Four weeks ago, a major crisis hit my family.
I was laying awake, unable to sleep. At midnight I heard my Dad’s voice outside my bedroom door – he was talking on the phone. Over the next half hour or so the phone rang several times, and I heard people moving about. Then I heard a car drive out. This wasn’t normal, and I knew something wasn’t right. Two days before my fourteen year old brother had been hospitalized with concerning and worsening symptoms, so I figured that Dad had been called to the hospital. I was concerned, and began to pray. The next morning I found that my guess had been a correct one. My brother was very sick, and had been transferred to another hospital in the night.
For days he was in ICU in extreme pain as doctors tried to stabilize and treat him. For a week they were unsure whether he would live or die – they said that it could go either way. We called on friends and family to cry out to the Lord in prayer with us. Though he had been dealing with symptoms for about a week prior to his being taken to hospital, it still felt as though this storm had hit us suddenly and unexpectedly. I found myself battling fear and struggling to trust the Lord.
When a storm blows in there are many ways that we might respond to it. Fear is, unfortunately, too often my default. But in the middle of my storm I realised that my fear was rooted in a failure to trust my Lord in the areas that I feared. I am learning that every struggle is rooted in something that we are not believing about God. In my case, I was struggling to believe His perfect love and perfect control over the circumstances in my life. This led to an inability to let go of my circumstances and fears and give them to Jesus, which led to me trying to hold on and take control. Which in turn led to more fear, which meant physical anxiety and tension and apparent distance from my Lord.
Jesus Himself made the connection between fear and a lack of trust in Him, when He was with His disciples in a boat in the middle of a storm.
The Bible says, in Mark 4:37-41,
“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
I would like to share with you four lessons that the Lord took me deeper in through this time, in the area of dealing with fear.
1. Trust who God is
One of the most beautiful things about the Christian life is the ability God gives us to know Him. He is not some distant impersonal deity. If you are a believer, He is your Heavenly Father who knows you intimately, who cares for and loves you enough to send His own Son to suffer and die for your soul. By His blood Christ has brought us into the very near presence of the Father, into relationship with Him. God’s heart is for us, not just to know about Him, but to know Him truly and intimately.
If we would trust God, we must know Him. Earlier this year the Lord made this connection for me in some well known verses – Proverbs 3:5-6.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
The word for acknowledge in the Hebrew is actually the word “yada,” which in the Old Testament is used for the most intimate experiential knowing. David uses it to describe God’s knowledge of Him in Psalm 139, and in many places God uses it to describe the kind of knowledge He wants His people to have of Him (for example, Jer 9:24; Jer 24:7; Dan 11:32; Hos 2:20; Hos 6:3). Verse 6 could be written, “In all your ways intimately know and be joined to Him…”
Psalm 9:10 makes this connection too,
“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
The disciples in the boat had none other but God Himself right there in the storm with them, yet they were still afraid. Their question, “Who is this?” shows that they didn’t yet fully realize WHO He was.
Through my specific situation, I have been learning to know Him as my Heavenly Father, who knows, loves, and cares for me and those I love (see Rom 8:15-16). I find great comfort in His perfect knowledge – He not only knows me perfectly, but knows what’s going on, knows how I feel about it, and what the struggles are. He knows how to help and what truths to remind me of.
Friends, let us continually press on to know Jesus more. The more we know Him, the more we will be able to trust Him.
2. Trust God’s Promises
When storms hit, it can feel like Jesus is asleep in the boat. In the darkness He can seem far away. The questions arise and the pain can seem so hard to bear. Sometimes I cry, “Lord, where are you in all this pain?!” But it is in these times that we’ve got to search His Word for promises and speak them to our hearts. We must choose to believe the truth over what we can see and feel. We must choose to believe God’s promises no matter how things might seem. It’s not easy, I know, but we cannot allow unbelief to distance our hearts from the Lord. But even when we don’t believe, Jesus is still faithful. He still calmed the storm, in spite of the disciple’s unbelief and fear. And even though the disciple’s doubted Him, Jesus was with them and was in complete control the entire time.
If you are in the midst of scary circumstances, I gently encourage you to get alone with Jesus and search His Word for promises that speak to your specific struggles and fears. If you aren’t familiar with the Bible, or have limited physical or mental ability, then ask a godly friend or family member to do it with you. I always find this to be incredibly strengthening and comforting. Choose to speak God’s promises to your heart, rather than listening to your fears.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
3. Trust who you are in Christ
When you are in a storm, it may be easy to doubt God’s love. You may wonder why, if God really loves you, He allows such hard storms in your life or in the lives of those you love. You may be tempted to believe that you are there because God doesn’t love you, or if He did in the past, maybe He doesn’t anymore.
