We continue the series, Biblical solutions to pandemic problems. Today we will look at overcoming fear. Fear is one of the most primal emotions. It saps joy and confidence, keeps us from living up to our potential and even fulfilling our roles and obligations. In Psalm 3, David is fleeing from Absolam who is plotting to kill David and take his throne. And in this situation David is filled with fear because of the immediate threat to his life and his family.
Anxiety and fear is similar and yet different. Deep fears fuels anxiety on the outside. Good fears move us into action while bad fears is debilitating and crippling.
For example, a student can be fearful of an exam that is coming up. But this fear can make the student focus, study hard, get help and do well in the exam. But if the student experiences a bad fear, then the student will not be able to concentrate, remember what was learnt or even procrastinate work.
Everyone struggles with some form of fear. What was David afraid of? What are we afraid of? And how do we overcome this fear? We will look at 3 things to learn about our fears and deal with them.
A. Root of fear
3:1 O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 2 many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
David’s fears are real. Armies surround him, people are plotting for his throne, death is staring at him and he is at the very bottom. But what was he really afraid of? We get a sense of his deeper fear in v.3 where he talks about God as his glory and the lifter of his head.
David’s deeper fear was that his very identity was threatened. His identity as a king, his identity as a father, his identity as someone who is respected and honoured in Jerusalem, his power and security, his significance and success. Everything he’s built his life around is under threat. Everything he’s worked for, what brought him meaning and purpose is now going to be lost. It is all falling apart.
Fear reveals what is central to our hearts, what is ultimate to us and what we have made as our identity apart from God. When we are going to lose this sense of identity or when feel it is under threat, it causes deep fears that on the surface appears as anger, lack of motivation, depression, eating disorders, lack of concentration, anxiety etc. But deep down it is fear.
This pandemic, there are couple of reasons people all over the world have experienced anxiety and fear. One is because we are losing our sense of control. Control is central to us. The feeling that we are incharge. That is the reason we work hard, earn money and be well planned. When our sense of being in control is threatened, it leads to fear. And the way we try to regain this sense of control is to be more in control of situations. We try to control our family, spouses, children, people, outcomes, future and decisions. We are trying to play God in our lives.
The second reason is that this pandemic has affected our comfort. This is not living a luxurious life but comfort is wanting to live in a certain way, wanting certain goals, having stability, have our expectations met, have reasonable success at work, finances, children, health etc. All these are good things but when it becomes ultimate and when it is under attack, it causes fear.
The Corona virus has attacked our control and comfort idols. We are no longer in control and our definition of a good life has been threatened. Life may not be the same again and this causes fear and anxiety.
Our fears have exposed our hearts. It has exposed what we value most. And thats good as we can be honest and move toward God with repentance. What are you afraid of? Do you fear being inadequate, fear uncertainty, fear being judged, fear failure, fear missing out, fear losing control, fear not making it, fear something bad will happen, fear getting hurt, fear not living up to expectations or fear man?
Fear not only reveals the root but is also reveals an imperfect bond with God. It reveals where our relationship with God is and that is an imitation to draw close to God.
B. Replace your fear
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 4 I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.
The root of fear is ultimately misplaced worship. We have replaced God from his rightful throne and set ourselves as master of our destiny. We have placed our hopes and dreams on something else that is fleeing and perishable. This has become the basis for your worth and significance. No wonder we are shaken with fear as these good things will not last.
We tell ourselves, if only I am more in control, more careful, more vigilant or try harder or plan better, save more, earn more respect, win approval of people, experience love, then I will be happy or successful. We have dislodged God from his rightful throne and instead we are playing God. That can be exhausting, chaotic and can lead to panic.
How do you replace your fear? We replace our fear by surrendering to God.
In v.3 David says, But you O Lord. He contrasts with something that he has made his shield, meaning security, made his glory and one that keeps his head high. And he repents and replaces that with God.
He makes God as his security. He says God, you are a shield about me or around me. There are two kinds of shields. One which is smaller and easy to handle and easy to carry when you are on the run. The other is a large shield which is hard to carry but covers you by surrounding you. This is the shield you use when you move toward danger, not running from danger. Here David is facing his fears, not running from them. And he says, God you are my shield as I face me fears.
God does not remove promise to your threat but he promises to be with you in your danger. You will experience this security only with God. You security is not in how much you are in control but in how much you surrender to God.
He then says that God is his glory. He repents of making something else his glory and significance. And finally he says that God is the one who lifts his head. All along, he has worked hard to keep his head high, earn respect, make others proud of his success, feel accomplished. But he realises that God is the one who ultimately approves and accepts him and this is true honour and no one can take that away from him. David replaces his fear with truth and surrenders his fears to God.
Our heart is like a wild horse, untamed, unstable and reacts to any whiff of threat. It is prone to horrible decisions and conclusions. But a wilde horse is tamed by a horse whisperer who gets close to the horse and whispers in its ear in a way that calms the horse down.
We should learn to lead our heart and not just listen to our heart. Psalm 56:3 says, when I am afraid I will put my trust in you. Allow scripture to instruct your heart, let scripture guide your prayer and let God’s word be your meditation. Let God disciple your heart and not let fear disciple you. Learn to share your fears specifically with a few who can remind you of the gospel.
It was when David replaced his fears by surrendering them to God, he is able to say
5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around
C. Overcome your fear with love
I John 4:18 says, There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. What is this perfect love?
In v.3, David refers to a shield and his glory. This is found elsewhere in the Old Testament. In Genesis 15:1, Abraham has a vision from God and God speaks to him and says, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” David most probably is recollecting this encounter between Abraham and God. What happened in Genesis 15 that helped David overcome his fears?
In Genesis 15, God made a covenant with Abraham under unusual circumstances. God asks Abraham to prepare for this covenant ceremony which was common practice during Abraham’s time. Abraham was expecting to make a covenant with God but God puts him to sleep. And God walks through the pieces of cut animals signifying that if he does not keep his covenant with Abraham, he can cut God to pieces. How was God able to keep this covenant? David is simply in awe of a God who would make a covenant like this. But we know from the New Testament that God kept this covenant at a cost to his very Son Jesus Christ. He was cut off so that we can be spared the wrath of God. That is how much God loves us.
The degree to which this love becomes a reality in our heart is the degree to which we can overcome any kind of fear. This love not only heals your fear but transforms you to love others. Fear makes us selfish people who are only concerned about ourselves. But the gospel drives this fear and selfishness and makes us people of love. God’s perfect love helps us overcome all fears.