Have you ever been awakened by panic or fear -- a crushing fear that bore heavy on your heart, weighing you down and leaving you powerless? Most of us have and it’s not a welcome visitor.
If we don’t learn how to overcome the fearful thoughts, they can take over our lives, leaving us captive to a stronghold of anxiety choking the life out of us.
We may sing “We will not be shaken” on Sunday morning but what happens when fear grips our hearts on Monday? The disciples had a similar experience in Mark 4.
In the middle of a fierce storm as the waves broke into the boat filling it with water the disciples woke Jesus to ask him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” This is a very telling question. It exposed their fear and lack of faith in God in that particular situation.
Had Jesus not just said, “let’s cross to the other side of the lake?” Here’s a secret, if Jesus is in it; it’s going to happen – you’ll get to the other side.
Had they not just witnessed many being healed of different kinds of diseases and evil spirits being cast out in the days before this storm? Hadn’t Jesus just multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed 5000 plus people with twelve baskets left over? Hadn’t their faith been bolstered by those demonstrations of power? How could they think that Jesus didn’t care about them when he had shown such compassion?
Maybe they are more like us than we realize – ones who find it difficult to translate trust or faith onto a different situation, especially when it involves us personally. Sure he heals others. Sure he protects others, but what about us? Can we trust him with our lives? Does he really care about us, knowing us better than anyone else? It’s like the serpent in the garden asking Eve, “has God really said…?”
Is there a gnawing suspicion that Jesus has fallen asleep in the midst of our storm – that he really doesn’t care if we drown? Drown in a mountain of debt, a sea of despair or depression, or the horrific process of cancer treatment. Drown in the shame of abuse or wrong choices, the pain of rejection, or the debilitating fear and anxiety over the unknown? Does he really care for me?
For us, these are stories are 2000 years old but for the disciples, they had just seen these powerful faith building demonstrations. They should have known that with God anything is possible. But, in the heat of the moment faced by an imminent drowning, their minds couldn’t translate faith for their personal crises.
After calming the storm and stilling the waves Jesus simply asks them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” These are very telling questions.. The disciples feared for their lives because they didn’t discern that when Jesus is with you in the boat, there is no need for fear.
For some reason we aren’t consciously aware moment-by-moment that Jesus is in the boat with us – the rocking boat with all its experiences good and bad, exciting or scary. He’s with us because he lives in us. There’s nothing that we will experience outside of His presence and power.
Somehow the emotion of fear hijacks our brain and all we know to be true leaves us paralyzed in overwhelming waves of anxiety. It’s like an instinct that just happens with no thought or fight. Its reality has become normal.
Notice Jesus inquired, “Why are you afraid?” Do you still have no faith? Jesus question is once again very telling; the cure for fear is faith. Faith in God. But faith comes by knowing and experiencing God. As we read His word and believe it and act on it, our faith is built. Romans 10:17 reminds us that “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” So why are we so fearful, filled with anxiety or worry? Could it be that we don’t know Jesus as well as we thought? Have we been neglecting to read His personal revelation of Himself to us? Have we been paying attention to His working all around us. Have we been following from afar or haphazardly?
One of our problems is that we “see things merely from a human point of view instead of from God’s”, just as Jesus told the Disciples in Mark 8:33 We see things out of our finite wisdom and ability. He sees through the eyes of having created all that is. He is in control, He is capable of seeing us through the storm and getting us to the other side -- every time.
We just want guarantees that it’s not going to cause us pain or loss. We don’t want to go through, we want delivered out of the storm unscathed. But that’s not how life always works. Sometimes it takes more trust to make it through than to be taken out.
It’s normal to be afraid but it’s what we do with the fear that makes the difference. Do we surrender it to the scrutiny of the truth of God’s Word or do we continue to entertain the thoughts and allow anxiety to grow? I know sometimes it seems that we have no control over the thoughts, but, we can take back control by doing something different.
Before my first total knee operation fear would suddenly attack and keep me awake at night. I would have to get up and do something different – pray, praise, and read the Word. I wrote out my desperate prayers and voiced my fears as if to expel them in order to replace them with what God said. Noticed that I did something different – wrote out my prayers.
Isaiah 41:10 became my constant weapon of choice: “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.” I would quote that scripture and proclaim “God is with me, God is In me, God is FOR me. He will see me through this.”
I had never had a major operation but this scripture soothed my fear of the unknown and the doctors warnings. I was not to become dismayed by thinking about the “what if’s” or awful stories I had heard from others. I was to keep my focus on God who is with me. God was faithful and saw me through two of those operations and their painful recoveries.
Another scripture that helped me through a different kind of crises of fear was Matthew 14:27 NLT Jesus told the terrified disciples, “Don’t be afraid, Take courage, I am here.” This verse brought me much comfort and strength to face an impossible situation.
Panic and fear would grip my heart every time I thought about the impossibility of overcoming all the obstacles. These were obstacles involving other people – uncontrollable situations and changes in their lives that affected my ministry and its ability to continue.
But being aware that Jesus was with me, in me and for me drove away each and every wave of fear as I quoted that scripture and practiced Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” I rejoiced in Who God is and in what He has done in my life. I proclaimed His greatness and sufficiency out loud. There’s something about hearing your own voice proclaim the truth that helps it to build faith.
We have to drown out the inner voices of negativity and replace them with the truth which is following the mandate of Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Tell yourself the truth instead of assumptions and lies. I call it "Truth" therapy which would be another blog post.
It didn’t chIange my situation or any of the circumstances but it changed my outlook and gave me faith to be patient and trust all those months. God worked out every detail in His time and way and He received great glory from it.
The Bible tells us 365 times, “Do not fear.” God knows us well and understands our tendency to succumb to fear. I know I have. But He has given us everything we need to crush fear and walk in faith and freedom – Himself and the weapons of His Word, prayer and praise.
"I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will NOT be shaken." Psalm 16:8