I love how this is put in Casting Crowns song “Just Be Held,”
“If your eyes are on the storm, you’ll wonder if I love you still, but if your eyes are on the cross, you’ll know I always have and I always will.”
The disciple’s eyes were on the storm, and so they doubted Jesus’ love. “Do you not care?”
Yet, the very fact that Jesus was here on earth at all showed how very, very much He did care.
During His time on earth, Jesus endured more pain then any of us ever will. He shed His blood for you, so that your sins which stood against you could be washed away and completely blotted out. He endured rejection and separation from His beloved Father so that you and I would never have to face rejection by and separation from Him again. He endured excruciating pain so that we would never have to face the worst pain of eternal torment in Hell. He willingly gave Himself for us, so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. Though we brought suffering into the world because of our sin, He suffered the most so that suffering would not be the end for those who trust in Him. Friends, that is love.
If you have trusted Jesus as your Saviour, then God has placed you in Him, which means that you have every spiritual blessing in Heavenly places, full access into all that He is and has. Ephesians 1 says that in Christ, you are chosen, holy, and blameless. In Christ Jesus, you have been adopted as His beloved child, are fully accepted, fully redeemed, and fully forgiven. In Christ you are fully loved. Not because of anything you’ve done, but because of who He is. He is Love, and has extended that love to you. If you are not saved, He is reaching out to you and extending His love to you, and if you trust Him as Saviour, these spiritual blessings can be yours too.
One of my favourite verses to use to combat fear is 1 John 4:18,
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
One of the best ways to deal with fear is to know, believe, and receive the love of Christ through the Gospel, because perfect love casts out fear. Come to Jesus. Pray that you might “comprehend… and know the love of Christ that passes knowledge…[and] be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:18-19).
Remember that, in Christ, no amount of suffering can ever separate you from His love (Rom 8:35-39).
4. Trust in God who “performs all things for you”
In the storm that I was walking through, I did all of the things I’ve mentioned above, and yet the fear and physical anxiety still nagged at and tortured me. I couldn’t get rid of it, no matter how hard I tried. Finally I asked the Lord what He was trying to say to me, and He showed me that He was waiting for me to surrender to Him my trying and striving, and just look to Him trusting Him to do it all.
None of the accounts of this story in the gospels records any effort on the part of the disciples to solve the problem (rowing, bailing, etc.) before waking Jesus, but we do know who brought peace – it was Jesus.
I have seen the story used of someone trying to save a drowning man, to illustrate this point. If the person on shore dove into the water too soon, then the frantic struggling of the drowning man would pull them both under the water. He needed to wait until the man stopped struggling and was beginning to drown, before he could jump in and save him. So it is with us and Christ. How were you saved when Christ first gave you salvation? Not by your own striving and effort, but by faith in Christ’s work alone. How will you and I continue to be saved from our sin? In the same way. By looking to Jesus and trusting Him to do for you what you are unable to do for yourself.
Even in other situations, sometimes our trouble is that we are trying too hard, and God is waiting for us to give it over to Him so that He can do it. His ways are so much higher than ours.
I encourage you to surrender to Jesus your striving and control, or your cares and needs, or whatever you might be holding on to, or whatever, and trust Him to work on your behalf. To trust means to depend or rely upon, or to place confidence in someone or something. Trust in God is not a passive thing – it is actively choosing to place everything in the Lord’s hands and leave it with Him, relying on Him for the outcome.
“I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.” Psalm 57:2 (KJV)
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” Psalm 37:5
Through the situation my family and I have just walked through with my brother’s illness, we have gotten to see God work in mighty ways. We used chats on three different phone apps to update friends and family with specific prayer requests, and thus we got to see God answer prayer in specific ways. As the weeks went on, the doctors became amazed at his progress. He was able to come home early last week after three weeks in hospital. It was a huge reminder to me of the power of prayer.
I was also reminded of God’s grace in the midst of scary circumstances. We don’t have to fear suffering, because God is able to sustain us there and carry us through. He is able to turn any situation around. And often it is there in the darkness that the light of who Jesus is shines most brightly. It is there that we can get to know Him more deeply.
Whatever I am walking through, I am learning to trust God, even when things don’t make sense and I don’t understand. He is perfectly trustworthy, regardless of what is going on in my life.
Yes, I am learning to trust Jesus. What about you?
With love, ❤