When I am Afraid

Guincho Beach outside of Cascais, Portugal (Photo by Mark J Booth)
Guincho Beach outside of Cascais, Portugal (Photo by Mark J Booth)

“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” (Psalm 56:3)

“Mom, please leave the hall light on and don’t close the door.” These words were almost a nightly ritual when I was a child. Growing up I was afraid of many things. When I went to bed, I was afraid of the dark. When I went to school, I was afraid of failure. When I tried to become friends with someone, I was afraid of rejection. When I heard about somebody having cancer, I was afraid that I would get cancer. Being afraid is something that we struggle with throughout our lives.  We may outgrow some of our childhood fears, but we replace them with new fears.

As adults, we may suppress our fears before others, but deep down, we have to admit that we are still afraid of many things. We are afraid of what the future holds in our lives.  We fear rejection by people around us. Fear can overtake us as we contemplate death.  Sickness or financial reversal always seem to be lurking around the corner. We dread what will happen next.

Being afraid has been a reality since the fall of man. Adam and Eve were afraid of God after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. Abraham was afraid of Pharaoh when he and Sarah fled to Egypt to escape a famine. Moses was afraid of being executed for murder; so he fled to the wilderness. The disciples were afraid of the storm, and cried out to the Lord. Peter was afraid of those who were warming up by the fire; so he  denied the Lord.  John Mark was afraid of persecution for preaching the Gospel; so he abandoned his mission work.

David faced several events in his life that caused him to be afraid.  How did he handle those times of fear. In Psalm 56:3, David writes: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”  David understood the reality of his fear, but he also remembered the reality of God. Let’s join David and see how we are to handle those times when we are afraid.

Before we can share our fear with God, we must recognize that we are afraid. Most of the time we are afraid of the “What ifs” in life. “What if something happens to me?” “What if I lose my job?” “What if I can’t complete my assignment?” Our fears often creep up upon us in an unexpected way. Soon, we become paralyzed by our fear, like a deer staring into the headlights of an oncoming car.

Other times, we become afraid of something that is not imaginary, but very real. We receive bad news from the doctor. We receive a notice in our mailbox that our house will soon be repossessed. David recognizes these times of being afraid. He doesn’t face his fear with a false bravado, but he recognizes his fear. He knows that the relief from his fear doesn’t come from within himself, but in the Living God.

After recognizing his fear, David focuses upon the One who can take care of his fear. God alone has the power, strength, love, and wisdom to carry us through our fear.  When the disciples were afraid of the storm, they went to Jesus who was sleeping in the boat. They knew that He alone could calm the storm about them. Yes, the storm was threatening. Yes, the storm was violent, but they knew that the Lord would carry them through this storm.

Our fears often control us because we forget the greatness of our God. David, as he faced Goliath, recognized that there was One greater than Goliath. Our God can deal with whatever Goliath we are facing. The more we grow in our knowledge of God, the more we will live a life free from fear.

After recognizing his fear, and focusing upon God’s greatness, David now entrusts his life to God. The word “trust” in Psalm 56:3 has the idea of leaning upon. David understands that the only way to conquer his fear is to totally lean upon God as he walks through the dangerous path that is before him.

As David wrote in Psalm 23, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;” Even in the most dangerous road of all, death, David is not afraid because he is leaning upon the Lord who is walking with him through this very dark valley.

Like David, we face many dangerous roads. Yes, some of the dangers are imaginary, but many of the dangers are real. If we choose to walk those dangerous roads alone. our fears will consume us. However, if we choose to lean upon Our Loving, All-Powerful Lord, we can walk upon the most dangerous road with courage.

“Dear Lord, we live in a world filled with danger. We find it easy allow fear to control us.  especially when we forget you. Help us to lean upon you completely, as we travel every dangerous road that is before us.  We do not ask to live a life without danger, but please be with us as we travel into danger. Thank you for allowing us to lean upon you no matter how dark the path is before us. Teach us that we don’t have to be afraid, because you are greater than any fear. Amen”

Five Great Promises As I Travel this Life (Isaiah 41:10)

The Moon over Cascais, Portugal: Photo by Mark J. Booth
The Moon over Cascais, Portugal: Photo by Mark J. Booth

Growing up my Dad gave me a love for travel. Every year, we would plan and then execute a trip. One year we went to the New England states. The next year, we went down to Tennessee and then to New Orleans. Another year, we travelled to the Grand Canyon.  Every trip had its difficulties, but I don’t regret any of our travels. These trips gave me an opportunity to learn new things and enjoy new experiences.

