Tuesday, March 24, 2020

33 Scripture References on Fear

SCRIPTURE OFFERING COMFORT IN THE FACE OF FEAR
Consider reading and meditating on one of these Scripture passages each day.  
1.  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10
2.  “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  Psalm 56:3
3.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7
4.  “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”  John 14:27
5.  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  2 Timothy 1:7
6.  “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  1 John 4:18
7.  “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”  Psalm 94:19
8.  “But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”  Isaiah 43:1
9.  “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”  Proverbs 12:25
10. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
11. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9
12. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34
13. “Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time.  Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:6-7
14. “Tell everyone who is discouraged, ‘Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” Isaiah 35:4
15. “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”  Luke 12:22-26
16. “The 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?”  Psalm 27:1
17. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”  Psalm 55:22
18. “Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  Mark 6:50
19. “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6
20. “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”  Isaiah 41:13-14
21. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46:1
22. “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?  The Lord is with me; he is my helper.”  Psalm 118:6-7
23. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”  Proverbs 29:25
24. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  Mark 4:39-40
25. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”  Psalm 34:7
26. “But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.”  1 Peter 3:14
27. “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.  He freed me from all my fears.”  Psalm 34:4
28. “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.”  Deuteronomy 3:22
29. “…Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.”  Revelation 1:17
30. “Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.'”  Mark 5:36
31. “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”  Romans 8:38
32. “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
33. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”…He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.  You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you…For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways…“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him…”  Psalm 91

Friday, March 20, 2020

CORONAVIRUS Y EL TEMOR - Cathy Youngblood

CORONAVIRUS Y EL TEMOR
Cathy Youngblood – 19 de marzo, 2020

Algunos de Uds. han estado estudiando el libro de Adam Hamilton llamado “Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times” (“Sin temor: Viviendo con valor y esperanza en tiempos inseguros”) conmigo los martes por la noche en la iglesia, y se asombrarán igual que yo de la forma en que el contenido se apega a nuestra situación actual.   Con la llegada del coronavirus, no hay duda de que han decendido sobre nosotros tiempos muy inseguros, y cada día hay nuevos desafíos. ¿Cómo podemos vivir con valor y esperanza como personas de fe cuando todos sentimos algún nivel de preocupación y temor?  
Nuestras mentes empiezan a preguntar: Tengo tos – será COVID-19?  Si me ataca el virus, podré sobrevivir la enfermedad?  Qué pasaría si un ser querido se infecta?  Podría enfermarme del virus si voy al doctor o al hospital?  Qué le pasará a la economía ya que tantos negocios se están cerrando?  Podré cubrir todas mis obligaciones? Vivo solo y soy de alto riesgo, cómo me irá con el aislamiento social? Y siguen las preguntas…  Es fácil de entender cómo el temor y la angustia nos pueden paralizar.   
El autor Adam Hamilton nos enseña las siguientes cosas en su libro, en el capítulo 18 llamado “La ansiedad, la preocupación, y la enfermdad física,” lo cual aplicaremos al temor del coronavirus.  
  • El temor puede ser algo bueno – no es siempre malo.  Dios diseñó nuestros cerebros para que reaccionaríamos a las situaciones de peligro; la amígdala causa que sintamos temor cuando estamos en peligro como forma de auto-preservación.  

  • El temor se vuelve problema cuando permitimos que nos paralice.  
    • “La ansiedad es un hilo de temor que pasa por la mente.  Si lo alimentamos, empieza a cortar un canal mas profundo por donde pasan todos nuestros pensamientos.”  – Arthur Somers Roche 
    • “La preocupación es imaginar un futuro negativo que probablemente nunca sucederá.” – Adam Hamilton

