Fear of the unknown, often referred to as a fundamental fear, is a person’s natural tendency to experience fear simply because they “don’t know.”
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago in a 2016 study reported, “Several anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and specific phobias, share a common underlying trait: increased sensitivity to uncertain threat, or fear of the unknown.”
When we are forced to embrace unexpected life events, often completely out of our control, our first thoughts can bring anxiety, disappointment, and panic.
Is it unnerving to you when plans change or expectations go unmet? How many times have “what if” questions kept you from doing something you probably should have done?
Anxiety can follow uncertainty and enter your presence like an uninvited guest.
The story of Jesus walking on the water is told from three disciple’s perspectives in the books of Matthew, Mark and John. Immediately after miraculously feeding the 5,000 plus people with five loaves of bread and two fishes, Jesus sends the disciples across the lake to Bethsaida, telling them he’ll join them later. He stayed back to say goodbye to the crowd and then walked up into the hills to pray. In the early morning hours he looks across the lake and sees the disciples in the middle of the lake struggling against the winds and waves.
So, being Jesus and all … he walks out onto the water to help them. They see him coming and are immediately afraid because they don’t recognize him. “They thought he was a ghost (Mark 7:49 NIV). The disciples were afraid, but once they realized who He was, His presence calmed their fears, as well as the water and wind.
When you experience fear, anxiety, the unexpected or the unknown, do you try to overcome it on your own, or do you invite Jesus to speak into the unsettling winds and waves in your life? In the face of the unknown, peace comes when you remember Christ is always with you (Matthew 28:20). Choose to allow Christ’s presence to eradicate your fear.
“Do you ever just want to quit?” Peyton asked his sister, Pam?
Pam smiled. Peyton’s question may have shocked other family members, or even been considered insensitive or rude, but Pam appreciated his candidness. He was probably the only one who could have been that blunt with her, especially at a time like this.
“I mean, do you have thoughts of suicide?” Peyton pressed.
“I knew what you meant when you asked the first question,” Pam answered softly. She sat down on her brother’s front porch, taking a break from unloading the moving truck. “I don’t know why things have happened the way they have. Losing a job I loved, a home I rebuilt, and a marriage after eight years. Yes, I’ve thought about it.”
“Oh,” Peyton said, a little taken aback.
“Not what you expected me to say?” Pam laughed. “Did you just see me as a woman of faith?” “As I look back over my life, I’ve been in some hard places, but God always brings me through. He didn’t bring me this far to leave me, so I can’t stop now.”
Have you ever wanted to give up? Life is not always easy, and many of us face insurmountable circumstances over many different seasons during our lifetime.
God placed you on the earth with a purpose and a plan. Everything you’ve overcome in life has influenced who you are and how God can use you to bring glory to Him. Philippians 1:6 says you can be “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ” (NIV).
- God is faithful to complete everything He starts. When He created the earth, He declared it good. His work in you is also good, even if you are struggling.
- He will never give up on you.
- When you feel incomplete, unfinished, remember, you are still a masterpiece in His hands.
Don’t allow your present circumstance to steal your joy or cause you to give up on yourself or God’s plan. Take courage, hold fast, stand firm, and press on! He will help you grow in grace and confidence in Him.
When things are going well, we can feel upbeat, positive and elated. When hardships come, we can sink into sorrow, anxiety or depression. But true joy goes beyond the rolling waves of how we may or may not feel in the swirling circumstances of life.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11 ESV). These things He mentioned in the previous verse are:
- staying close to God
- remaining in Christ
- bear fruiting
- experience the father’s love
- love one another
- And demonstrate that love by keeping His commandments
True spiritual joy is a powerful force that comes from an abiding, consistent relationship with Jesus Christ. When the very essence of who you are is intertwined with Him, He helps you navigate the challenges living in a fallen world bring without descending into the crippling and exhausting lows or managing the chaos of deceptive highs. The joy of living each day “in Christ” provides you with constant and steady peace.
“Remaining in Christ” means:
- Believing He is God’s Son
- Receiving Him as Savior
- Doing what God asks of you
- Continuing to believe His truth
- Demonstrating His love to others
Finding joy and rest as a result of His peace gives you stability in even the most challenging times.
The reality of the times we live in today is hard to take in. A global pandemic forces us into isolation, limits our movements, and leaves us with feelings of disappointment of unmet expectations. Those receiving medical care lay in a hospital bed alone. Family members weren’t allowed, in many cases, to be at the birth or death of a loved one. Students missed classes, dances, and graduation celebrations. Families celebrated Passover, Good Friday and the Resurrection without our annual traditions. Images on social media depict grandparents visiting grandchildren at a distance with a sliding glass door between them.
In the midst of crisis, embrace the overwhelming need to rely on God’s power, strength, healing, and comfort.
C.S Lewis said, “But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”
Since the foundation of the world, mankind has struggled with feelings. The Psalmist didn’t dismiss the pain, disappointment, and loss, but instead expressed it all to God. He shared his emotional eruptions in very vulnerable ways as He cried out to God.
Circumstances of life can try to make you feel small and powerless. The reality in many situations is there is nothing you can do physically, but you can adjust your mindset by turning to God and His Word.