Our life on this earth is also one great journey. Our journey begins at birth and continues unto death. We may encounter different experiences and roads in our journey. We will face joys and heartaches, pain and pleasures, companionship and loneliness. However, this journey is not to be travelled alone. Where will we find help in the difficulties of our journey?

God gives to His children (those who believe on Jesus Christ, as their Lord and Savior) five great promises to help us in our journey. God’s promises are only effective in our lives when we believe them and act upon them. The road ahead is unknown, but if we know God and His promises, we will successfully navigate the road ahead of us.

God’s promises are seen in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear thou not; for 1) I am with thee: be not dismayed; 2) for I am thy God: 3) I will strengthen thee; yea, 4) I will help thee; yea,5) I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” 

1, When I am lonely, God promises his presence. God will never leave me. “I am with thee.” 

One of the most lonely experiences in life is at the airport. There are people everywhere and yet you are all alone. Everybody is hurrying to catch their flight, sleeping, or catching up on their reading. No one seems to care about others.

Life is much the same way. Everybody gets caught up with what they are doing. No one seems to care. We face our trials alone. We face our heartaches alone. We face our decisions alone. Does anybody care? Yes! God assures His children that He will never leave us. He is walking life’s journey with us. He will guide us when we are making decisions. He comfort us when we have sorrow. He will give us the strength to endure our trials. God’s presence enables us to continue on our journey with confidence, hope and joy.

2. When I am discouraged, God promises a personal relationship with Him. “For I am thy God.” 

 Discouragement means that we have lost heart. In the midst of our journey, we just want to quit everything. We may want to quit our walk with God. We may want to quit serving God. We may want to quit our work or even our family.

God knows how His child can easily lose heart in the difficult times of life. He assures us that we will always belong to Him. Our circumstances may change. We may change, but God will always be Our God. He will always be Our Father. He will always take a personal interest in our lives. He will encourage our hearts through the most trying times by saying to us: “I will always be your Father. I am going to get you through this. Trust me no matter how dark the journey may seem. I will bring light to this darkness.”

3. When I am weak and feel that I can’t continue, He will strengthen me. “I will strengthen thee.” 

Life is much like a race. There are times when we feel strong and then there are other times when we feel as though we can’t do any more. We have nothing left in us spiritually, emotionally or physically. We just can’t go any further. However, our Heavenly Father gives us His strength to continue on. Paul understood this when he said: “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) When we feel that we can’t go any further, we can always lean hard on His Everlasting Arms. He will carry us.

4. When I am in need of spiritual, emotional or physical help, He will help me. “I will help thee.” 

In my travels, I occasionally find myself lost. I don’t know where I am and I don’t where I am going. My natural response is to try to resolve my situation on my own. This only makes the problem worse. I lose time and become even more lost than before.

Likewise, we often find ourselves needing help in our journey of life. However, pride keeps us from calling out to God. We want to resolve the difficulty ourselves. David, the Psalmist, understood the need to call out to God when he said: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6)

We may think that our problem is insignificant to God. Perhaps, we think that God isn’t interested in us. God is our Father! He does want to help us, because He knows that His children need help every day. When we need help, we must never hesitate to run to the waiting arms of Our Heavenly Father. He will never hesitate to help us.

5. When I stumble or fall, He will pick me up. “I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Many years ago, I experienced my first car accident.  I don’t know how it happened, but it did. The front of car was totally smashed. The car looked as though it would never be driven again. However, I had the car taken to a body shop and after two weeks time, it looked as though the accident had never occurred.

In our life’s journey, we also have accidents. Most of these accidents are self-inflicted because of our sin. We have fallen in a ditch filled with guilt, pain, and sorrow. How can we get out? God assures us that when temptations come, He is there to bring deliverance. When we sin, He assures us of His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

“Dear Lord, I thank you for my great salvation through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank you for this journey called life. Yes, I have experienced loneliness, pain, weakness, and discouragement; yet you have always been there with me each step of the way. You have brought joy in my sorrow. You have brought encouragement in my times of discouragement. You have brought hope in my despair. You have brought strength in my weakness.  I have cried out to you, and you have answered. Thank you for taking a personal interest in my life’s journey. May I always glorify you each step of the way. Amen.”

