Have you ever been addicted to something? Maybe not alcohol, or opioids, but something internal? I am. It’s called fear.
I have had trouble with fear for a long time. Many people do. Among many things, I fear what people think of me. As a Christian, I want to be a witness for Christ. Yet I am often stopped by fear of what other people will think of me. I worry that it will be awkward to talk about God to others. Then, because I have these worries, I force myself to try to witness.
It is good to witness. But we shouldn’t do it out of force, or fear. Yes, we are commanded to obey God, but in order for it to be any profit to us, we must obey out of love. Any good deed we do, if not done in love, does nothing for us.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” ~1st Corinthians 13:3
If fear is driving me to do things for God, then I’m not on the right track. What am I afraid of? That I’ll lose my salvation? Nonsense! Paul says that, “…He (God) which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”. Once we are God’s, nothing can pluck us from His Hand. (John 10:28–29)
So what am I afraid of? I’m afraid of people, which hinders me in witnessing. And if I don’t witness because of this fear, I’m afraid I’m disobeying God. It is good to be grieved over sin, and to feel guilt that leads to repentance. But instead of simply trusting God with my struggles and asking Him forgive my sin and help me to do better, I do something else. I do the things listed above…. and still fear.
I’m afraid because I’m used to being afraid.
It’s like taking a drug. We may know that taking drugs can hurt us, but we do it anyway, because we are addicted. Our bodies crave the feeling that fear creates in us. For myself, part of me enjoys being afraid. And I enjoy being reassured, and comforted. And fear comes more naturally to our sinful bodies than trust does.
So we give in. I give in.
This morning in my Bible time, I studied Psalm 23:4
“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
God leads us in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake (Psalm 23:3). Sometimes the paths of righteousness may lead us through the valley of the shadow of death, not because God is bad — far from it! — but because this world is sinful. Following Jesus Christ may mean persecution, trials, trouble. Sometimes our way through life will be dark and dreary, scary and hard. Jesus promised that “in this world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). Hard times may come as chastening for sin, or they may come just because sin is in the world in general, or they may come so we may be molded further in Christ’s image.
Whatever the reason, when dark times come, we need not be afraid, for God, our Good Shepherd, is with us. He is “close beside me” in the NLT translation of Psalm 23:4. Dark times should not make us afraid — we should not give them our awe, or bow before them in trembling, scared reverence. Do we fearfully worship hardships and trials in life by falling weak and prone before them? Stand up! Stand firm! God is with us. He is Emmanuel. His rod and staff comfort us as He uses them to guide and chasten and protect us.
Darkness may come, but God is Brighter
Fear may come, but God is Bolder
Struggle may come, but God is Bigger
Sorrow may come, but God is Better
Right after this time of study, I fell right into fear when I started worrying about sharing this lesson on the verse. Instead of leaning on the truth of God, I panicked and started to stress out. I gave in to fear and bowed before it.
So what’s the conclusion? I still struggle with fear, with witnessing. I have asked God to give me wisdom and peace about how to witness, and I know He will in His time. For now, I need to wait and trust.
I don’t say this from a platform of achievement. I am still struggling. But God is greater. He gives each of us gifts to serve Him by His Holy Spirit, and maybe mine isn’t witnessing vocally or in writing. No matter what He has for me, though, I need to learn trust. If God plans to use me, He will without me worrying about how He will do it. “I (Paul) have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” ~1st Corinthians 3:6. All the work is of God.
And you know what? When Jesus promised tribulation in the world, He didn’t end there.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33