“Be merciful to me, O God, for man (or dogs!) would swallow me up. . . Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, I will praise His word: In God, I have put my trust; I will not be afraid.” Psalms 56:1, 3-4
FEAR! Just the word can cause one to break out into a sweat, or send shivers up your spine, or make the adrenaline start to pump. Where’s the nearest place I can go hide? No one likes fear! So, what brings out the fear in you, my friend?
I’m afraid of the fear that comes out of nowhere! It’s totally unexpected and you are not one bit prepared for it. Do you know that kind of fear? Max and I encountered that level of fear and it was frightful for sure!
Max is my little, two year old, Maltese-mix dog. He loves walking and its not unusual for us to go walking through our neighborhood or at the park at least once a day. It’s his opportunity to meet all kinds of fun! He loves chasing after birds, crickets, lizards and rabbits; dodging cactus, sticker weeds, and certain plants that make him sneeze; stopping to smell the air, sniff at the local fire hydrant, or simply savor someone’s barbecue (that always includes the look that says, “and why wasn’t I invited?”) or on rare occasions, his idea of fun is sitting down in the middle of the street and flat right out refuses to move (and that would be accompanied with the look that says, “Nope, I’m not moving! You can’t make me Mom!) Together Max and I have met many of our neighbors and struck up some new friendships. He is quite partial to the four-legged variety of friends and he can lead you straight to each of their houses, usually pausing to bark out a little “hello friend!” We’ve watched many a sunrise or sunset while walking and admired all the different colors painted in the sky. Occasionally we get to finish our walk in the rain and splash through some puddles on our way home. But only once have we encountered FEAR. And dear Lord Jesus, may it never happen again!
It was 5:30 a.m. Max got so excited when Mom slipped out that little word “walk” in a conversation with Dad before he took off to work. Oops, there it was. No turning back now. How can you possibly ignore that whimpering look? Okay, okay Max! Let’s go for a walk! “Yes, yes mom, but first I gotta race through the house. Do you see my great excitement mom?” Whatever! Let’s see, there’s walking shoes for mom – check! Sunglasses, phone, house keys in Mom’s hands – check! Harness on for Max – check! Hold still Max, let me put your leash on – check! Oh, and don’t forget the poop bag, I’m gonna need that for sure – double check! Okay, now can we go? Please don’t forget the dog; he’s still doing laps around the kitchen floor, hoping you will notice just how excited he really is. “Come on, Max!”
The walk this one particular morning was rather uneventful. Until! Max and I met FEAR! We were just walking along, minding our own business, enjoying the fresh morning air. When out of nowhere – literally – two big German shepherd dogs charged at us! There was no warning! We weren’t sure where they had even come from. Just all the sudden there was this fierce barking, snarling, and jumping. Startled fear is an understatement, let me tell you! In that moment, I was so thankful that my husband insisted we buy a harness for Max when we walk him. I grabbed that harness and lifted my precious dog up off the ground and away from the slobbering dogs that obviously wanted their breakfast. I quickly hid Max under my baggy shirt (oh, so glad I wore that too!) and turned my back to the dogs. “Who on earth is that screaming?” – oh, wow! That was me! I honestly didn’t know I could scream so loud (good thing to know!) Instantly, I felt the dogs’ hot breath, mixed with warm saliva dripping down my arm. the heavy paws thudding against my back as they jumped up, scratching at me with all their energy, trying desperately and hoping to get at Max. “Oh, dear God, help! Please don’t let them bite me.” For what seemed endless moments, the dogs kept jumping, barking, scratching, snarling, hoping to get to Max. Over my dead body, you brutes! I’ve never known that kind of fear. It was intense. But, I gotta tell you, not only did the neighbors hear my screams – God did! He also heard my quick, panic-stricken prayer! And He answered me! He shut the mouths of those dogs and they began to back away. Finally, the owners emerge from the house with a “What did you do to our dogs?” Really? Are you people serious? What did I do to YOUR DOGS?
Thankfully, everyone was okay. The scratches on my back will heal. Yet, in all honesty, I have to tell you, I would choose to not have that kind of fear in my day ever again. Wow, it was intensely scary. And yet, fear is a part of our lives. It comes along with our human nature. Fear is not a gift from God, I can assure you of that truth. Some people grow up in an environment riddled with fear. Sometimes fear comes in waves at various times in our lives depending upon our circumstances. What one person is fearful of, another is not affected by it at all. But it is a guaranteed thing, fear will come to us all. Fear is something we all will have to face at some time or another.
When fear arrives, we have basically two choices. We can – Forget Everything And Run; run away from our fears, pretending that they don’t really exist and never deal with them. And yes, I will admit that some fears truly make you want to run, far, far, far away! And maybe we should run, given some of the fearful circumstances that we could encounter. But then, what do we do the next time, that same fear comes back upon us? Should we just keep running and never really face that particular fear that we are running from? Or we can – Face Everything And Rise; face our fears head on, bring them out of hiding, acknowledge our fear for what it is and rise to the challenge of eliminating that fear for good.
I personally like the advice and example of the Psalmist David. Now, he had some fears! As a shepherd boy, he feared that wild animals could come and harm his father’s flock of sheep that he lovingly care for. He faced that fear and learned how to kill those animals who came after the sheep. Fearing for his very life, David ran and hid from King Saul who sought to kill him. God intervened, protected David, and helped him solve the problem with King Saul. Or what about the time that Israel’s army were cowering in fear when the giant Goliath sought for one (just one!) to come out and do battle against him. In the midst of Goliath’s taunting cries, David volunteered to face that fearful giant. He chose to rise up in the strong name of the Lord his God and with five smooth stones and a sling he went to work on the giant, who was literally laughing in his face at the manner in which David came to him. God gave David the victory! The fearful giant was defeated!
I just love the words of David in Psalms 56:3-4 that say: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, I will praise His word; In God, I have put my trust; I will not fear. . .” David makes a bold declaration of what he will do in the midst of fear. He said “whenever” and that means no matter what the circumstances are that caused him to fear. “Whenever I am afraid” this is what I am choosing to do – “I will trust in You.” David had learned that God was on his side. God was ever-present with David and He knew each and every fear that would rise up within David. While those fears were not from God, nonetheless God was there for him in the midst of those fearful times. David makes the clear, bold choice to trust in God at those times. He knew who God was and that He could be trusted. David trusted in God’s word; He would never say anything that was not truth. So if God told David that He would be with him in those fearful times, then David knew he could trust the word of his God. “In God I have put my trust.” For David there was no other way. He knew he could trust his God. “I will not fear” – that was David’s choice! With God on his side, there was absolutely no need to fear!
Fear or trust! The choice is yours!