"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'” Psalm 91:1-2 (ESV)
Through my personal healing journey over the last couple of years, fear has been a challenging chapter to tackle.
When I’ve been hurt, I get afraid.
It’s not lost on me that some of man’s first recorded words to God after eating the forbidden fruit were, “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Genesis 3:10, NIV, emphasis added).
I relate to those words on deep levels. I am afraid to be emotionally naked … exposed … unsure … uncertain if I will be wounded again. Those “what if” questions nip at the most tender places of my heart, and I wonder if I will be devoured if any of them become devastatingly true.
That fear of the future is what makes me whisper to God, “I still get afraid sometimes.” Life doesn’t come with any guarantees that we will get by without experiencing pain. Even Jesus Himself reminded us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV). When you’ve experienced deep hurt, you very much understand the trouble Jesus referenced. And you very much need to know that Jesus has overcome the world. But how do we see that in practical ways right now, in this moment, in this situation?
I love that today’s key verses found in Psalm 91 give us a script to say to ourselves in moments when we get afraid and triggered: “I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Psalm 91:2).
Isn’t it interesting that the psalmist described God here as a refuge and a fortress?
A refuge is a quick place you duck into to find shelter. A fortress is a place built intentionally for the purposes of exceptional security. The Hebrew word for fortress is metsudah, with one of its definitions being "an inaccessible place.”
God is not just a quick refuge from the storms of life; He’s also the place where fear no longer has access to me. Fear can’t catch what it can no longer reach.
To experience this level of peace, we must be near to God. It is a nearness we see described throughout Psalm 91 as we are reminded to “abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1), take refuge under His wings, (Psalm 91:4) and make Him our dwelling place. (Psalm 91:9) Just as we must sit close enough to a tree to enjoy the benefits of its shade from the sun’s scorching heat, so we must also position ourselves near to God if we desire His comfort, protection and deliverance.
It’s not that bad things won’t ever happen to us. Life is rarely tidy. Relationships aren’t easy. And the constant stresses and strains of managing and navigating so many daily issues are hard on the human heart. I can find myself feeling one minute like I’m doing really well with keeping my heart swept clean of bitterness and the next minute feeling like a complete failure. Old triggers beg us to give in to fear of what could be around the next corner.
But as a child of God, I know I’m not supposed to live with fear taunting and terrorizing me. And as I’ve sat with these feelings, I’ve come to the conclusion that the goal of having the peace Jesus referred to in John 16:33 isn’t perfection; it’s progress.
I’m learning to make progress with my fear. I now know I can feel afraid, but I don’t have to live afraid of the future. I can be present in this current day without letting fear of tomorrow steal my peace. I can only attend to what is right in front of me. I must trust God to hold the days ahead.
The sign of progress is to see the fear that comes at you and let it drive you to remember God and draw close to Him instead of forgetting Him and letting fear run rampant in your heart and mind.
When fear comes, use it as an opportunity to form new healing habits and perspectives:
- Have one better thought.
- Have one better reaction.
- Have one better way to process.
- Have one better conversation.
- Have one better boundary you lovingly communicate and consistently keep.
- Have one better choice not to reach for that substance to numb out.
- Have one better heart-pivot toward forgiveness instead of resentment.
- Have one better situation where you make fear bow to your trust in God.
- Have one less day where you stay afraid or mad or frustrated.
- Have one less hour when you refuse grace.
We won’t perfectly escape the trap of fear, but we can choose to take a step forward, realizing imperfect progress is good. So very good.
Lord, thank You that You sent Jesus, who deeply understands how hard it can be to process fear inside these frail, hurting human hearts of ours. Thank You for the hope that Jesus has overcome the world. Now help me overcome what I’m facing today. Thank You for the grace that I don’t have to do it perfectly. I just have to make progress. I love You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Lysa TerKeurst is a friend who understands the hard things you’re walking through right now. That’s why she wants you to meet her in the pages of her new book, Good Boundaries and Goodbyes, so you can make progress in your relationships together with her, learning how to love others well without losing the best of who you are. Buy now.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Psalm 34:4, “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (NIV)
Pray these words out of Psalm 34:4 today. How are you encouraged to trust in Jesus in the midst of the fear you may be battling? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!
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