I’m 3 ½ years into this podcast, and I’ve never read from Lamentations. A book filled with laments doesn’t seem like the best source for a podcast designed to help you speak life. But today’s declaration is positively life-giving, and you can find it tucked into an Old Testament book filled with laments. But as you’ll soon see, Lamentations contains so much more than a gush of grief. In fact, Lamentations provides the lyrics to one of my favorite old hymns, Blessed Assurance. That hymn comes from the same chapter as today’s reading. (I’ll make a note to read the “Blessed Assurance” Bible passage another day.)
God knows we have nothing to fear in His presence, and that’s why the Bible tells us not to be afraid. Over and over, we read those words. When angels brought messages to earth in Bible times, they often said, “Do not be afraid.” The 23rd Psalm—one of the best-known chapters in the entire Bible—talks about walking through the darkest valley without fear. The New Testament teaches us that God has not given us a spirit of fear and that perfect love casts out all fear. God’s Spirit brings peace, which means we can be courageous in the midst of frightening circumstances.
Fear motivates people to take action. But fear also clouds their judgment. God doesn’t want us running away in fear, he wants us standing firm in the blessed assurance of His ever-present help. The commentary in my NIV Zondervan Study Bible says, “Lamentations is not simply a gush of grief but a highly reflective and considered response to trauma.” Wow. Let me say that again. “Lamentations is not simply a gush of grief but a highly reflective and considered response to trauma.” I can see how a gush of grief to God that also reflectively considers my response to trauma would require sound judgment. Fear shatters sound judgment, but God has not given us a spirit of fear. He gives us a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind.
I believe the devil uses fear to make us take action that drives us away from the love and protection of God. That drives us further into the darkest valley. That drives us into despair.
When God says, “Don’t be afraid,” He is not saying “Don’t be silly.” Fear is the natural response to out-of-control circumstances and trauma. We don’t need to be ashamed if we get scared. God didn’t shame Joshua before the battle of Jericho and he won’t shame us today. Instead, He offers the peace and strength and comfort that comes with His presence, and His love will drive out fear. So, let’s respond to fear with faith. Let’s stand firm and take courage. Let’s invite God’s loving presence to drive away all fear.
This week’s scripture: Lamentations 3:55-58