17 Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word. 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. 19 I am a stranger in the earth; Do not hide Your commandments from me.
I recently attended an introductory Trauma Healing training class . This class was for those who are interested in helping people work through trauma (such as catastrophic events, personal trauma, chronic trauma, etc.). More churches are responding to the reality that we as humans are a traumatized people. We need help. We need to help each other–together.
So I attended a training course so I could help others.
One of the key ways we can know if we have experienced trauma (small to huge scale) is if there is an overwhelming and possibly debilitating sense of helplessness. Goodness! That started me thinking. But not too deeply! Can’t go there! Pay attention to the class instruction, think about that for yourself later.
In this class, we had three questions to ask to really learn to listen to someone who has experienced debilitating bumps in life. I won’t get into those three questions (see resource below on Trauma Healing courses for more information), but we paired off to practice asking these questions to our fellow training mates.
In my pair, I went first. I began by offering up a very “safe”, brief narrative of a known upset in my mind and heart. Just an existing (I thought) daily stressor. Stress is such a safe word!!
My training mate listened carefully and meaningfully and let me talk. Then she asked question #2 and I answered. She listened.
Then she deftly and subtly moved into question #3 and I answered.
But I was floored. Things were coming out of me that I didn’t know were inside of me.
One of the questions was “How does/did that make you feel?” Wow. I put words to feelings that I would not otherwise have admitted out loud.
I do not characterize myself as a person wrapped in fear. I know where to take my fear! I have handled quite a lot of very unsettling things in life and have moved through them with the calm repose only Christ can give. I know that fear comes to ALL of us, but how we deal with it, how long we let it “roost” is important. And I’m pretty cognitively aware of internal sin and dysfunction. I know that when my nerves tense and I start getting “short” with people, I’ve been “bumped” by the fear monster. And I deal with it.
So why was I just admitting, authentically, that I am scared?
I told my mate that she was very successful (or the method was successful, or both!), because I would never have thought that I had fear sunk so DEEP that it was right on the tip of my tongue to answer, “It makes me feel scared.” Fear is like poison; it won’t stay hidden for long!
One of the things that makes us feel scared, and certainly this is at the root of my “hidden” fear, is the unknown. There are mists upon the horizon, areas where I cannot see.
Faith means putting one foot in front of the other with full trust that there is a Guide (Christ) ahead of me that will not let me veer off the path of salvation. I know this.
But the question remains: How do I feel while I’m walking out in trust?
You know, the Bible never says that we will not be afraid. In fact, true to the authenticity of the Bible—how we know it is unhumanly true, the Bible actually speaks a lot about fear.
The Bible doesn’t say, “Don’t feel fear” because the Bible is written with the understanding that we DO and WILL walk in fear in this world. And we will feel every bit of it. The Bible tells us how to overcome fear, not ignore that it exists!
A bit about that word “overcoming” is in order.
If I overcome a cold, that means that I have been successful in coming through it. If I have overcome injustice, it means that injustice, truly experienced, didn’t defeat me. If I overcome fear, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel it. It means that it did not throw me down and make me give up my faith that God will take care of me.
Like Job, who knew a LOT of fear, he overcame by not denying His Lord. Job challenged God in his questions, but he at least addressed God and didn’t run away like a coward. He didn’t raise his fist to God, though his questions were deep and anguished. He faced God with his anguish. Hmm.
Gimel’s psalmist expresses an awareness of his need for the Lord God and His Word to guide him. Phrases such as “that I may live” imply the negative “so I won’t die“. That is an extreme plea of one in a crisis. I’ve been there. Have you? Are you there right now?
Again, phrases like “open my eyes” must be taken along with its negative “my eyes are now closed; I cannot see“. I don’t understand what is happening now, and I sure don’t understand what is to happen next!
Now I begin to feel empathy for this psalm. I can’t understand those wonderful things from God’s Word right now. Have you ever been there?
Depression and anxiety can take us there in a heartbeat. But if we’re honest, we stay there much of the time.
“I am a stranger here,” is another phrase that speaks to me.