  • El acrónimo F-E-A-R (“temor”) nos ayuda para saber como reaccionar al temor: 
    • F – FE – la forma de enfrentar nuestros temores
    • E – EXAMINE los hechos, no asuma lo peor
    • A – ATAQUE con acción sus ansiedades 
    • R – RECONOZCA que Dios es mas grande y entréguele sus temores
Veamos cómo podemos aplicar el acrónimo F-E-A-R a la situación del coronavirus.  
F – FE – LA FORMA DE ENFRENTAR NUESTROS TEMORES 
Las escrituras nos recuerdan que el sufrimiento y la enfermedad son partes esperadas de nuestro mundo quebrantado: “ Les digo todo esto para que encuentren paz en su unión conmigo. En el mundo, ustedes habrán de sufrir; pero tengan valor: yo he vencido al mundo. (Juan 16:33) Cristo nos asegura que podemos y debemos responder a las dificultades con esperanza, pues El ha redimido al mundo. Estamos inmunes al coronavirus?  No.  Pero aún en el peor de los casos, Dios es vencedor, y como Sus hijos nosotros participamos en su victoria, ya sea en la tierra o en el cielo.  No hay pandemia que pueda cambia esto.  Dios nos lo recuerda para que tengamos paz al enfrentar el temor.    
Las palabras “no temas” aparecen mas de 100 veces en la Biblia, y amenudo siguen estas palabras de igual imporancia, “pues estoy contigo.” Las promesas de Dios – el estar siempre con nosotros hasta el fin del mundo, que nunca nos dejará ni nos abandonará, que no existe lugar donde podremos alejarnos ni escondernos de El, y que nadie nos puede arrebatar de Sus manos – son cimiento seguro para nuestra fe en tiempos inestables.  
Las escrituras están llenas de evidencia del cuidado de Dios hacia nosotros!  El Salmo 121 es un recordatorio de mucho consuelo:  
Al contemplar las montañas me pregunto: «¿De dónde vendrá mi ayuda?»
Mi ayuda vendrá del Señor, creador del cielo y de la tierra.
¡Nunca permitirá que resbales! ¡Nunca se dormirá el que te cuida!
No, él nunca duerme; nunca duerme el que cuida de Israel.
El Señor es quien te cuida; el Señor es quien te protege, quien está junto a ti para ayudarte.

El sol no te hará daño de día, ni la luna de noche.
El Señor te protege de todo peligro; él protege tu vida.
El Señor te protege en todos tus caminos, ahora y siempre.

Podemos acercarnos a Dios durante estos tiempos tan inciertos, podemos mostrar que nuestra fe en El es real – no es solo palabras.  La paz de Dios en nuestros corazones sobrepasa todo entendimiento mientros oramos durante esta pandemia, dándole gracias a Dios en todo, y cantando nuestras alabanzas a Dios quien nos ama y nos cuida.  Los que alaban a Dios y oran en sus momentos de temor sienten desvanecer sus temores.  

E – EXAMINE LOS HECHOS, NO ASUMA LO PEOR
Hamilton nos recuerda que “los hechos son nuestros amigos.”  Mucho de nuestro temor del coronavirus es basado sobre lo que asumimos, sin averiguar antes los hechos. Los reportes de la television, el pánico público y el internet alimentan nuestra imaginación.  El coronavirus es un problema mundial muy serio, pero cual es la probabilidad que le va a dar a usted el COVID-19?   
Según las estadísticas (obtenidas en el internet), el día de hoy hay 11,410 casos de coronavirus en los EEUU, y de estos 171 han muerto, 108 se han recuperado, y 11,131 no están resueltos.  Tomando en cuenta que los números cambian constantemente, esto significa que estamos a un nivel de mortandad de aproximadamente 1.5%, comparado al 0.1% de muertes causadas por la gripe invernal.  El coronavirus infecta a los demás el doble de rápido que la gripe. La mortandad causada por COVID-19 aumenta entre las personas mayores o los que tienen condiciones previas de salud.  En los EEUU el 27% de los infectados mayores de 85 años de edad han muerto.  
La pandemia del coronavirus debe tomarse muy en serio – es un reto a la vida humana.  Pero esto no significa que si por casualidad se infectara se va a morir.  Viendo el “vaso medio lleno,” si es mayor de 85 años de edad, tendría un 73% de chance de sobrevivencia, y si es un adulto joven, el porcentaje sube a 98.5%.  

