Barn swallow nest on the front porch at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

What if

Do you ever get scared? It doesn’t have to even be about something scary–just scared in general. Of the unknown? Of trusting someone with something valuable to you? Of making the wrong decision?

I wish I could say I didn’t. I wish I could say I fearlessly charge into life without a thought about what could go wrong, but that’s not true. I’m just really talented at living in denial. I can convince myself that everything is fine, and I push forward, even though I know it really isn’t. Now maybe that’s good on some counts. Maybe it’s bad on others. And maybe some fear is justified. Regardless, fear is something we all deal with, irrational or not.

To a certain extent, fear is good for us. If we’re never afraid, we never have to embrace real courage. And if we never have to embrace real courage, we never grow. But I really believe the majority of the fears we face are things that we shouldn’t waste time or effort fearing.

Barn swallow nest on the front porch at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Barn swallow nest on the front porch at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalms 118:6.

The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?

Wouldn’t you agree that the things frightening you the most in life start with “What if?” What if I lose someone I love? What if I lose my job? What if my friends don’t like me anymore? What if people get the wrong idea about me? What if–what if–what if!

I can “what-if” myself to death. I can fabricate terrifying circumstances out of nothing. I can work myself into a frenzy about a single statement from someone I barely know and can, in mere moments, have myself convinced that he/she despises me–when they really haven’t even paid any attention to me at all.

I can think of the worst-case scenario and multiply it by a factor of impossible. I can run myself into the ground planning and preparing for the apocalypse and still lose sleep at night because there’s bound to be something I forgot.

Anyone hear me? Anybody else get this? Surely I’m not the only one.

Yes, planning for the future is wise, but you can’t let your plans rule your life. You can’t let your assumptions about the unknown determine the decisions you’re going to make. Yes, be ready, but don’t live your life in fear of what if.

Make the decisions you need to make. Do the best you can with the information you have. Be diligent about the details; don’t slack off out of laziness. Do your best. And let it go.

God has it. You get that, right? I’m talking to myself here. God has this. He’s got everything under control, and nothing is going to happen that will catch Him off guard. Those people who have appeared in your life? The ones who mean so much to you, the ones you trust? God brought them along to help you.

Stop worrying. Stop being afraid. Stop letting fear make your decisions for you. Stand up to it. When fear starts whispering lies in your head, shut it out. Even better, shut it down. Fight fear with faith. If your faith is grounded in Christ, fear has no power over you. The only power fear has in the life of a Christian is the power we give it. So decide now that fear won’t gain an inch of ground in the battle of your life.

God doesn’t work through fear. Fear isn’t a very effective motivational tool. God works through love, and that’s a lot more powerful than fear any day.

That thing you’re scared of? Give it over. And if you have to let it go for good, remember that this story isn’t about you. The more you give up your life, the more life you’ll have.

A very steep section of Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Overcoming fear

Life is full of scary things, and if you focus on all there is to be afraid of, it’s easy (very easy) to be overwhelmed with how little we actually have control over. The key is to recognize that God is in control and trust that He’s going to take care of the details. But that’s easier said than done, especially if you’re a control freak.

I’m convinced that God put certain passages in Scripture just for me. That’s how I feel about today’s passage.

A very steep section of Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

A very steep section of Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verses are Deuteronomy 31:4-8.

“The Lord will destroy the nations living in the land, just as he destroyed Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites. The Lord will hand over to you the people who live there, and you must deal with them as I have commanded you. So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Then Moses called for Joshua, and as all Israel watched, he said to him, “Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

I don’t spend an enormous amount of time in the Book of Deuteronomy, but whenever I read it, I remember how much I love it. With a name like Deuteronomy and its location in Scripture, I get it mixed up with Leviticus and Numbers. But Deuteronomy doesn’t have as much law in it, not like Leviticus does. Yes, there are some portions about the Law and dos and don’ts and things like that, but the book as a whole isn’t just the Law. It’s about the Children of Israel, the generation after one that left Egypt. And this passage marks where Moses turns command over to Joshua.

Put yourself in Joshua’s shoes. What a terrifying proposition! This isn’t like a promotion at work that you’ve been waiting for. This isn’t even like a promotion you didn’t see coming. This is like your boss pulling you from an area where you’re comfortable and a job description that you’re confident in and tossing you into the role as CEO of a major company. In a matter of moments, you go from being the one who takes orders to the one who gives orders, and you didn’t see it coming. If you haven’t worked for a big company, that may not sound intimidating, but if you’ve ever worked for a corporation you’ll understand just how frightening that sort of event would be.

I can’t imagine going from my little writing position to suddenly being in command of my company. It’s not something I would even want. And it makes me wonder if that’s how Joshua felt. After all, he saw what Moses had gone through. He saw how the Children of Israel had treated Moses. He witnessed everything first hand as a soldier, and then when he’s given command, he suddenly has to face the fact that he’s the one God wants in charge.

So it’s no wonder God tells him over and over again not to be afraid, not only in this book but also in the Book of Joshua, directly after this one.

But what I find interesting about this passage is how God repeats key phrases. God tells Moses to tell Joshua not to be afraid and that God will go with him. And then Moses tells Joshua that God said not to be afraid and that God will go with Him.

Why repeat it? And it seriously is almost exactly repeated word for word. Couldn’t the Scriptures have just said something like “Moses told Joshua all God had said.” There are other passages like that. Why not here? Why put it down again? And what’s more, if you look ahead to Joshua 1:1-9, you’ll see almost exactly the same thing repeated.

This is what I have learned about the Bible. God doesn’t waste words. If He chooses to repeat something in Scripture, it’s not an accident. It means something, and usually it means we need to pay attention. It means what He’s saying is something He wants us to really understand.

Whether you’re a CEO of a company or at the bottom of the food chain, you face scary things all the time. Life is scary. Living is scary. There’s not a moment that fear can’t take advantage of your life, especially when you grasp just how powerless we are. But what God wants us to know is that He’s not going anywhere. The same God who went ahead of Moses, the same God who went ahead of Joshua, is the same God who is going ahead of us today.

God knows what’s coming. He knows what the future has in store for us, even if we don’t, and He isn’t going to let us face it alone. He’s there. And if He’s there and if you can trust Him, you don’t have to be afraid. Fear isn’t something that you need to give in to because God has given us the power to overcome it.

I don’t normally do this, but I love the song “Overcomer” by Mandisa. And I watched the music video for it last night that features some pretty well known overcomers. The YouTube link for it is below, and if you have a moment, I’d really suggest watching it and remembering that no matter what you’re facing in life right now, God is telling us not to be afraid. You’re going to face challenges and impossible situations, but God isn’t going to let you do it by yourself.