As I said several weeks ago, at Grace Community Church we’re going through 52 weeks of Scripture, highlighting a particular verse each week for consideration. I want to write on those verses from time to time, as some of them are particularly poignant for parenting. The verse this week really hit me in that way. It’s Isaiah 41:10- So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed (in the NASB, it says “do not anxiously look about you”, which is well said), for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you in my righteous right hand.
Did you know that there are 365 verses in the Bible telling us not to be afraid? God, who knows our hearts so well, knows we need to hear that message again and again. The writer, H.P. Lovecraft said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Fear is our native soil, and the seeds grown within are malignant and deadly.At times, fear paralyzes us. We become so overwhelmed with the overabundance of choices in this life, or the magnitude of decisions to be made, or unpleasant conversations to be had, that we just shut down, procrastinating on making the hard call because we’re afraid. But, Satan doesn’t leave it there—he keeps needling us with it, haunting us, disrupting our sleep and our lives. Not only do we procrastinate; we’re tortured by it in the meantime. It degrades us, and eats away at our souls.
If we finally do get around to making a decision, fear causes us to make a bad one. Think of every friendship we’ve ever destroyed or feelings we’ve hurt, by the fear of looking bad or of losing another friend by keeping this one; or opportunities we missed because of the fear of failure or rejection; or people we dated because of the fear of being alone; or the bad jobs we stayed in when we knew we should leave because of fear of financial ruin; or, the things we didn’t attempt because we were afraid that we were inadequate for the task, that we wouldn’t measure up in the end.
And, if we don’t act in fear for ourselves, don’t we do it for our kids? I see this in our school all the time, and I recognize it so well, because I’m a chief offender. Seeing our children facing failure: a bad grade, not making the team, not getting enough playing time, a thoughtless word from a friend or rival. It makes us afraid-afraid that they will suffer, afraid that they won’t measure up or be successful–and, here’s where it gets dirty–afraid that their failure will be a poor reflection on us as their parents. So, we race in and manipulate the situation, we try to convince the coach or the teacher into changing the grade or giving more playing time, or trying to, anyway, attempting to manipulate success for our kid, doing it all in the name of “good parenting”. And, in so doing, gutting our kids’ ability to handle life as it comes, to be resilient and gritty and strong, to “consider it all joy when they encounter various trials.”
And, Satan laughs, and the angels weep. Because, in the long run, if it goes long and hard enough, fear separates us from the heart of God. It is virtually impossible to dwell upon, to focus on the object of our fear, and to keep our eyes on God simultaneously. The best example is Peter on the water- eyes on Jesus, walk on water; eyes on the water, fear and sinking.
But, that doesn’t have to be us. We can look at our verse today, and take encouraging words from our Father who loves us.
When my kids were little we went to the pool, and I’d be standing in the water, trying to coax them to jump in. “Come on, Daddy will catch you. Daddy has never let you down before. He loves you. You can do this. Look, I have my arms out. I will catch you.” They stood there looking at me, and this water that they were clearly afraid of, and there were some things happening there—first, they heard the promises from me.
What are the promises from your Father? Look at verse 41:10- “Do not fear, for I am with you; I am your God; I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you.” So, the first thing is hearing God’s promises. This is why it’s so important to stay in God’s Word, to be living in it every day. Because we get really, really distracted by all of the fearful things out there, and we need to read our Father’s promises over and over.
As my daughter stood at the water’s edge, she had a decision to make. Did she trust this guy holding his arms out to her? Did he really love her? Did he have the ability, the power, to catch her, to protect her, or was she just going to fall in? Could she trust him? Because hearing the promise is one thing; trusting that the one who promises can deliver is another.
As a human, I’m a shaky vessel for trust. But, our Father is the One who is Sovereign over all, the Author of all generations, the One who chose us, and the Victor over those who oppose us. Let’s face it, if we can’t trust Him, and all of that, we can’t trust anyone.
One last thing my daughter had to do as she stood on the edge of that pool, listening to me promising to protect and catch her, trusting that I would make good on my promise and I had the power to do it. She had to jump. She had to actually trust. She did it. And, after doing that once or twice, I couldn’t keep her out of the dadgum pool. “Again, Daddy. Again, Daddy. Again.”
As I fall in the arms of my Lord, my Abba, my Father, and He catches me again, and again, and again, as He’s done every single time in these thirty years that I’ve been His child, I may still occasionally flirt with fear, may even actually feel it from time to time, but it is no longer my native way. I have deep, abiding peace; I do not fear; I am not dismayed; perfect love has cast out fear.