What about Bad Tidings in the Season of Good Tidings? (Psalm 112:7)

Storm brewing over Downriver Area of Metro Detroit.
Storm brewing over Downriver Area of Metro Detroit (2011)

“He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 112:7)

“We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” is a Christmas Carol that people sang since the 16th century in England.  If is a song of joy as expressed in the words: “Good tidings we bring to you and your kin. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”  However, not everybody receives good tidings during this time of year.  We still face trials, sorrow, and pain.  Many people even feel a deeper sense of loneliness during this time of year than at any other time of the year.  Yes, evil tidings don’t stop during this time of year: however there is good news from God in the midst of evil tidings that may come our way.

In the Bible, we see many people who triumphed over the evil tidings in their lives.  Joseph overcame many evil tidings, including betrayal, slavery, and prison, to become the prime minister of Egypt.  Ruth overcame the evil tidings of the death of her husband and living in poverty.  She would soon marry Boaz and become the great-grandmother of King David.

God gives us his Word to encourage us as we face the evil tidings of life that may come our way.  Every day, “bad news” can surprise us. We don’t ask for it, but it is a package delivered to the doorway of our lives.   How can we triumph even in the midst of bad news?  How can we see good news come out of the bad news?  Psalm 112:7 gives us some answers to these questions.

Normally, our first response to bad news is to be afraid or fearful.  Fear paralyzes us.  It causes us to focus upon the bad news instead of our Great God.  God tells us that we do not have to be afraid of the “evil tidings” that enter into our life.  God knows that fear will keep us from seeing Him clearly.  Fear causes us to doubt the goodness and the power of God.  For this reason God gives us many verses that command us to “fear not”.

  • But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob,and he that formed thee, O Israel, FEAR NOT: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
  • ” FEAR THOU NOT; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, NEITHER LET IT BE AFRAID.” (John 14:27)

When fear departs in the midst of the bad news, then we are able to do the next step in facing our bad news.  We now can “fix our heart” upon the Lord.  Our bad news is an opportunity to focus upon God.  We can focus upon all of His attributes and promises.  When we fix our heart upon the Lord, it may not change our circumstances, but it will change how we face our circumstances.  We will understand with the Apostle Paul that
God’s grace is sufficient for the “evil tidings” that may come in our life.

Once fear has departed and we have fixed our heart upon the Lord, then we can have faith in Him.  Faith is responding to all that we know about God.  The more we know the Lord, the more we will be able to trust Him.  True faith knows that God will never leave us, nor forsake us regardless of the “bad news” that may come our way.  His love is an unchanging love.  He loves us with an “everlasting love.”.  Faith in our Lord will dispel any fear in our life.  It will enable us to bear whatever “bad news” that comes our way.

In summary, when we receive bad news, Psalm 112: 7 tells us three ways to respond to the “evil tidings”

  1. Do not allow fear to dominate our thoughts and actions.
  2. Fix our heart upon the Lord.  Let our thoughts focus on the Lord.
  3. Place our faith in the Lord.  He will carry us as we face the “bad news’ in our life.

When the “evil tidings” enter into our live, God has a way of turning those evil tidings into an opportunity to see Him work in our life and in the lives of those around us.  God will turn those “evil tidings” into “good tidings” that will draw us closer to Him, and bring glory to His name.

“Dear Lord, the news that I receive is not always good.  I see people who are suffering.  I visit those who have marital problems.  I talk with those who have a loved one who is dying.  I see people who have turned away from you.  I also face difficulties from time to time in my life.  My tendency is to face the bad news with fear.  Help me, to turn my eyes off the “bad news” and fix my heart upon you.  Please, increase my faith.  Help me to believe that you will take this “bad news” and make it into something good. Thank you for your great plan for my life. Amen”

 

Moving Beyond Fear to Courage

Sleepy Hollow State Park, MIchigan- By Mark J. Booth

When fear takes its grip upon our lives, it affects our view of circumstances, of others and of the future.  Fear causes us to doubt the love of God, the presence of God, the provision of God, and even the protection of God.  Fear keeps us from doing what God has called us to do.  How can we move beyond our fears and approach life with courage?

