Facing Fear - A Chapter from My Upcoming Book - "Wandering with God"
Due to the world's current state of change and uncertainty, I am sharing the chapters on "fear" and *"doubt" from my work-in-progress: Wandering with God: Overcoming Obstacles to Find Joy in the Journey.
I hope you find some peace, hope, and strength in reading them.
"David didn't kill Goliath because he set out to slay giants...he killed Goliath because his dad sent him to take his brothers sandwiches,
and Goliath got in the way."
- Rich Mullins
Fear is liar. It’s a master of disguise, a viral contagion, an iceberg hidden beneath the surface just waiting to wreck you. Fear kept telling me I don’t have what it takes to write this chapter. I kept flitting away from the page and finding excuses not to begin. Snacks may have been involved.
I’ll just scroll the internet, I thought. No one knows I’m writing this anyway, and nobody will care. Who am I? Someone else can do it better.
Fear doesn’t want me to take a risk and put myself out there. Stepping out is dangerous; I could get hurt. Better just live a quiet life and keep to myself. Fear is a bully that will taunt, blame, accuse, and belittle just to keep you from taking a chance and failing…or succeeding. It would rather you stay on the sidelines than get into the game, and its tactics are relentless.
It would be easy to stop there—to say all you have to do is stand up to the bully, and it will go away. And more often than not, that would be true. Ninety-five percent of the things you fear will never happen, and you can’t control the rest.
OK, I just made those numbers up, but you get the point.
However, sometimes fear speaks the truth. There’s a real threat. A real enemy.
Sometimes, you really don’t have what it takes.
Sometimes, cancer is bigger than the doctors.
Sometimes, fear is a giant—a Goliath.
Every day for forty days, Goliath came out to insult and mock the Israelites. Every day, they cowered at the sight of this giant decked out in his finest armor.
Until David showed up. This giant inciting terror into the armies of the living God was an affront to everything David knew of the Lord, and he wanted to stand up to it.
His brothers said he was arrogant and negligent.
The king said he was untrained.
This is often the reaction when you step out in faith. Others don’t understand. They’re either jealous, ashamed, or fearful themselves. But David would not be turned aside.
So, they tried to give him the tools that made sense—armor, a helmet, a sword—but David knew that his weapon was the Lord. He already understood that “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God,” as he would later write in the Psalms. (Psalm 20:7 ESV)
You know the story. Seemingly against all odds, David wins. And he wins using the humble tools God had put in his life along the way. Trust that God is preparing you to face the battles he has before you. You don’t need a mighty weapon. You only need him on your side.
But let’s go back a little further, because...
David’s battle against fear didn’t start with Goliath.
He tells Saul about killing a lion and a bear to defend his flock, and he gives God credit for those victories. I’m guessing he was pretty frightened when he faced the lion and the bear. I’m guessing he wasn’t totally confident in his ability to defeat them, but he stood strong because it was the duty God had given him, and he wanted to do it well. I’m going to go further back and bet that David’s confidence in God was proven long before the lion or the bear. Maybe it started the first night he had to sleep under the open sky alone with the sheep.
The key is that during his moments of fear, David turned to the Lord. Even in his daily life, he knew God was the one defending him, and he stepped out beyond his own strength because he trusted. And trusting along the way gave him the strength to step out before Goliath.
I would wager that fear keeps many of us in bondage every day. You want to reach out to that person, but they might think you’re strange. You want to write that book (ahem,) but what if it’s a flop? You want to apply for that job, but you know you’re underqualified.
But if I never walk out past my own abilities, how will I ever believe God has my back? What will happen when my Goliath comes along?
I will probably cower in terror like everyone else in Israel, because Goliath is too much for me. I never gave God the chance to be big in my life. I kept him small by not taking risks, by not stepping out in faith, by following the safe road.
If I don’t start fighting the lion today, I’ll never be able to fight Goliath when he shows up. The lion, at least, had no malice; the threat wasn’t personal. But your Goliath is coming after you every day shouting:
You’re worthless. You’re weak. You’re a fool. You can’t do it. God doesn’t care. God isn’t strong enough.
And even when it’s not shouting, its presence is enough to remind you. It’s standing across the field looking strong and making you more and more aware of your inadequacy.
What is your Goliath? Fear has a thousand faces, and most of us could pick any one out of an embarrassingly long list, but for this exercise, just pick one—the one that’s crushing your soul and keeping you in bondage. It doesn’t have to be physical; it can be an emotional threat or a mental one.