A – ATAQUE CON ACCIÓN SUS ANSIEDADES  
Cuando nos vemos cara a cara con situaciones que producen temor, es posible enfocar nuestra atención en crear un plan de acción y así afectar cambios donde nos es posible, enfocando nuestros pensamientos y aumentando nuestro sentido de propósito.  
A nivel físico, podemos estar al tanto de la proliferación del coronavirus.  Podemos enterarnos de las recomendaciones del Centro del Control de la Enfermedad (CDC), y obedecerlas.  Podemos practicar el distanciamiento social, o el aislamiento si estamos en la categoría de alto riesgo.  Nos podemos lavar las manos y evitar tocarnos la cara.  Podemos comprar medicamentos de venta libre para síntomas, si llegaran a manifestarse.  Podemos hacer una lista de las cosas que siempre hemos querido hacer en la casa, o las cosas que nos traen gozo pero que raras veces temenos tiempo de hacerlas.  Podemos hacer un plan de ejercicio y de tomar aire puro.  
A nivel espiritual, Hamilton recomienda, “Podemos enfocar nuestra imaginación en la presencia de Dios a traves de la oración, de cantar himnos, compartir nuestros sentimientos con amigos cercanos,… y confiar en que sentiremos que nos sostienen el amor y la misericordia de Dios.” (p.39)  Gracias a la tecnología (una bendición) podemos reunirnos virtualmente para alabar a Dios.  Podemos planear video-pláticas en grupos pequeños y seguir creciendo en nuestra fe.  Podemos enfocar nuestras energias en las necesidades de los demás, los que necesitan asistencia, y así seguir viviendo el reino de Dios en la tierra, aún durante una pandemia.  

R – RECONOZCA QUE DIOS ES MAS GRANDE, Y ENTREGUELE SUS TEMORES  
Esto es algo simple, pero nada fácil.  Es producto del trabajo genuino de las primeras tres fases del acrónico, las partes F, E y A.  El entregarle a Dios nuestros temores es lo que nos proporciona verdadera paz.  Es conocer y confiar en las Manos que nos sostienen.  Gracias a Dios!  

“Unafraid” (“Sin temor”), por Adam Hamilton, es un libro lleno de riquezas espirituales, y es fácil de leer.  El autor dedica cada capítulo a diferente tema: al temor del crimen, del terrorismo, del fracaso, de decepcionar a otros, de la insignificancia, de la soledad, de envejecer y de morir, entre otros.  Haga click aqui para comprarlo en el internet.  

CORONAVIRUS AND FEAR - Cathy Youngblood

CORONAVIRUS AND FEAR 
Cathy Youngblood – March 20, 2020


Some of you have been studying Adam Hamilton’s book “Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times” with me on Tuesday evenings at the church and will share my awe at how the content could not have been better timed.  With the onset of the coronavirus, uncertain times have indeed descended on us, and we are faced daily with new challenges of how to live with courage and hope as people of faith, when we are all experiencing some level of worry and fear. 
Our minds start to question: Is my cough a symptom of COVID-19?  If I test positive, will I survive the illness? Will someone I love get it? Will I contract the virus if I visit the doctor or hospital?  What will happen to the economy as we all slam the breaks on life’s daily activities? Will I be able to pay my bills? I am in a high-risk category and I live alone; how will I manage in social isolation?  And the list goes on and on. It is easy for the uncertainty to spiral us downward into paralyzing anxiety and worry.  
Here are some points Hamilton makes throughout the book, some of which come from Chapter 18, “Anxiety, Worry, and Physical Illness,” along with some application to the current coronavirus scare.  
  • Fear is not always a bad thing. God designed our brains to react to impending danger; the amygdala causes us to fear when we are in danger as an aid in self-preservation.  


  • Fear becomes a problem when we allow it to paralyze us.
    • “Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” – Arthur Somers Roche 
    • “Worry is imagining a negative future that may never (and likely will never) happen.” – Adam Hamilton


  • The acronym F-E-A-R is helpful in reacting well to feelings of fear: 
    • F – face your fears with faith
    • E – examine your assumptions in light of the facts
    • A – attack your anxieties with action 
    • R – release your fears to God 
Let’s look at how we might apply the F-E-A-R acronym to the coronavirus situation.    

F – FACE YOUR FEARS WITH FAITH
The Scriptures remind us that we should expect suffering and illness as part of our broken world: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Christ assures us that we can and should respond to trouble with hope because of His redemptive work.  Does that mean we are immune to coronavirus? No. But regardless of the scenario, God has overcome, and as God’s children we participate in that victory, whether here or in eternity.  No pandemic can change that. He has reminded us of this so that we may have peace in the face of fear.  
The words “do not fear” appear more than 100 times in the Bible, and they are often followed with words of equal importance, “for I am with you.” God’s promises – to be with us always, even to the end of time, that He will never leave us or forsake us, that there is no where we can go to get away from Him, and no one can snatch us from God’s hand – are the strongest foundation for our faith in uncertain times.  
The Scriptures are full of evidence of God’s care for us!  Psalm 121 is a comforting reminder: 
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore. 