How gracious of our Lord to give us these psalms to connect with our humanity. It is as though God saying to us, “I know that you feel this way. I know your frame that you are but a creature made with dust and you suffer in your exile because of sin in you and in your world. I have come to restore you and bring you out of your captivity! But for the moment, trust me that I hear you and am working for you for good and not for evil. I am coming!”
He will not hide His word from us. He has given it to us in PRINT and He speaks it to us with His Holy Spirit, if we have faith enough to “be still and know” that He is God.
To listen long as we wait.
Now that I know
As the G.I. Joe cartoon intro used to say, “…And knowing is half the battle,” the realization that I yet retained feelings of fear, and that these feelings weren’t as “hidden” as I thought they were, was healing! These feelings were right on the tip of my heart!
Now that I know this, I can go to scripture to answer a question of my own: “What does God say about fear?”
A Few Verses on Fear
- “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
- “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
- “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
- “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” — Psalm 56:3 (This was one of the first Bible verses that my mother taught me.)
- “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” — 1 Timothy 1:7
- “There is no fear in love. But perfect love [which is Jesus Christ] casts out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” — 1 John 4:18 (in other words, the one who fears is not looking to Christ’s grace and power to guide and provide)
- “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
Oh, there’s more! Lots more!! For more Bible verses on fear, you can go to “Do Not Fear – 33 Verses about Fear and Anxiety to Remind Us: God is in Control” at Crosswalk.com. And this is only a limited sampling! God is good.
The psalmist “just asks” God for more. He says, “I am weak, Lord! You alone can help me. Help me, Lord!”
One of the hardest things to do as a human is to admit that “I am WEAK.”
But it was only when I confessed that I was scared—when I put it into words that had MEANING (scared = in fear)—that I was able to access the scriptures to find the promises that applied.
So did it work?
Yes. All the old promises of God came flooding back.
Am I still fearful? Well, that is quite the miracle. By hitting it head on, I was able to target just those things that I was fearful about. I named them. Then I applied God’s word to JUST THOSE FEARS.
And yes, many of those fears are now “toothless”. They have no power to naggle at the back of my mind and hamper my peace! I’ve called them by name, and applied Christ’s truth to them, the work of Christ for me on the cross and the power of His resurrection! Hope has replaced fear!
Some things had practical solutions. If I know that I am truly scared, then I begin to “see” practical ways of dealing with it. If I don’t know I’m scared about it, I will procrastinate on doing anything about it because I don’t know it’s a “thing” just yet. When I do know, I can take it out, lay it on the table and pick apart the tangles until practical solutions become clear.
God is VERY practical! He doesn’t need to part ocean waters to get the job done. He does “open our eyes” so that we behold wonderful things out of His Word, such as “I am with you” and “a spirit of power and of a sound mind“. God’s Word is not static; it is dynamic because God is speaking just now to the heart of those who will look and listen.
Fear blocks our ability to think. It tangles up the pathways to information, just like panic immobilizes a person so they can’t access proper swimming strokes or safe self-rescue procedures. It deafens our ears so we can’t hear God. But clear the fear and quiet, deceitful panic away by quieting ourselves intentionally with His Word, and soon the mind begins to access solutions it couldn’t before.
So yes, it worked. God’s word “worked” because God Himself is at work in my life
Will I become fearful again?
Yes! Humans forget! I will need to be reminded. Thus, this website. I can remind myself at the click of a button. “What did God say to me about fear back when....?” I can access this page and remember:
- a) God’s people have cried out to Him before when they stood in the shoes I wear now
- b) God’s people confessed their weakness, and this opened up their minds and hearts to God’s response.
- c) With great love, God heard their cries of utter dependence; He hears me now with the same great love and compassion!
- d) God has given me promises in scripture that are mine to access if I’ll only “take up and read!”
But sometimes, we do need a good friend to ask those good questions to get us started. 😀
Father, Search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
© Aug 2019 by ReadPsalm119.com
 Trauma Healing Institute | American Bible Society. Contact them to see where a Trauma Healing class may be scheduled in your area.