1. Look to God; focus on Him
The eyes of the Lord are upon
even the weakest worshipers who love him—
those who wait in hope and expectation
for the strong, steady love of God.
Psalm 33:18 TPT
2. Speak to your soul
Then I will say to my soul,
“Don’t be discouraged; don’t be disturbed,
for I fully expect my Savior-God to break through for me.
Then I’ll have plenty of reasons to praise him all over again.”
Yes, living before his face is my saving grace!
Psalm 43:5 TPT
3. Embrace God’s Word.
I’m lovesick with yearnings for more of your salvation, for my heart is entwined with your word. Psalm 119:81 TPT
You can open the book of Psalms at any time and find words of comfort penned by the David during his darkest nights. Let God’s promises fill you with hope and encourage you in the deliverance by God’s hand. The same relentless love He had for David, He has for you.
When you open your heart’s door and invite God into your situation, you may not see an immediate relief to your circumstance, but your heart receives hope and something begins to change in you.
But you, dear friends, must build up your lives ever more strongly upon the foundation of our holy faith, learning to pray in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.
Jude 1:20 TLB
5. Ask for help. Invite others to join you in prayer and support
Sometimes it just seems hard to pray. In those moments, call on others to stand in faith with you and pray for you. It’s powerful to hear others petition the Lord on your behalf.
In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
Ephesians 6:18 MSG
6. Trust God to never leave you
When you experience even the darkest of nights, you can hold to God’s promise to never be alone. He is always with you. His love for you is relentless. He will never let you go.
For God has said, “I will never, never fail you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5 TLB
Three Things Are Necessary to Live in a Spirit of Peace
Our world has changed significantly over the past few months. Our peace as a nation has visibly been shaken while navigating a global state of emergency.
Paul gives us three powerful keys to living in a spirit of peace, no matter what is going on. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV).
Often when we find ourselves in crisis, our emotions are hijacked. Instead of stopping and praying, we start to think about what we should be doing to fix this problem. Or we pace the floor and worry about it. And Paul says, “Hey, pray!
- Ask God to be with you.
- Tell God all about what you are feeling.
If you’re a parent, you probably noticed this about your children – they’ll confess something to you that you already knew. It wasn’t for your benefit. It was for their benefit. That’s why we want our kids to fess up, take responsibility, not because we need it, but they do.
So when you’re going through a tough time, you need to be able to say, “God, I’m just lost; I’m hurting; I’m angry; I’m scared. And then just pray. When you engage your faith by telling Him all about it, something happens in your own heart.
Pray with Supplication
One of the reasons people go to counselors is to be able to say something in front of a professional that they’ve never said aloud to themselves or any other person. But just to get the words out of their mouths – it’s powerful.
Paul instructs us to pray with supplication. Supplication really means begging earnestly and humbly. It’s saying, “God I need you. God help me.” Go to God, not only in prayer but also in supplication.
Pray with a heart of Thanksgiving
To pray with thanksgiving goes right back verse 7, “with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
We all face difficult things. The time we live in clearly disrupts our peace, but through prayer with supplication and thanksgiving, you can experience His peace.
Anything God promised in His Word is His covenant with you. It’s a promise to you from the one who created you and brought the world into existence. As you do your part, He’ll always do His. According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the covenant of redemption, is “the mutual agreement between the Father and Son, respecting the redemption of sinners by Christ.” Likewise, the covenant of grace, is “that by which God engages to bestow salvation on man, upon the condition that man shall believe in Christ and yield obedience to the terms of the gospel.”
Throughout history, God made covenants with His people. Some significant promises God made include:
- Man and satan would be enemies (Genesis 3;15).
- God would never again cover the whole earth with a flood (Genesis 9:8-17).
- Abraham would be the father of many nations, set apart for God (Genesis 15 – 17).
- Israel would be God’s holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6).
- Salvation would come through King David’s lineage through the Messiah (2 Samuel 7;13, 23:5).
- Forgiveness and salvation are available through Faith is Christ (Hebrew 8:6-13).
When God made a covenant with Abraham, He promised to make Abraham a great nation and to bless him in every way. A man and woman well beyond childbearing years became the father of so many descendants that their numbers are like the sands of the seas or the stars in the sky. And God’s promise to Abraham continues today in every child of God because through Christ Jesus, we have been made heirs of all those same promises (Galatians 3:14, 29).
Abraham struggled at times to believe he and Sarah would have a child, much less become the father of a great nation. He and Sarah took things into their own hands to help God along the way and his first child, Ishmaeil was born to Hagar the handmaiden. But “the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Hebrews 4:3 NLT).
Our fallen world and fallen society tries to deny the truth of God’s promise. Most of what you experience through your natural world tries to contradict God’s covenant with things like;
- What you can see, feel, hear, smell and taste,
- What the news reports,
- Or what people around you believe.
No matter what people say or what most people experience, it’s about what you truly trust God to do in your life. It takes faith to stand with God and believe His Word over what seems to be the norm for most people.
To stay on God’s covenant side, we must not consider not the opposing view, but stand in faith believing that God will do what He promised in His Word.