We can choose to draw closer to God during these uncertain times; we can show that our faith in God is more than words.  God’s peace in our hearts can surpass understanding, as we pray through this pandemic, giving thanks in all things, and singing our praise to God who lovingly cares for us.  Those who worship and pray amidst their fear, feel their anxiety fade away.  


E – EXAMINE YOUR ASSUMPTIONS IN LIGHT OF THE FACTS
Hamilton reminds us that facts are our friends.  So much of our fear of coronavirus is based on false assumptions, which are exacerbated by media reports and projections, mass panic, and the internet (which can be both a gift and a curse).  Coronavirus is a real health concern, but what are the chances you will contrive COVID-19? 
According to the coronavirus statistics as I write this (yes, obtained on the internet!), of the 11,410 cases of people infected in the US, 171 have died, 108 recovered, and 11,131 are yet unresolved. Realizing the numbers are in a constant state of flux, it means that we are currently at a 1.5% mortality rate, compared to the 0.1% of deaths caused by seasonal flu. Coronavirus infects others twice as fast as the seasonal flu. The COVID-19 mortality rate increases among the elderly, or those with prior health conditions.  In the US, 27% of infected people over the age of 85 have died.  
The coronavirus pandemic should be taken very seriously – it is a real threat to human life.  It does not mean, however, that if you contrived the virus you would face certain death. Looking at the glass half full, if you are 85 or older, you would have a 73% chance of survival, and if you are a young adult, your survival rate rises to 98.5%.  


A – ATTACK YOUR ANXIETY WITH ACTION 
When we are faced with situations that produce fear in us, we can choose to focus our attention on creating a plan of action to affect change where change is possible, focusing our thoughts and increasing our sense of purpose.  
At a physical level, we can keep abreast of the spread of the coronavirus.  We can be aware of and obey the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control.  We can practice social distancing, or isolation if we are in the higher risk category.  We can wash our hands and avoid touching our faces. We can be sure we have over-the-counter remedies for symptoms, should they manifest.  We can make a list of things we’ve always wanted to accomplish around the house, or things we enjoy doing but rarely have the time to, otherwise.  We can be purposeful about exercise and getting fresh air.  
At a spiritual level, Hamilton suggests, “we can focus our imagination on the presence of God through prayer, singing hymns, sharing our struggles with close friends,… and trust that we will sense God’s love and mercy holding us near.” (p.39) Thanks to the blessing of technology, we can participate in virtual gatherings for worship.  We can plan video chats with small groups and purpose to continue growing spiritually. We can turn our concern to the needs of others who need assistance, and so continue to live out the kingdom of God on earth, even during a pandemic.  


R – RELEASE YOUR FEARS TO GOD
This is simple, though not easy.  It comes as a byproduct of working through the F-E-A parts of the acronym.  Release is surrender that brings true peace. It is knowing and trusting the Hands that surround us. Thanks be to God.  


“Unafraid”, by Adam Hamilton, is rich yet easy read addressing a long list of fears, with chapters dedicated to the fear of crime, terrorism, failure, disappointing others, insignificance, loneliness, aging and dying, to name a few.  

Click here to purchase the book online.  There are Kindle, Audio book (free), and hardback versions available!
Amazon

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Do Not Fear - Thoughts On Fear From Kevin Ward

Fear is a funny old bird.  It has an amazing ability to control us.  It has an amazing ability to rewrite our memories.  Sometimes our fears are rooted in experiences.  Sometimes they are rooted in our need for control, and lack thereof.  Sometimes our fears simply lie in the unknowns of life.  We currently live in a very uncertain time.  Things seem to change daily.  Panic and fear seems to be the norm for many people.  The pandemic with coronavirus has us in uncharted waters as both individuals and as a church.  I saw a comment on facebook where someone described it as feeling like they were out in the middle of an ocean, with no land in site.  This particular individual was apparently at a higher risk with the coronavirus than the general population and it terrified her.  I very much relate to what it means to be gripped by fear, when I was a child, I was afraid of water.  I was especially afraid of water that I could not stand in and keep my head above water.  

