I’ve had the privilege of keeping my grandson this week.
It’s the first time he’s been away from his mom and dad since he was born early and stayed in NICU for over two months.
So it’s no wonder the first night he was here and sleeping in a different room with light coming through the windows from the moon and casting strange shadows his sleepy eyes told his little brain there was something to fear.
What started as a whimper grew to a full on desperate cry and I could tell it wasn’t just restless sleep-he was startled and afraid.
So I picked him up, held him close to my chest, nestled his head under my chin and whispered, “It’s alright. You’re not alone. I love you.” I rubbed his back, calmed him down and he was able to drift off to sleep once again sure he was safe.
When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I felt like I’d been picked up from the world I knew and understood and thrust into one where everything was unfamiliar, frightening and potentially dangerous.
There were strange shadows everywhere.
I not only whimpered, I cried out in desperation for some solace, some confirmation that I was seen, heard and loved.
As my perfect, faithful, loving Father, God reminded my heart He was there in the dark when the shadows threatened to undo me.
One of my favorite verses is found in Zephaniah and is a picture of God gathering His people in His arms, comforting them with His love and singing peace and joy over their souls.
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. ~ Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
When I listen I can hear Him sing over me.
When I am still, He covers me with His grace.
When I lean into His arms and rest my head on His chest, I am filled with strength and peace.
If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.
I try to share this post a couple of times each year because it discusses a question many bereaved parents desperately want to answer: Did God take my child?
These are my thoughts-ones I believe are backed by Scripture and align with what I know personally about God’s character.
They are the result of many months of wrestling. I offer them in hopes they will help another heart.
This is a question that comes up all the time in bereaved parents’ groups: Did God take my child?
Trust me, I’ve asked it myself.
How you answer this question can mean the difference between giving up or going on, between turning away or trusting.
So this is MY answer. The one I’ve worked out through study, prayer and many, many tears. You may disagree. That’s just fine. I only offer it because it might be helpful to some struggling and sorrowful soul.
Not so simple when a plain reading of plain words seems to guarantee one outcome and life delivers another.
Not so simple when pain obliterates hope and tears blind my eyes to a future that’s anything other than dark.
But is the problem with God and His promises or me and my expectations?
Before my lifestorm I could have worked up a lovely devotional on God’s promises and given good reasons why we should not doubt them. But God’s promises were no longer devotional material; they were real-life issues. I knew I could not go that class and tell those who gathered there how God keeps his promises, but I could assure them I was learning that he does. Even as I questioned his promises because of the pain that wouldn’t go away, I knew I was learning that the problem is not with God’s promises but with our bringing twentieth-century expectations and personal wish-fulfillment to those promises. The problem lies with our expectations of what God should do and how he should do it when life hurts. I was learning that I had to quit just looking at the promises of God and look to the God of the promises.
Verdell Davis, Riches Stored In Secret Places
I’ve written before about how easy it is to put God in a Box.
So often I interact with Scripture based on false assumptions, wishful thinking and my own idea of how God should work in the world. I want a God I can understand or (if I’m honest!) manipulate or cajole into doing what makes me most satisfied and most comfortable. I pick and choose among the promises and tend to focus on the ones that seem to guarantee health, wealth and happiness and I gloss over the ones that plainly describe the painful process of being conformed to the likeness of Christ.
I cannot answer all the questions my heart can conjure up and I don’t think God will answer them for me this side of Heaven.
But God doesn’t lie.
His promises stand.
How and when He chooses to fulfill them is not for me to say.
I am learning to lean into His faithful love, trust His heart and live in the mysterious space between what I understand and what I find incomprehensible.
It’s a commonly repeated untruth that there are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible.
But there ARE a lot of them.
While many folks like to interpret these commands as admonitions to the trembling hearts standing, kneeling or falling on their face before the Angel of the Lord or begging to be delivered from a perilous situation, I think they are an invitation.
I think they are an invitation to walk into the perfect peace promised by the King of Peace.
They are an invitation to rest in His Presence.
They are an invitation to admit my weakness and appropriate His strength.