Courage is the willingness to move forward with our lives in spite of the obstacles and dangers that we face.  The nation of Israel, including King Saul, was paralyzed by fear on account of Goliath.  His size was overwhelming.  However, David had moved beyond his fear to courage.  David didn’t see the power of Goliath. He saw the power of His God. His courage has inspired us to face life’s situations with the understanding that God is greater than anything that is happening in our life.

How Can I Move Beyond Fear to Courage?

1. Remember the presence of God.  God is with us as we travel through this life. His presence brings courage because we know that we are not alone.  If we are passing through the shadow of death. we are not alone.  If we are facing some great trial, we are not alone.  If we are facing an unknown future, we are not alone.  “Fear thou not; for I am with thee:be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

2. Enjoy the love of God.  God’s love was clearly demonstrated upon the cross of Christ.  The fear of death was removed when Jesus died upon the cross for our sins.  His death and resurrection conquered death.  If his love has removed our greatest fear, it can also take away all other fears.  A baby in the arms of its loving mother has no fear.  Likewise, we are in the arms of our loving God.  Why should we be ruled by fear? “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) 

3. Develop a fear of God.  The fear of God has been defined as: “Realizing that God is watching and weighing every one of my thoughts, words, actions and attitudes.”  The fear of God places God in His rightful place in our lives.  When our walk with God is right, we can live our life with courage instead of fear. “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence:and his children shall have a place of refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)

4. Walk by faith, not by sight.  When walk by faith in our loving, all-wise, and all-powerful God, we can face life with courage.  Fear cannot exist together with faith.  Fear flourishes when we see life from our perspective, instead of trusting our Great God.  When faith rules in our heart, we will have the courage to conquer any mountain that is before us.  “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Christ).” (Ephesians 3:12)

5. Study and memorize the Word of God.  Fear often is the result of ignorance.  When we study the Word of God, we see God working in the lives of people such as Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David and Daniel.  These people faced fearful situations; yet they faced them with courage because they knew their God. “But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” (Daniel 11:32)  When we study the Word, we get to know God better.  The more we know Him, the more we will be able to trust Him.  Our fear will turn into courage, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

6. Become familiar with the “fear nots” in the Bible. God knows our heart.  He knows that we are prone to fear.  We are prone to walk by sight and not by faith.  He encourages us with many of His “fear nots” in the Bible.  Here are just a few.

  • Fear not in your life’s journey. “And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee,” Genesis 26:24
  • Fear not concerning your daily needs. “And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.” (1 Kings 17:13-14)
  • Fear not when in danger. “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”  (2 Kings 6:16)
  • Fear not in times of weakness. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee;” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Fear not in times of trials. “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee,I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned;” (Isaiah 43:1-2)
  • Fear not in times of failure.  Here is what God said after the Israelites’ failure at Ai. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed:” (Joshua 8:1)  God did bring the victory after their previous failure.  
  • Fear not in times of sickness or nearing death. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

“Dear Lord, thank you for assuring me that you are with me throughout this life and for all eternity.  Thank you that you give me the courage to move forward in my life in spite of the obstacles that are before me.  Please, give me the courage to live each day for you. ”

Author’s Note: This is the second article in the series called “Moving Beyond!”

Four Great Promises to Conquer Fear (Isaiah 41:10)

 “What’s wrong with you Mark?”  This was almost a weekly question from Mrs. Randall, the nurse at Midland Elementary School.  Every Tuesday, I would literally develop an upset stomach because I was afraid to go to swimming class.  My fear of water was affecting me both emotionally and physically.  This fear would not abate until later in my life.

Fear comes in many forms, but it still has the same effect.  Our fears can dominate us spiritually, emotionally, mentally and even physically.  As our fears increase, our faith in God decreases.  We lose confidence in His promises, presence and power.  Fear keeps us from enjoying our daily walk with God and others.

Isaiah 41:10 gives us four great promises from God that enable us to conquer whatever fear is crippling our lives.  “Fear thou not; for 1) I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:2) I will strengthen thee; yea, 3) I will help thee; yea,4) I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”  

1. When I am lonely, He promises his presence.  He will never leave me. How can I be fearful, if I know that my loving Father is with me?

