At Peace in a Fearful World
Part one of Two Parts
The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom should I be afraid? – Psalm 27:1
Two hoboes walk up to the gate of a farmhouse. A dog is there growling, his teeth bared, his tail wagging. One man pauses. The other chides, “Go on! Knock on the door and ask for lunch.” To which the other hobo retorts, “I don’t know which end of the dog to believe!”
Ah, the debilitating nature of fear…
Psalm 27 mentions fear three times. He laments, “…Whom shall I fear? …Of whom shall I be afraid?” “Evildoers assail me,” in verse two, “A host encamp against me” in verse 3, “the day of trouble,” verse 5, and “Give me not up to the will of my adversaries” in verse 12.
See the fear, the anxiety, and the worry swirling as a storm around the psalmist?
The number one health problem of women is anxiety. With men it is alcoholism, with fear being the second.
The top five fears are being alone, rejection, cancer, death, and failure. And unless one masters such fears, they will surely master you! In fact, to be happy, one must just somehow defeat fear in one’s life. And here is where Psalm 27 can be helpful.
Causes of Fear
Fear can come from environmental causes. In Psalm 27, David lives in a war zone. There are enemies who imperil his throne… the Philistines and disloyal aides; even Absalom, his own son.
Today our homes or our marriages can be a combat zone. In verse 10, David wails that “my mother and father have forsaken me.” Sometimes we grow up with learned anxieties. Broken homes scar us. Two really big phobias are fear of failure (“When I lost a sporting event, my father yelled for days”); and fear of rejection (“If I disappointed my father, he wouldn’t speak to me for two weeks”).
Fear can come from temperamental causes. It’s clear David had a melancholy temperament. Sensitive, evaluative, an eye for detail, loyal. This was David, the sweet psalmist of Israel. The fact is some people are more prone to fear than others.
Then there are psychological causes of anxiety. For instance, David’s war traumas with the Philistines or his stressful single combat with Goliath.
Finally, some phobias come from spiritual causes—lack of faith, sin, and disobedience. When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God in fear. David coveted Bathsheba, killed her husband, and tried to live like nothing was wrong. All the while he feared God’s judgment would catch up with him.
Characteristics of Fear
In the story of David’s life, one can see his fear that past sins will catch up to him. He was afraid of civil war, of anarchy, and he was afraid his rebel son, Absalom, would be butchered.
A good picture of fear is the Old Testament patriarch, Jacob. A slippery fellow, the quintessential con man, if you shook his hand you’d want to count your fingers afterward!
Jacob talked his hungry brother into selling his birthright for a pot of soup. Then he stole his blessing by tricking his blind father, and he left town in a hurry.
In the countryside he ran into Laban and these two richly deserved one another!
Years later, Jacob wanted to go home, but he was afraid. Behind him was Laban, angry at being swindled. Before him was Esau, the brother he had cheated, and the unknown. Jacob was sandwiched between his guilty past, a foreboding future, and an inadequate present.
Left alone, at night Jacob started to think. Oh, the shame! Oh, the fears! There are never enough parties, enough beer, enough escapist trips, or enough lucrative business deals to solace such a life. What was he afraid of?
- The past—“What have I done?”
- The future—“What will happen to me?”
- The present—“There’s nothing I can do!”
Cure of Fear
So we seen that fear has many causes: environmental, temperamental, psychological, and even spiritual. Fear can lodge in our past, in our present, and in our future.
The cure of fear begins with conviction. Look closely at verses 5-6. David is singing his conviction. Convictions about his future! The Lord is my light and my salvation. He calls God his stronghold, his sword, his shield. In other words, As I go forward these go with me.
Rudyard Kipling wrote, “Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your fears.”
A recent study of fears of the future found that 40% of them never happen, 30% of them happen but don’t matter, 12% happen but you can can handle them, and 18% happen but in some way better than you imagined them.
In other words, God’s light, sword, and shield are at work in our lives. Romans 8:28 promises, “We know that in everything God works for good.” An amazing verse! What it does to our fear!
Then there are convictions about our past. Galatians 6:7 warns, “What you sow, you reap.” For example, David was lawless with Bathsheba. His own son Absalom followed years later, becoming a rebel.
Our guilty past rears its ugly head. We ask, Will this catch up with me? Will I pay? Will I be embarrassed? David flees to God. In verse one, he soothes, “The Lord is my salvation.” He saves us, forgiving us of our past transgressions.
Finally there is conviction about the future. Will I be adequate? Will I stumble in my job interview? What do I say when I confront my child? I’m pregnant with an immoral past. What do I do?
God promises, “As thy days so shall be thy strength.” (Deuteronomy 33:25). His shield, his light, and his sword go with us. Corrie Ten Boom said it well, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
This is David’s conviction for past, present, and future. My relationship with Jesus fits at every point.
Another step toward release from fear is in conquest. David recognizes his enemy: “Evil men come up against me.” He relates his problem to God “I am scared. I see my enemy but I also see God, and He is greater than my enemy.” In this strength David resists the temptation to run. Rather, he stays to face matters. See in the Psalm how David’s enemy runs and stumbles while David is confident? He sings his worship. His life is high, set upon a rock.
To put matters simply, do the thing you fear and the death of your fears is certain.
Conviction of God in your past, present, and future. Conquest of fear is by facing things, relating it to God, and fighting. Now, confidence; “Though an army besiege me…I will see goodness.”
As we live the Christian life, we gain momentum, a sense of confidence in Christ. This is like the man who wanted to be buried in his Ford truck. “I never been in a hole yet it ain’t got me out of.” Likewise and more so in Jesus Christ! He’s never failed me yet.
Finally, there is consistency. Divid’s fears popped up. But David consistently handled every one with faith. From Psalm 27: “One thing have I asked of the Lord. That will I seek after” (verse 4), “I will offer sacrifices in his tent with shouts of joy” (verse 6), “Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path” (verse 11), and “Wait for the Lord and be strong” (verse 14).
Adlai Stevenson said it well, “Patriotism is not a short, frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” Such is faithfulness—the steady plodding of a life hidden in Christ’s light, shield, and sword.
The most often repeated command in Scripture is “Fear not!” The most often repeated promise is “I am with thee.” You find it 365 times, once for every day of the year. You see, there is a sword of God, a shield, a light, a fortress of Christ encompassing you, enfolding your past, your present, your future. Fear not.