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When Fear Pummels You Like a Prizefighter

It was weighing on my chest. Pressing down like dead weight. That horrible, uncomfortable feeling. As I imagined the future, fear pummeled me like a prizefighter.

I felt like the storm tossed sailors in Psalm 107 whose “courage melted away”. Fear of future tragedy took them captive, and “all their wisdom was swallowed up”.

The Shape of Surrender

This was not my first bout with fear. Three months ago, I fought fear on the couch in my living room.

“I’m afraid of being sick.” I told my husband.

“Why are you afraid?”

“I’m apprehensive that God has something for me that I don’t want… and I can’t bring myself to say “okay” to what I don’t want.”

He waited patiently while I sorted through my feelings, then said,

“Saying “okay” to God is good, but you know, there is a step in between apprehension and resignation.”

Now he had my full attention.

“We need to ask.” he said. “We need to keep asking that God would make you well.”

I know I cannot force God’s hand through prayer. He does whatever He pleases (Ps. 135:6). But my husband reminded me that God takes action through the prayers of his people. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” (Jas. 4:2), and nowhere in scripture can I find justification for prayer-less resignation. In fact, it tastes a lot like fatalism.

Christians talk a lot about surrendering to God’s will. And it’s taken me a while to figure out that surrender looks more like faith than fatalism.

The Nature of Faith

Faith does not make us feel comfortable, and it doesn’t remove us from our fragile state. It is not a make-believe state of mind to calm our nerves make us feel better. The mother of all placebos.

Instead, faith acknowledges our tenuous circumstances, and looks to something beyond for security. Hebrews 11 says faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”.

Faith is the anchor of our soul while the waves crash against it. The strong arm of God, unmoved by the elements.

When we are hard pressed, faith trusts in God’s power to save, and that He will do what he promised.

The God Who Acts

It is faith that makes us cry out to Him in our trials.

Those sailors in Psalm 107 “cried out to the Lord in their trouble”–not to escape into a happy dream–but because God had the power to save them.

He brought them out of their distress.

He stilled the storm to a whisper;

the waves of the sea were hushed.

They were glad when it grew calm,

and he guided them to their desired haven.

God’s eternal promises are a safe haven for those who trust in him. Trials press in, but our prayers rise above, to the ears of the One who calms the sea. Our treasure is in heaven. Untouched by the elements. Immovable to thieves. Held fast by the Creator. (Matt. 6:19-21)

When fears rise up, I am learning to go straight to God in prayer, because in His presence I see clearly, and my prize-fighter shrinks down to the shape of a mouse with boxing gloves.

 

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