What would it take for you to defeat that fear? Does it seem impossible? Risky? Nuts? Does the idea of fighting make you want to cower beneath your covers? All of those things probably applied to David fighting Goliath. Yet, he trusted God to see him through it. Do you? Can you step out beyond your fear into the unknown where there is real danger? Can you trust that the tools he’s given you along the way are all you need to defeat the giant?
I guarantee that Goliath is too big for you. He’s too big for the best armor and the strongest sword, and all your knowledge and common sense.
But he’s not too big for the Lord. You may be thinking, “I thought this chapter was supposed to be making me feel safe!”
And it is, but not in yourself. The best laid plans of mice and men…as they say. But God is not a mouse or a man, and his plans, while often scary, are always the best. Our own plans, no matter how good and sensible, tend to go awry or leave us feeling unfulfilled and listless.
Taking the safe road is rarely a road to actual safety. More often, it is a path of false security keeping you from the freedom of relying on the Lord, keeping you from stepping out so that you can learn he’s trustworthy. It’s keeping you from helping people, from reaching your potential, from living a full life. Giving in to fear is cowing to everything bad that could possibly happen—most of which never will. It’s living your life at the mercy of whatever negative possibility pops into your mind. And that’s not living at all.
The safe road urges us to do the sensible thing—to trust in our horses and chariots (or our 401Ks.) We leave Goliath to someone else because he’s too big for us, and that seems best. But attempting to insulate yourself is like building a house on the sand. No matter how strong the construction, the foundation will erode, and the house will be washed away.
I’m aware there are natural fears that keep us safe: “Don’t touch the oven,” “Don’t run out into the street,” “Don’t stand too close to the edge.” But the deep fears—the ones that really control us—rarely actually keep bad things from happening.
To quote another of David’s Psalms: “…for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8 (ESV)
Not my plans or my common sense or my education.
You alone, O Lord!
If he wants you to step out in faith, you will never be more secure than when you obey.
So, if God’s plan for real dangers is that we face them head on and trust in his protection, what do you think he wants us to do with the imaginary ones we talked about at the beginning of the chapter?
“Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matt 6:25-33 (ESV)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The natural response to fear of any kind—whether physical or emotional—is the fight-or-flight reaction which leaves you angry, anxious, and exhausted. If, instead, you train your mind to make fear a trigger for “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving,” each new battle will seem only like an opportunity to rely on God.
Faith is a muscle, and this repetition of fear=prayer, fear=prayer, fear=prayer is exercise. It will breathe life into your relationship with the Lord, helping you see him more and more as the loving God he truly is.
You will face those inevitable battles as David did, with confidence in the Lord despite the incredible odds against you.
If faith is a muscle, fear is what happens when that muscle atrophies from disuse. Until your weakness sends you to him and him alone, your fear will leave you more and more debilitated.
But turning to him in your weakness converts it into strength. Against all odds, you will defeat the lion, the bear, the Goliath, and bit by bit, you will build up that muscle.
Trusting God does not exempt us from trouble. Philippians 4 says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:12-13, ESV)
Your “Goliath” will still come. “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matt 5:45 (ESV) You can cower from it, alone and uncertain, or you can choose to face it confidently with God at your side.
A few takeaways:
Fighting your lion or your bear or your Goliath will look crazy to others. It may even seem crazy to you at first, but the more you exercise your faith muscle in the small things, the more you will come to rely on his guidance even when all odds are against you and the risk seems reckless and foolhardy.
Fear wants you to stay on the sidelines in the safe zone, but if you do, you never get the chance to exercise our faith muscle. And when Goliath comes, you will falter.
Don’t start with Goliath. Start with the coworker who makes you crazy, the anxiety-riddled mornings with your kids, the knock in your car’s engine. Give God the chance to come through for you.
If you are faithful along the way, God will trust you with more battles. At first, David was only protecting his father’s sheep. When he met Goliath, he was defending all of Israel—the Lord’s sheep.
You don’t need to be the smartest or the strongest or to have the best army or the best plan to defeat your Goliath. You only need the Lord on your side and whatever he’s entrusted you with. He loves to take down Goliaths with a pebble.
- Fear can trigger panic, or it can trigger prayer. Intentionally teaching yourself to turn to prayer when anxiety strikes will take away fear’s power little by little.
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