds us of our reliance on the Lord. The truth is fear and anxiety may be a part of our current circumstances, and God will be there with us.
The truth was freeing for David.
David may have understood the freeing experience of telling himself the truth. Some have suggested David wrote the Psalms as therapy for himself. In Psalm 57, we find David hiding in a cave as Saul is pursuing him. Everything seems grim for David, but he understands the Lord will take care of him.
David writes in Psalm 57, “I am surrounded by fierce lions, who greedily devour human prey, whose teeth pierce like spears and arrows, and whose tongues cut like swords.” There is no doubt he felt the fear and anxiety of the current moment.
We too may feel the fear and anxiety of the current moment. The fear of things getting worse. The anxiety of our bank account balance dropping. What happens when the emergency fund is depleted? The confusion of conflicting data and mixed messages. The truth is life has fearful and anxious moments.
Like David, we can look at the bigger picture in these moments.
A bigger picture gives a more confident viewpoint.
David writes, “My heart is confident in you. My heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises. Wake up my heart…I will wake the dawn with my song. I will thank you, Lord, among all the people. I will sing your praises among the nations. For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May your glory shine over all the earth.”
David was in the cave, but he knew God was beside him. David was being chased, but he knew God was shielding him. Amid his fear and anxiety, David told himself the truth concerning God’s presence.
Amid our fears and anxieties, we can echo the truth of God’s presence. The truth is freeing.
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Stability may crumble. People may turn away, but God will stay.
He found himself thrust out of the king’s liking. Saul was annoyed and jealous of David, so he wanted him killed. David fled to Gath hoping to find refuge, but they chased him out of town. He ends up in a cave hiding from Saul, and David finds his refuge in the Lord.
Psalm 56 and 57 record David’s thoughts during this time.
They will not leave me alone.
“O God have mercy on me, for people are hounding me. My foes attack me all day long. I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me,” David writes in Psalm 56:1-2.
Can you relate? It seems everyone is against you. They constantly pick at the work you are doing. They continually criticize and never encourage. You feel no matter what you do, it will never be enough. Their ideas and agenda do not include you, so the quicker you are cut off the better.
Where will you go? What will you do? David had the same kind of questions and found refuge in the Lord.
David turned to the Lord for refuge.
“But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you,” David writes in Psalm 56:3.
David says in Psalm 57 he will hide in the Lord’s refuge until the calamity passes. “My heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises,” he writes in verse 7.
David’s stability was shaken. He had nowhere to turn until he remembered he could trust the Lord.
Our stability may be shaken, and we may feel as if we have no where to turn. But we can trust the Lord. He will be with us while we are the topic of office gossip. He will be with us as others may toss us aside. Those slandering us may treat us like garbage, but the Lord will treat us like a treasure. He will be with us until the calamity passes.
Like David, you and I can confidently say, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.”
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Psalm 27 reminds us of the Lord’s faithfulness.
Life was unsettled. He was fighting adversaries which seemed bigger than big. He could not stay in his own home because of his enemies. Trying to flee his enemies, David was forced to seek refuge in the wilderness. Yet, his confidence in the Lord remained.
Verses 1-3 say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.”
David’s adversaries were large. Their strength and size caused David to hide, yet when David’s opponents were compared to the greatness of the Lord, there was no need for him to fear. David found his well-being and strength in the Lord, so there was no room for fear.
Our enemies may not be forcing us into the wilderness, but they are lurking around us. Lost jobs, economic downturns, a bearish stock market, and an unsettled future are crouched in the shadows awaiting an opportune time to strike with fear and panic.
They may be large, but when compared to the greatness of the Lord, we can find confidence. Our well-being and strength are found in the Lord, so there is no room for fear.
1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
We may be facing down large opponents today. We may be nearing the end of our resources, yet we can echo the Words of David. The Lord is our light and our salvation, so why should we be afraid? The Lord is our fortress, so whom shall we fear?