Those very reasonable words are said in a classroom, a training session, a manual.
Yup. Til the moment hits you and you are feeling that rising panicky feeling in your stomach. Then all you can think is, "What the *&^% am I supposed to feel other than panic?"
Yet, we've all heard it: Panic can kill you.
My faith-walk-turned-hike taught me another valuable lesson: the power of fear.
We've all heard the Scriptures about trusting God, and not fearing. Here are seven out of fifty that I found on a website by Christine Abraham called WomensBibleCafe.com:
- For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
- Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32 NIV
- The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Psalm 34:7 NIV
- So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matt 10:31 NIV
- Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him. Deuteronomy 13:4 NLT
- I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT
- This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NLT
I had been listening to a wonderful Bible teacher at the retreat. What she said resonated with me. Then I got lost in the woods. Now, the rubber hit the holy road.
Once I realized that I was lost, I could feel the fear starting to percolate up from my gut. At first, by optimistically staying focused, I could keep it at bay. But as the afternoon passed, it took more and more effort to keep the fear down.
At one point, I thought, "I could sit down right now and have a good cry..." True, but I resisted it. How? By focusing on what I had learned in the retreat and what the Bible told me about God's faithfulness.
The worst damage fear inflicts is deafness. When you are panicking, you don't hear the directions that are coming your way. If you are caught in a river, and you are panicking, you won't hear what the rescue team is saying to you from the shore. Fear deafens you with a kind of white noise that becomes louder and louder as time goes by and the situation hasn't changed.
In fact, look at fear as having its own database, so to speak. You start uploading all the horror stories you've heard about how badly it went for others in your situation; you think about what could happen; you lose less and less connection with what is going on, and focus more and more on the data in your head.
The only way to counter fear's database is with another database that overrides it. The Word is our Database. It provides the conduit whereby God speaks to us. If we are listening to that Database, then Fear's white noise lessens.
I had to keep reminding myself what God promises in His Word.
But, I learned that it goes way beyond the "I need to think of key Bible verses to keep fear at bay." I actually need to hear from God Himself. Fear drowns out not only what we know of Him to be true, it drowns out His voice as He is speaking to us.
That was my gravest (pun intended) concern: if I let Fear talk to me, I will not hear the Father's voice. I kept praying as I hiked; I was in constant communication with Him as I went down this path or had to turn around on that path. Why? Because I eagerly sought to keep my mind quiet...quiet enough to hear Him calling to me from the shore.
I know when people say, "Yes, I speak to God and He speaks to me!" you may be looking for the "This Person's Been Eatin' Kooky Krackers Again" sign stuck to their back. But, think about it. God has always spoken to His people. Adam and Eve. Noah. Abraham. Gideon. David. Jesus. Now, don't say, "Well, that was in Bible times. He doesn't operate that way today. We have His word." Yes, we do, but hear what His Word says, "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better." (Eph. 1:17)
Paul knows the Ephesians have the Old Testament and the various epistles in circulation, but he is praying for them to know God better. How? By learning from His Spirit, Who reveals Who God is. Wisdom comes from hearing His Word, and coupled with the illumination of His Spirit, we walk into a deeper relationship with God.
The Spirit will not reveal anything that is not in harmony with God's Word nor with the Son. God's truth is just that: it is consistent and pure. So, whatever we hear, must be in harmony with His Word and His Son.
Walking through that forest made me learn how important it was to stay quiet and listen to His words of guidance. Fear would have deafened me; I neede to hear His gentle voice. He didn't speak in long sentences--just a few words here and there, and I eventually made it home.
Jesus was always listening to His Father. He spent time in prayer, reading the Word and hearing His Father's voice. How can we, especially in these troubled times, do anything less?
Finally, the first verse of Addison Road's "What Do I Know of Holy" puts it beautifully:
I made You promises a thousand times.
I've tried to hear from Heaven,
But I talked the whole time.
I think I made You too small.
I never feared You at all, no.
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?
If you haven't heard His voice, perhaps you have been doing all the talking.
Listen. Someday, your life may depend on it.
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