Really, afraid isn’t a sufficient word.  I was terrified.  I was paralyzed by it.  While others loved going to the pool or the lake, to me it just brought about fear and dread.  I didn’t learn to swim until I was in high school and my inability to swim was in large part due to my fear of water.  

My fear of water was rooted in two stories that are engrained in my mind.  As far as I remember, this is how those stories went…though I recognize that my fear has likely rewritten and exaggerated these stories.

My first memory comes from a camping trip to Morrow Mountain State Park.  My family loved to camp and this was one of our go to places.  Morrow Mountain had a pool as part of the park.  I remember being at this pool.  I remember having a donut float around my waist. I remember jumping into the water, to the waiting arms of my dad who would catch me, guide me back to the ladder, and then would wait for me to do it again.  I’m sure my dad told me “last time,” but I didn’t hear it.  Maybe my ears were full of water, but likely, I just was too distracted with the thrill of jumping in the water.  I climbed up the ladder.  I turned, ran, and jumped in the water where my dad had been the whole time.  Problem was, he was no longer there.  I remember hitting the water, bobbing with my little donut float, flipping upside down, and floating there with my feet in the air and my head underwater. Try as I might, I couldn’t turn myself right side up. As I remember it, I was there for about 30 minutes before someone came and rescued me.  Reality is I likely hit the water, flipped over, and was immediately righted by someone close by.  However, that moment changed my view of water.  Without my dad, water meant lack of control and inability to breath.  Every memory I have after that moment at the morrow mountain state park pool, consisted of me hanging out in the 1 foot deep kiddie pool.  This memory held me hostage around water.  It controlled me for years. 

The second story also likely came as a result of a camping trip.  I believe we were in Tennessee and my parents had found a water slide that went down the length of a mountain as tall as the Swiss alps.  I remember spending the day riding down that water slide along with one of my older siblings or my dad.  I imagine this was post pool incident, because I remember already being afraid of water and refusing to go down the slide by myself.  Also, like I said, this slide was about 4 miles long and was terrifying for what was likely about an 6-7 year old little Kevin.  If I was with someone, I was having fun…but my dad really wanted me to do it at least once by myself.  As I remember it, I got on the mat and my dad was going to be hopping on behind me, but he betrayed me and sent me down the mountain by myself. (I am sure this isn’t how it actually happened).  Craning my neck to see where my dad was and why he wasn’t on the mat with me caused me to spin around in the first turn of the slide.  Only thing more terrifying than the pool at the end of the slide, was going into this pool backwards.  As I’ve been told this story by my family, I screamed bloody murder all the way down the 4 mile slide.  By the time I got to the pool, every lifeguard within a 10 mile radius was waiting for me in the pool, ready to catch me.  I don’t even remember if I went under water when I hit the pool, I just remember going backwards down the mountain screaming, crying, wondering why my dad would betray me like that.  

Both of these stories fueled my fear of water for years to come.  In middle school and early high school, when I was at Camp Tekoa or scout camp, all my friends would head off to the deep end to jump off the diving board and have fun…I was left in the shallow end with campers half my age.  I would be invited to birthday parties at someone’s pool and I would hide the invitation from my mom before she could see it and make me go.  

However, flash forward to my college years and I was the white water resource and head lifeguard at Camp Tekoa.  I had joined the swim team in high school (though I finished last in all but one race in my racing career).  In college, I would head to the pool to swim laps for exercise, often in a pool that was unguarded.  I later began to do sprint triathlons (once again, finishing was my goal, not “racing”).  In short, fear of water no longer controlled me.  I still had a healthy respect for water, but I was no longer afraid.  So what changed? What helped me overcome my fear? 

It all started to change for me my freshman year of high school.  My scout master pulled me aside and told me that I could not reach the Eagle Scout award without learning to swim.  I also only had a couple months to become first class, otherwise I wouldn’t have time to get my Eagle Scout award before I aged out of scouting.  However, this wasn’t a threat, he also offered to take me to the pool and work with me.  He doesn’t likely know this, but that time spent in the pool with him rewrote my fear script with water.  