I love the book of Psalms because in many ways it feels like the most accessible and “human” book of the Bible.
David and others poured out their hearts to God-no filter, no mask, no pretense-the good, the bad, the ugly, the hopeful, the desperate. So while we could explore many other “fear not” verses, I will start here.
“I will bless the Eternal, whose wise teaching orchestrates my days and centers my mind at night. 8 He is ever present with me; at all times He goes before me. I will not live in fear or abandon my calling because He stands at my right hand.
9 This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy, and my body is at rest. Who could want for more? ” ~ Psalm 16:7-9 VOICE
The Psalmist says a lot in these three verses:
he relies on the truth found in God’s Word to guide his days and focus his thoughts at night
he trusts that God is with him always
he knows God will fight for him
therefore he can rest secure
When I spend time in Scripture, saturating my heart and mind with God’s Word, I have truth readily available to combat the lies of the enemy.
Satan wants me to worry and fret, to doubt my Father’s goodness and faithful love and to shake my confidence that God is for me.
The more I sit with Jesus, the more I listen to HIM and learn His voice, the less power the enemy of my soul has over me.
Another favorite :
I am hardly fearless.
In fact, I struggled with fear of the dark until I was nearly 40 years old. I only overcame that fear when necessity forced me to face it and I walked out trembling reciting every verse I could remember about not being afraid.
This was one of them.
I face different fears now.
When the one thing you think won’t happenDOES happen, the thought it might happen AGAINis never far from your mind.
So all this virus talk is working on that fear. People I love might get sick. People I love might die. I know exactly the wreckage death leaves behind and I don’t want to live through that again.
But I might have to so I’m clinging to the truth David sang hundreds of years ago:
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1 KJV
the Lord is my light-He illuminates my path and my heart
the Lord is my salvation-He alone can save me (in this life or in eternity through Christ)
the Lord is the strength of my life-He made me, He keeps me and I am His
with the Creator of the universe caring for me, what can anyone or any force do to me without His consent?
I have nothing to fear
When I accept my Father’s invitation to crawl up into His lap, rest in His arms and rely on His strength, I am fearless.
But like a child I often run away just when I most need His comfort.
I love this translation of Psalm 94:19 because it reflects my temptation to bring my anxiety, sorrow and fears to God but then to take them back:
After the multitude of my sorrows in mine heart; thy comforts made glad my soul. (And after a multitude of sorrows gathered together in my heart; once again thy comfort gladdened my soul.)
Psalm 94:19 WYC
God knows I am made of dust. God knows my heart is prone to fear and worry. God knows my feelings often drive reason right out of my head.
He’s not surprised by my trembling knees and weak hands.
He doesn’t turn away because I am afraid.
“Thy comforts made glad my soul”-God will comfort me in my distress. He will wait for me to turn to Him and will wait for me to turn to Him again when I turn away. “[O]nce again thy comfort gladdened my soul.”
He never tires of holding out His arms to me.
He says, “Fear not, little one.”
I see you.
I love you.
Come here and let me comfort you.
Use an online or print concordance to find at least 3 other Psalms that speak about God’s desire to comfort us when we are afraid. Copy out one of them and put it where it will encourage your heart.
What frightens you most today? How can these verses help your heart hand that fear over to your Father?
Do you consider yourself a fearful person? Why or why not?
Have you conquered any fears? If so, think about who or what gave you the courage to do it. Can you weave your previous experience into your current situation?
List at least three times you have been afraid of something that MIGHT have happened but DIDN’T happen. Did your fear contribute in any way to the outcome?
How can thinking about “Do Not Fear” as an invitation instead of an admonition strengthen your faith?
Father God, When I look around at how impossibly different the world is today from only a few weeks ago my knees buckle and my heart trembles. I know I’ve never really been in control but at least there was the illusion of control.
I am afraid.
Thank You that I am not defenseless in the battle against fear and worry. When anxiety rises up within me let Your truth be my sword and shield.
Help me run to You. Help me climb into Your lap and rest in Your Presence. Deafen my ears to the lies being whispered and even shouted that threaten to undo me.
Speak courage to my heart and sing comfort over my soul.