Disaster, calamity and hardship are not uncommon to most of us, but a global pandemic brings fear and chaos to the forefront of our lives. Just a teenager at the time, Daniel and thousands of his countrymen were made prisoners, removed from their homeland and deposited into foreign lands. Bound to a life of servitude.
Most known for his time spent untouched in a lion’s den, Daniel lived an extraordinary life as a remarkable servant of God. His story unfolds in the book of Daniel; he is also mentioned in Matthew 24:15. Despite being taken captive, Daniel lived his entire lifetime trusting God.
God used Daniel throughout his lifetime of captivity to influence four different kings: Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, Babylonian kings, and Darious and Cyrus, Medo-Persian kings. In a land opposed to God, Daniel lived his life without compromise under the watchful eyes of his captors, remaining faithful to who he was and who God purposed him to be. Daniel refused to eat the king’s food, bow to other Gods, or tell leaders what they wanted to hear at the risk of his own life. Daniel trusted God with his life, persisted in prayer, and allowed Him to shape his destiny.
Honestly, it can be difficult to pray at times, or to become distracted with the extraordinary circumstances our world is facing right now. God was faithful in Daniels’ life, including shutting the mouths of extremely hungry lions, to keep him safe.
Daniel’s life is full of many wonderful examples of how to live a life pleasing to God in troubled times. Here are a few to consider:
- Pray daily. Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10).
- Maintain your integrity. Do what is right in the eyes of the Lord (Daniel 1:8).
- Wait on God to bring you through. Daniel’s visions gave the captives confidence in God as they waited patiently in faith for God to deliver them (Daniel 9:2).
- Be content in where God places you. Daniel rested in God’s sovereignty.
You can face the unknown with trust in God, knowing He will be with you in even the most extreme situations in life.
The child of a parent who has never broken a single promise most likely believes, without a single doubt, when their parent gives their word to make something happen, then it’s going to happen. When something bad happens, that child looks to the parent for stability, support, assurance and peace.
The same should be true for us as spiritual children of God, and yet, we all struggle to trust God in perilous times. Most believe in the promises of God, but in our humanity we allow peace to escape us in seasons of difficulty.
Let’s use two similar definitions of peace from two dictionaries published more than 200 years apart. Webster’s Dictionary from 1828, defines peace to mean “Freedom from agitation or disturbance by the passions, as from fear, terror, anger, anxiety or the like; quietness of mind; tranquillity; calmness; quiet of conscience.” The second definition comes from Merriam-Webster’s current online dictionary, referring to “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.”
In talking about peace of mind and heart, or the peace that comes from God, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27 ESV). You decide if you’re going to worry, fret, or give fear a foothold. It’s your choice. You determine whether or not you will trust Him and calm the storm of your heart.
Just two chapters over, still in John, Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV). Jesus told us this world is troublesome. Things are going to happen that rattle our emotions and even terrorize us, if we let them.
Instead, Jesus encouraged us to accept His gift of a settled heart. When we expect God to bring about His promises, in His way and in His time (that’s the hard part), we can experience peace of mind, tranquility and calmness in our souls.
The peace you seek is found in God. Even though we all have bouts of doubt or fear, the Heavenly Father waits with arms wide open, inviting you to rest in His peace.
You’ve probably seen it all by now. Your inbox teems messages from every organization or corporation you ever shared your email address with, explaining how they are responding to the coronavirus. You’ve seen all the memes you’ll ever want to see about toilet paper and social distancing. Perhaps you’ve even commented on a few or shared them yourself.
But, as a Christ-follower, your response to what’s happening in our world today, the fact that WHO (World Health Organization) has officially declared a pandemic truly matters. It’s not a coincidence that you are on the earth at this appointed time.
Esther influenced a king and saved her people from death. Her uncle’s word’s of wisdom to her, are relevant to us today. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 ESV).
Here are some suggestions to keep at the forefront of your mind as you navigate the days ahead:
- Make the best decisions you can. Use the media to your advantage, but don’t allow it to overwhelm you. In addition to godly wisdom, the CDC, WHO and your state health department are good resources for a pulse on the necessary precautions to take and the right decisions to make.
- Manage your own emotions so you can be anxiety-free. Your sense of calm flows into the hearts of others. You can literally infuse the atmosphere (yes across wifi if needed) with God’s presence and peace.
- Be present and available for your family and others, even if it’s digitally. We need each other. And while it’s not the same as the support received from physical contact, it is a great comfort to hear your voice and see your face as you offer support, encouragement and just let people know you care through various social platforms.
- Help people feel heard. People are inspired, encouraged, and feel loved when they believe someone is listening. Leave your opinions on the sideline, and only offer advice if it’s requested. Listening with love helps others process the chaos that overwhelming circumstances can bring.
- Build community. It may seem odd to say such a thing while we’re isolating ourselves from others, but as humans and believers we have strong desires to help one another through crisis. Look for ways to join a cause or help someone with a need.
- Remind others of God’s love. Sharing stories of God’s faithfulness in your life reminds others just how much God cares for them. It inspires them to lean into His presence and trust Him when our hope is threatened.