The year of FEAR (also known as 2020!) is in its last quarter… can I get an AMEN?!? I don’t know about you but I have had enough… enough of the unknowns, enough of the “what’s nexts”, enough of the anxiety, stress, worry and FEAR associated with this year! So with Halloween on the horizon, and all the tricks and FEAR associated with it, I felt compelled to confront FEAR head on; replacing it with HOPE. My HOPE is to turn the tricks to treats, the scares to cares and the fright to might as this month (and year) draws to an end.
As I gathered my thoughts for this post, I, yet again, came upon a timely devotional from Melanie Shankle. Her devotional about strongholds channeled my thoughts to Psalm 27:1:
Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?
Perfect timing and verse, Melanie! Whom shall we FEAR and what should we be FEARful of when we have a God who is our light, salvation and stronghold? Hmmm…. I can’t think of anyone or anything. Just think of the word “stronghold”? Just by flipping that word around you get: hold strong. Yup! God holds onto us strongly, at times when we need Him the most! Stronghold is derived from Middle English and means “having physical strength, sturdy, strong; built to withstand assaults, fortified”. Just think about that… God builds a fort around us; protecting us from assaults of ALL kinds! God’s com-FORT (with strength) is a fort we take with us wherever we go. No-one and no-thing… I don’t care how strong they are or it is… can take God’s protection away from us. Because… God’s fort comes from within. As believers of Jesus, He dwells inside us… no matter what time of day… no matter where we are… no matter how we are feeling… no matter what attacks we are facing. Now, that’s a FORT!
The same day I read Melanie’s devotional on strongholds, I read another perfectly timed devotional from Charles Stanley focusing on Psalm 91. This Psalm revolves around the theme of feeling safe while abiding in God’s presence. TWO devotionals devoted to the SAME day about strongholds and safety in God’s presence… hmmm. Some may THINK these connections are coincidental but I KNOW they are God winks! If you don’t believe me, here’s Psalm 91:2:
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my FORTress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
Yup! That’s a God wink! Charles shared how God is our Protector and how “He has NEVER been out of control over His creation for a fraction of a second since the beginning of time”. Charles dives further into this Psalm; reminding us that God is responsible for carrying out His purposes for us and meeting our needs as we obey Him. He explains that ultimately EVERYTHING we experience in our lives… even the “bad” things… God will turn them for our good when we trust in Him. God is our FORTress and our strength. No matter what we experience, He WILL turn it ALL for good. I find a great deal of com-FORT in that!
But wait… the God winks continue… As I read Psalm 91, I came across a note in my own handwriting that said: “Colleen’s favorite Psalm”. Oh yes, people… this is real… I couldn’t make up these God winks if I TRIED! Colleen is a dear friend of mine. She is also an inspiration! Colleen has overcome abuse, dealt with a multitude of family issues and… fought cancer ALL with God by her side and a ton of GRACE! Colleen is full of FEARless HOPE! She is my spirit animal! Colleen, thank you for sharing your favorite Psalm… this Psalm has your name all over it!
I HOPE you can handle one more God wink because here it comes… as I am reading Psalm 91, my eyes travel to the bottom of the Bible where I find a familiar passage from Adrian Rogers about the same Psalm. It is titled: Freedom from Fear (I seriously can’t make this up!). This passage from Adrian discusses the different types of fear… protective FEAR, perseverating FEAR and productive FEAR. We all need protective FEAR to… ummmm… protect ourselves from things such as lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). In all seriousness, there are times we need to protect ourselves from situations that can harm us. God gave us protective fear for a purpose. God also wants us to have productive FEAR, the kind of FEAR which can be found in Proverbs 1:7: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Let’s be clear, this productive FEAR is NOT a cringing FEAR of God. The FEAR of the Lord is just love on its knees because… the one who FEARS God the most LOVES God the best! This FEAR is a wonderfully productive FEAR because it inspires us to know God intimately. Through this FEAR, we respect our Father’s wisdom, power and might over everything He created. This FEAR ignites our souls to know His character so that we can learn from Him and strive to me more like Him. This FEAR inspires us to be more loving, to be more giving, and to be more caring… to be more of all that is good.
The FEAR that God wants us to be free from is perseverating FEAR. This FEAR is unproductive, unhealthy and… even Deadly. This is the FEAR that Debilitates and Destroys. This FEAR Deters us from Doing His will and unDermines our Dreams. This FEAR Detours us from experiencing the Desires and Delights that are associated with being in alignment with God’s plan for our lives. This Deadly FEAR… the FEAR that harnesses stress, worry, anxiety and yes, even pain… is the FEAR we need to rid ourselves from… regardless of the year, regardless of the bad news, regardless of the pain, regardless of the medical results.
So, let’s take that four-letter word FEAR and turn it to another four-letter word… HOPE! Let’s turn it into FEARless HOPE by going to the One who brings us com-FORT. Psalm 91:1 says:
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I am sure as a child; you had a secret hiding place… a place you hid when you were afraid of the monsters under your bed or in your closet. Perhaps it was even a FORT of some sort. As an adult, your hiding place… your refuge… your FORT… is found in the shadow of God Almighty. God’s shadow is not only a secret place, but it is a sacred place. You can only experience this place through JESUS. He died on the cross for you and I to have an intimate relationship with God… FREE from FEAR, FULL of HOPE. This secret and sacred place is also the safest place. NOTHING can come to you without His allowance. EVERYTHING that He allows into our lives… He will work it together for our good and His glory.
It is my HOPE that you will look back on this year… the year of FEAR… and remember it as a year of HOPE instead. As a child of God, we are to live with HOPE in the things to come, not FEAR in the things that may be. Sink into His mighty arms free from FEAR, full of HOPE. Find comFORT in His Word, find love in His Son and find HOPE in His Spirit that lives inside of believers; protecting us like an impenetrable FORTress regardless of the trial. It’s in Him where we are free. It’s in Him where we find joy. It’s in Him where we have HOPE… THE FEARless HOPE in ALL things.
And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold,
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’