Sometimes I don’t give fear enough credit – it is real, but it doesn’t have to be a problem. This morning, reading one of Joyce Meyer’s Trusting God Day by Day devotionals on YouVersion, I realized that one of the big issues I’m facing in life right now is actually tied to fear. To battle it, I need that fear transformed into faith. I need blessed assurance that God is in control.
One of the exercises I use to gain perspective in a stressful situation is to what-if it to the end. Fiction writers use a similar plotting strategy: they ask, what’s the worst that could happen next, then write it. The what-if game always ends the same way for me, God wins, and I’m right there with him.
Try it. Think of a stressful situation, like what if you lose your job, don’t have enough money for the mortgage, have to endure the loss of a loved one… What would come next? Stick to biblical principals, and the outcome is always good; even if you die, you’ll be in heaven with Jesus. More often than not, I don’t die, I thrive because my God is so very good. His will is for my good and prosperous future (you know that’s scripture, girl: Jer. 29:11).
In Joyce’s devotional, she reviewed the following verse, which I know by heart but don’t often think about when I need it most. Why is that? I think it goes back to not recognizing that a faith issue is often a fear issue.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:11 (ESV)
Off the Page and Into Your Life
God’s Word is living. Let’s pull the words off the page (or screen) and find out what they really mean.
Fear not. That statement, or a variation of it, appears 365 times in scripture. How many days are in a year? That’s right. Coincidence? I think not. God is with you 365 days a year — that’s Shauna’s interpretation.
Be not dismayed. It’s not a word we often use in this generation, dismayed, so let’s take a look at the synonyms: appall, horrify, shock. These are words we understand.
We are not supposed to feel horrified because God is our God. The Father of Heavenly Lights, the Alpha and the Omega, the Maker of All Things: he is your personal God and mine.
Furthermore, he will strengthen you. When you feel fear creeping up, speak out against it. Fear not. Say, “I will not be afraid.” Open your mouth and claim the promise of God so that the rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms hear the power you have (Eph. 6:11), vested in you by Jesus (Matt. 17:20). “My God is strengthening me right now.” Say it again and again, until you feel its truth in your soul.
He will help you. How? You and I don’t know the how God will help or when about God’s plans. In my life, his help routinely comes in unexpected, yet surprisingly delightful and rewarding ways that are so much better than what I would have done if I went my own direction, without him. He’s proven that he will help me over and over and over and over…and I know that he will continue. He will help me again. He will help you. Just be still and let God work (Ps. 46:10).
When Jesus walked the earth, he told many of the people he healed, “Your faith has healed you.” They, like you and me, didn’t know the how. Yet, they believed in the what and the who, and Jesus came through every time.
He will uphold you with his righteous right hand. Why is the right hand righteous? Is the left unrighteous?
In Latin, “right hand” is Dextera Domini.
Dextera brings to mind dexterity, which has to do with hands, right? And Domini reminds us of dominant, meaning the strongest one. What do we call the second in charge? The right-hand man. Throughout history, the right hand has symbolized power (dominance), authority, protection, and preference.
Here’s an example. In the Old Testament, Joseph presented his sons to Jacob, his father, for a blessing, and Jacob crossed his hands to give Eprhaim his right hand of blessing, though Manassah was firstborn (Gen. 48:12). This must have dismayed, Joseph. I wonder if he felt fearful, worried that his dad was making a big mistake. Sure he did! He was human, just like you and me. As always, God knew exactly what he was doing.
Throughout the Old Testament, we see the right hand, even the right eye, as preferred or stronger. Today, in a court of law, which hand do we place on the bible to swear an oath of truth? Right, right.
So, when God lifts you up with his right hand, he’s showing you preference. You are his chosen child. He will favor you. Read that truth again, for good measure. You are his chosen child. He will favor you.
Break Out Your Pen
Remember that what-if game we played a few paragraphs ago? After thinking about God’s promise to help, strengthen, and show you preference, how will the game play out differently? I challenge you to write out your fears, along with a prayer asking for more faith.
If you had sufficient faith, you would have no fear.
A father once cried out to Jesus for more faith, because his son was so ravaged with convulsions that he would literally fall into fire and be burned, and into water, where he could drown. This non-fiction story is in Mark 9; it is not a parable. It really happened. Put yourself in the shoes of the child’s mother.
Your son has unintentionally harmed himself for years. You and your husband feel utter desperation over the situation. You take the boy to Jesus, and your husband squeezes your hand, then asks, “Jesus, if you can heal him, do!”
Jesus looks into your husband’s eyes, then yours. Jesus knows your heart. “If? If! Seriously?,” he says. “Don’t you know that if you would just believe, he would be healed?” (Shauna’s interpretation of the dialogue.)
You feel shame for having insufficient faith. Deflated, exhausted, you are extremely frustrated at this point. You are hungry and weak from walking miles upon miles, pressing through crowds, trying to find the man from Jerusalem that people claim is a healer. You left your home and your husband left his job to pursue this last-ditch effort to protect your son.
If it were me standing there with my spouse, feeling helpless as our precious son seized and foamed at the mouth, I know I would cry out in anger and frustration, teeth clenched and face hot, begging for my son’s healing.
The father replied to Jesus, and I think he spoke loudly, because the bible says that a crowd came running, “I do believe! Help me believe more!”
That should be your prayer, too. Jesus did heal the boy. We don’t know what happened to the family after that. I imagine they had to rebuild their life, but their son was healed. Joy came into their lives, along with faith.
Jesus is God. They are one with the Holy Spirit. The God who created every cell in your body certainly understands your frustration, your mind, your desperation. If you come to him in truth, with reverence and humility, he will bless you for your righteousness. Maybe not how and when you think he should, but he will do it. I promise. He promises!
Read it again. Write it. Memorize and claim it for his glory:
Fear not [your name here], for I am with you; be not dismayed [appalled, horrified, or shocked at your situation, your name], for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, [your name here] [giving you preference, power, and protection]. Isaiah 41:11 (ESV)
When today’s stressful situation resolves, remember that the journey began with you battling fear. You can present the shield of faith (Eph. 6:6) to thwart the fiery arrows of Satan. You can rebuke fear out loud and claim the promises of scripture over yourself. And if you do, you will surely look back on this time of your life and know that it was God who healed you, saved you, worked all things for your good (Rom. 8:28). It’s always God.
For your listening pleasure…