Taming the Giant - Dealing with Fear

8 June 2020 - Theo Fishwick

 “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.  (2 Kings 19:3-50)

I remember the first time that I read this scripture, I did a ‘double-take’ because I thought it was a typo; - Elijah, afraid and running away to hide in the wilderness? Really? The most fearless prophet in the Old Testament overcome by fear?


Why did Abraham pretend that his wife Sarah was his sister when he went to Egypt? (Gen.12:10-13) -Because he was afraid that they would kill him to take his very beautiful wife.


Why did Peter deny the Lord Jesus three times?


What did each of these men have in common? Firstly, they were human. Secondly they were in real danger, and thirdly they were stressed and very tired. (Peter  hadn’t slept all night, Abraham had walked through the desert from Canaan to Egypt during a famine, and Elijah had been told that Queen Jezebel was going to kill him.


There are many other examples in the Bible of believers who gave in to fear. There is nothing unusual about being a believer and being afraid. The questions that we need to address are these: Is there a real threat to me, or is it exaggerated by my personal history, my imagination, my general level of anxiety (or all three) and how does knowing God provide relief from fear?


I confess that when the pandemic arrived in Australia, and I was told to stay in my home, I was initially gripped by fear. I had to sit down and ask myself ‘Is this a real threat to me, and what am I ultimately afraid of. Was I afraid of dying? Was I afraid of being sick in hospital without my loved ones? Was I afraid of suffering? Did I not want to be separated from my family by death? Was I primarily scared for my loved ones – having no way of protecting them against an unseen enemy?


I concluded that it was a real threat to me. After I reached that conclusion I started to ask myself some pretty basic questions, eg  is God in control of my life and circumstances? Has he really ‘numbered my days’ so that I will live precisely as long as he decides? Is the life to come a real and better thing?


I am glad to have had the opportunity to ask those questions and to find the answers for myself.

If you are at peace with the idea that God is in control of your life and your ‘length of days’ then  there comes a certain peace with that.


The problem is not that we sometimes feel fearful. Everyone feels that way occasionally. The problem is when fear rules your life and relationships.


I should pause here to say that there are certain mental illnesses that produce chronic anxiety and require specialist treatment, and I am not addressing that kind of problem. However, there are some basic Biblical and lifestyle principles that are very helpful.

Biblical Principles:

1. “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book, before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

Have you come to the place where you accept that a loving God controls our circumstances and the length of our lives, and his purposes for us are always good?

2. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)

There’s no substitute for bringing all of your woes to God in prayer each day.

When we do, there is a promise attached: God will ‘guard our hearts with his peace, through Christ Jesus.’ 

This needs to be a habit, like cleaning your teeth! The value of this practice is that we ‘give it all to God’ and trust him for the outcome.

3. "The Lord is my light and my salvation –whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life -of whom shall I be afraid?...

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:1-2; 13-14)

Read your Bible, and the Psalms in particular. The Psalms are the Prayer Book of the church. The real people who wrote the Psalms (under the influence of the Holy Spirit) express every kind of human emotion to God with real confidence that he will respond to their cries. God always responds to our prayers, he is not insensitive to our needs. Try reading Psalms 23 through 27 in one sitting. It will encourage you. God’s word is a kind of spiritual food, we need it daily to be healthy.

4. Fellowship “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

We are all members of the body of Christ, - we are eternally connected. The Bible knows nothing of the ‘Lone Ranger’ Christian. We need each other, and we were made for fellowship with other believers. Meeting with others, talking, praying, reading God’s word, caring for and encouraging one another, -these are normal Christian experiences, and they are essential for our spiritual and emotional health. Who will you encourage today?

Lifestyle Principles:

1. Limit your exposure to 'bad news'.

Have you noticed how all of the bad news from every part of the world finds its way into our lounge rooms every day with graphic pictures, often repeated on the hour, just in case you forgot the gory details. This is something that our grandparents never knew. They knew what was happening in their street and district, and occasionally nationally via a newspaper.

We need to limit our exposure to ‘bad news’. It has a serious effect on our anxiety level, and our worldview. Is it really necessary to see all of the world’s woes in graphic colour every day?  Is it a realistic view of the circumstances of your life? Try being more selective about your intake of ‘bad news’. There is an old saying about computer code, “Rubbish in = rubbish out.” which applies quite well to what we watch on screens:

The word of God says: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things." (Philipians 4:8)


2. Keep a Journal

The value of a personal journal is that when you write down your experiences and your difficulties, you bring them down to size. Troubles and worries have a habit of growing bigger as they rumble around in our heads. Writing things down is a way of being able to look at things more objectively, and it is valuable to be able to go back over your notes in future when similar troubles are bothering you. A journal is also a place to keep a record of your prayer. It is very encouraging, later, seeing those prayers answered. (But don’t write down sensitive personal information in a journal!)


3. Exercise, sunshine and good food.

We’ve all heard this before, haven’t we? Whenever I see the sun shining in the colder months, I go and sit or walk in the sun and soak it up like a lizard. It is medically proven that regular sunshine on your skin will improve your mood and strengthen your bones. A research project in the UK a few years ago took a group of delinquent teenagers from a poor neighbourhood and gave them a diet of really nutritious food for a month. The results were remarkable. Most of the teens became heathier, more moderate in their behaviour and showed positive mood changes.


In conclusion, don’t try to do all of these things all at once. You’re sure to fail. Pray, asking God ‘Lord what shall I change first, and give me the grace to carry it through.’ Start off with one or two of them, - feel the benefits and then move on to the next one.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)