That very first time in the water, he pointed to the lifeguard.  He let me know that they lifeguard was always watching, and their sole job was to make sure I was safe.  Knowing someone was watching, ready to act, slowly began to chisel away my fear.  He then let me know that he wanted me to hold my breath, hold my nose, and dip down into the water and then come right back up.  I’m guessing he saw the panic in my face right away, because he began to calmly say “don’t panic, look at the life guard…he is watching you.”  He then put his hand on my arm and said “don’t panic, I am with you.”  I think that first lesson, we spent the entire time just trying to get my head to go underwater once.  The entire time, I remember hearing “don’t panic, the lifeguard is watching, and I am right here…I’m with you.” 

It didn’t take too long to begin to get a more comfortable with the water.  Knowing the lifeguard was watching and my scout master was with me was a huge help, but I also realized I wouldn’t always be in a situation that had a lifeguard watching and I wouldn’t always have my scout master with me encouraging me.  I learned more than anything, that developing the tools and skills to swim and tread water would be the biggest thing that would break away my fears.  Once I reached the point I knew I could fall into the deep end of a pool and actually make it back to the side on my own, fear faded quickly.  I’m sure others helped me learn to swim, but my time spent with my scout master helped dispel my fear so much, that it sticks in my head today.

I think the same principles help us in the midst of these current uncharted waters.  We, as Christians, are not alone.  It is comforting to know that we have God watching over us.  However, being able to survive, when we are in waters over our head, is also about being prepared.  

As someone who works in a church, I’ve seen many families suddenly find themselves in troubled waters.  Sometimes it comes through hearing the word cancer and terminal in the same sentence.  Sometimes it comes through a marriage falling apart.  I have seen it come in the midst of an unexpected death.  It often appears at the loss of a job.  In all these scenarios, I have seen people be able to manage their fear without panic, stay afloat, and eventually begin the tough work of swimming to stable ground.  Unfortunately, I’ve also seen people sink.  

So what is the difference?  I believe it is because some folks put forth the work to learn to swim before they were in water over their head.  The people I have seen sink? Those are the people who see their faith as an afterthought.  So what does “learning to swim before getting in water over our heads” look like for Christians?  What I have seen in families who have navigated troubled waters gracefully is they have put forth the work into their relationship with God, long before things got tough.  Their faith isn’t just important to them in the tough times, but all the time. These folks have vibrant prayer lives. They root themselves in scripture. They have daily quiet time.  They protect their sabbath. They fast. The serve others.  They stay connected to a community of believers. They all have an active faith, seeking to grow in that faith daily.  Their faith isn’t passive.  It isn’t about just accepting Jesus and then sitting around and waiting on it all to be better.  Our faith takes work.  When we put in that work, we are able to put away our fears and lean into our faith.  (Let me be clear, I am not advocating that our works earn our salvation, but relationships take work…and that includes our relationship with God.  In my 20+ years of ministry, I have learned that people who consistently work on their relationship with God have the closeness to God others long for.)

Folks who are not prepared, panic.  They reach for anything to keep them afloat.  Taking Covid-19 seriously doesn’t mean you are panicking, but hoarding stuff also doesn’t mean you are prepared.  Your pantry may be full and you may have a years supply of TP, but if your heart is not prepared, you are still likely to sink.  We may very well run out of TP in our house at some point, and while that may be an inconvenience, it isn’t going to sink us.  We may have to reach into the depths of our pantry that we haven’t reached in a while, eating foods that may not be our favorite…but we will do so thankful that we have a pantry that is full to begin with.  At some point, we may have to self-quarantine for 2 weeks.  While not ideal, it will also be a unique opportunity to spend time together.  Time that we often long for because our schedules, like many others, remain so busy.  
I’m certainly not taking Covid-19 lightly, but I am also not panicking.  We may very well run out of stuff, but our hearts are prepared. I encourage you to also use this time to lean more into your faith and to lean away from your fears.  Don’t panic…look to the one watching over you, look around at the people in your life who are saying “don’t panic, I got you.”  

And remember the promise of scripture found in Isaiah 43:1-3a;

But now, this is what the Lord Says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:
“DO NOT FEAR, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God.
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”

33 Scripture References on Fear

SCRIPTURE OFFERING COMFORT IN THE FACE OF FEAR Consider reading and meditating on one of these Scripture passages each day.   1.  “So d...