I finished What Are You Afraid Of: Facing Down Your Fears With Faith by David Jeremiah a few days ago, and in order to try not to lose the good points I read there, I started outlining the book. Now I have so much of it I would like to share that it’s hard to know where to start.
His introduction is obviously the best place, where he discusses the universality of fear, the different forms it can take, and the Bible’s many references to it. Believers know that God is good, loving, all-powerful, wise, and omnipotent, yet we still wrestle with fear. So how do we deal with it?
Biblical heroes were regular people who had to learn the same things you and I have to learn–to drive out fear by increasing their knowledge of God, to shift their focus from their present fear to the eternal God, to replace what they didn’t know about the future with what they did know about Him.
Dr. Jeremiah takes a different chapter to discuss in detail nine common fears: disaster, disease, debt, defeat (failure), disconnection (being alone), disapproval/rejection, danger, depression, and death. His tenth chapter is an in-depth look at the fear of God.
Each chapter follows a fairly similar arc. The particular fear is explored, Biblical truths are brought to bear to change our thinking about it, a more in-depth study of one person in the Bible is discussed with truth being brought out about that person’s situation, those truths are also brought out or applied to people in more recent times, and tips are shared to help deal with the situation. For instance, the chapter on debt, or financial collapse, primarily studies Psalm 37, with other Scriptures discussed as well. Then the author shares details about the life of Anna Warner, whose family lost everything in the Panic of 1837. The only thing Anna and her sister knew to do to help was to write, and they ended up writing over a hundred books. In one of them, Anna included a poem she has written: “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know,”which has blessed an untold number of people in the years since.
The chapter on disease mentions several people in the Bible who faced illness, but focuses mainly on Hezekiah, his prayer, God’s answer, his praise – and then his fall as his “heart is lifted up with pride” afterward. “His miraculous recovery caused him to lose his near-death humility.” There are things worse than illness. Here the author includes Practical Encouragements When Facing Disease, greatly informed by his own bout with cancer.
Though each chapter focuses on one type of fear, there are truths that apply to them all. Christians are not immune to any of these troubles. But God loves us, despite what the circumstances seem to indicate. He is all-knowing and all-powerful. He can take care of whatever the situation is. He is with His children in everything they do. He has a reason for allowing various trials and will somehow work it for good. He wants us to trust Him, and He wants us to focus on eternal values. This world is just a temporary dwelling place, and we get way too caught up in it and less mindful than we should be about our eternal home. Paul said he learned to be content in whatever state he was in, whether full or hungry, whether having plenty or suffering need. That should be true of us with any of these needs, not just physical provision. For instance, God made us to need and interact with people, but sometimes He allows loneliness and wants to draw us closer to Himself. It’s not wrong to have material things, but sometimes He allows them to be taken away, and that reminds us to hold onto things in this life loosely (I’m not saying that’s the main reason why God allows loss, but loss does remind us that “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:7).
“In a very real sense, we’re all nomads — pilgrims bound for an eternal world who are just passing through this physical one. This world is not our home, and when we leave it, any possessions that outlast us will be owned by someone else. The impermanence of this world and all that is in it is actually good news for those of us who have faith in God. It means we’re moving on to better things.” “When we allow the tangible but transient to block our perception of the invisible but imperishable, we’ve lost our perspective on true value.”
“The one great loss we need is the loss of the illusion that we’re in any way self-sufficient. We need the Rock that is higher than we are, higher than this world…at the end of our vain hope lies the beginning of the knowledge of God and His grace.”
“We need to understand that faith in God does not immunize us from financial failure. As long as we live in this fallen world, there will be no such thing as complete financial security. There is no ultimate security in anything but the grace of God. To be human means that loss, including heartbreaking loss, is always possible. As tough as times are, they can and may become much worse. But faith in God assures us that He holds our lives in His powerful, loving hands, which means no collapses, no losses, no fears can truly harm us. As the Lord of this universe, He is, indeed, too big to fail.”
Here are a few of the many quotes that stood out to me:
“Set a clear focus in your life, and fear will be crowded out. The more you fix your eyes on God’s purpose for you, the more you will overcome your fear.”
“Sometimes the majority gets it wrong. The wisdom of God is often found on the narrow path that few travel rather than in the easy and popular choice. Leadership is a great deal more that gauging which way the wind is blowing. It often requires standing firm as the current tries to bend you in another direction.”
“Faith is the act of hanging on to that truth [Heb. 13:5] even when we don’t feel His presence.”
“Fear drains us, while love empowers us. We cannot fear people and love people at the same time. We cannot sacrificially and unconditionally love others if all our energy is directed toward protecting ourselves. When we love others (including those who can harm us), life is no longer about us, and fear of disapproval is driven away.”
“It is possible to be humanly afraid without succumbing to fear. It is possible to feel fear and faith at the same time without fear getting the upper hand.”
“We can find ourselves in the middle of God’s perfect will and in the middle of a storm at the same time.”
“Many people believe faith is some kind of insurance against high blood pressure and heartache. Trust God and you’ll have no worries. But a great paradox of Christianity is that trusting Christ doesn’t keep the storms away. In fact, sometimes it pushes us into deep and turbulent waters.”
“Storms are not punishment for lack of obedience; oftentimes they are the result of obedience!”
“The good news is that we need not understand the darkness to recover the light. Job never got the answers he asked for. The extent of the explanation he received was that God is God and Job was not. The mystery endured. Scripture isn’t concerned with solving mysteries but with aligning paths to lead to God.”
“Job wanted answers, Paul wanted relief. But God had the grace to give them what they truly needed – more of Himself.”
The last chapter on fearing God was especially good. Here are just a couple of quotes from it:
“We fear God by honoring, reverencing, and cherishing Him. His greatness and majesty reduce us to an overpowering sense of awe that is not focused only on His wrath and judgment but also on His transcendent glory, which is like nothing else we can confront in this world. It leaves us all but speechless.”
“When we truly fear God, our fear of other things and other people begins to wane. Big fears make little fears go away.”
“It is when other fears take precedence over God that we get into trouble.”
This book is an invaluable resource, one I will turn to time and again.
(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)