2. When I am weak and feel that I can’t continue, He will strengthen me. How can I be fearful when I remember that: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)? He will give me His strength to bear whatever comes into my life.

3. When I am in need of spiritual, emotional or physical help, He will help me.  How can I be fearful when I know that I am not facing this situation by myself?  The Lord is right there with me.  He is my help no matter how fearful the future is.

4. When I stumble or fall, He will pick me up.
How can I be fearful when I know that God will pick me up when I fall or stumble?  When Peter sinned, stumbled and fell, Jesus picked him up and restored him.  Our fear of failure often keeps us from moving forward in our spiritual lives.  This promise assures us that when we stumble, God is right there to keep us going.

In times of great fear, He is there.  God is greater than any fear that may be dominating our lives. He is our God. He will never forsake us.  The decision is ours.  Will I allow God to conquer my fears with His presence, promises, strength and great patience; or will I continue to allow my life to be controlled by my fears?  “Lord, help me to believe your promises.  May I  know that you are greater than any fear that is dominating my life.  Thank you for your presence and power that conquer my fears. Amen”

Note: A special thanks to Karla Da Silva for the photo.  The photo was taken
at Waterfall Gully in South Australia.

I Will Never Leave You (The Presence of God in the Dark Times)

Photo by: Karla Da Silva (By Permission)

Nineteen years ago, I said goodbye to my father.  He had  suffered a stroke and I returned to the States to see him one last time.  He probably recognized me, but he couldn’t communicate with me.  My heart was heavy as I returned to Portugal. I would never  see me father again.  My father didn’t leave me by choice, but he was gone.  I miss my father greatly.

In life, we all face separation from one that has loved us.  This separation is painful; however, there is One who will never leave us.  Our Heavenly Father is always with us.  Hebrews 13:5 says: ” Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  God is with us in the good times and He is with us in dark times.  How does His presence affect our lives?

God’s presence gives us a contented heart in dark times. The tendency in life is to complain about everything.  We want more.  We want it faster.  We want it our way.  When things don’t happen the way we desire, we become bitter and complain.  Our lack of contentment is saying that God is doing a poor job of taking care of us.

Contentment means that we find our joy and happiness in a right relationship with our Living Lord.  In spite of the tough times, we know that He is right there with us.  He will not leave us.  He will walk with us through any valley.  As the Psalmist says: “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”

God’s presence gives us strength in the dark times. The Word of God informs us that Our Heavenly Father will never leave us. “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper. ” (Hebrews 13:6) The dark times in this life weaken us spiritually, emotionally and even physically.  We may feel like quitting.   God’s presence gives us strength to carry on.  God told Paul: “For my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  (Hebrews 13:6) Our weakness says to God:  “I need your strength.”  God will respond.

God’s presence gives us courage in the dark times. Dark times can bring out the coward in us.  We become fearful of people. We become fearful of the future.  We become fearful of failure.  Where do we find the courage to move forward.  “I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”  (Hebrews 13:6) God’s presence and love will cast out the fear that so easily torments us.

As a child,  I developed a fear of crossing the street.  The one street that brought out the most fear was Woodward Ave. This street had three lanes of traffic each way.  However, when my Dad had my hand the fear dissipated.  Likewise,  no matter how difficult a road we travel, Our heavenly Father has us by the hand.

My Dad has left, but my Heavenly Father will never leave me.  He is with me in the good times and the dark times.  Yes, the clouds of darkness may dim my view of God, but He is still with me.  May I lean upon Him in the darkest night so that I may see his presence in midst of the darkness.

-Mark J. Booth-

Are You Tormented by Fear?

Fear of the future? Fear of failure? Fear of death? Fear of rejection? Yes, fear comes in many forms. Do we have to continue to live in fear?
“There is no fear in love but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. “(1 John 4:18)
“I sought the Lord, and he heard me,and delivered me from all my fears.”
(Ps. 34:4) Fear doesn’t have to control us. God gives us the antidote for fear.
1. Remember His Perfect Love
2. Seek to Enjoy the Presence of God
3. Take your fears to the Lord.
Fear brings torment, but God is greater than any fear!