It’s a glorious sunny day on my mountain and I’m ecstatic that it is almost time to resume my daily aim to spend as much time outside as possible. Today is not that day though because the wind is a little much, but soon I’ll park myself on this little bench to read most mornings.
I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately. Are you a fearful person? It’s not a huge struggle of mine. I don’t like being far away from my sons — a trip to California without them for three days was about my limit. But mostly I’m not the kind of person who is consumed by fear. I have watched the world react to the Coronavirus, and I honestly have a hard time relating. For one thing, I truly believe that to live is Christ, but to die is gain. I am not at all looking forward to the process of dying, but I am looking forward to heaven and know for sure I’ve lived well more than half my life. Plus, we had the swine flu in 2009 and COVID-19 is much less deadly than that. I’m astonished by the disproportionate level of utterly freaking out.
Honestly though, I just think it’s weird to not be ready to die. All the hype about pandemics flies around Monday night, and then hours later a tornado barrels into Tennessee and kills two dozen people. I mean, we are going to die somehow, some way. It’s illogical to me that people know they can’t guarantee another breath, but avoid thinking about what happens when they die. See, that would make me fearful. Terrified actually.
This morning I listened to an excellent sermon on fear by Sinclair Ferguson. I highly recommend it. In fact, I wish I could make it mandatory listening before anyone can click to purchase surgical masks. I looked it up because I recently heard the following Ferguson quote: “There is a fear that can deliver us from all other fears.”
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” is such a familiar verse, but Ferguson’s well-put corollary had never occurred to me. I loved it so much that I had to find it. I found it in Ferguson’s sermon based on Psalm 91. Every word of the sermon is worthwhile, it contains many profound and timely truths. But even though this post is a little longer than usual, I really want to share three more specific quotes.
By God’s grace, God’s Word [draws the] spiritually-inexperienced individual from gazing at himself and his fears to gazing upon the Lord and His strength.Sinclair Ferguson
God’s Word is living and active, when we soak ourselves in it we are re-centered, replacing self-absorption with reverent awe. We can rest in God’s good and perfect will without mandating any particular outcome. Just like the song I sang over my babies: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
You are not sufficient in yourself and you need to learn the art of strategic retreat into the Lord to deliver you from your fears.Sinclair Ferguson
Ferguson credits a mentor of his for coining the term “the art of strategic retreat,” and it is a wonderful phrase. When the stresses of life push down on you, do you know the art of strategically retreating into the Lord? I am learning more and more to run to His loving and faithful arms when challenges come. Sometimes that looks like just sitting still and asking Him to be near me.
But, you see, if you are crippled by fear you don’t even enjoy your food, or your friends, or your family, or your life. But when there is this sweet filial fear of the Lord, then He gives us everything to enjoy.Sinclair Ferguson
Is this not our 2020 world? What a victory for Satan to get people to be so fearful that they stop enjoying the gifts God has given us. To quote Heather Land, the comedian who does that crazy filter, “I Ain’t Doin It!” I’m not going to live in fear and stop enjoying my family, my friends, my food or my life. I’m not going to stop enjoying His creation either. That’s not to say I won’t get this virus, or that I won’t die from it, but until I do I’m enjoying the many many gifts God has given me. Shouldn’t we all?
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.Psalm 91:1
May we choose to dwell in the shelter of the Most High this weekend and always.