Facing the Future Without Fear
By Sherri Langton
Remember Y2K? That was the horrible doom we faced over ten years ago that everything necessary for life would halt once the calendar tumbled over to the year 2000. Planes would fall from the sky; cars would sit idle. It seems silly now because nothing horrible happened, and we shifted effortlessly into a new millennium.
Now, over a decade later we’re facing other fears, and they’re not over what might happen. Businesses shut their doors. Banks fail. The country’s unemployment rate climbs. We also wrestle with personal crises: the lump discovered on a breast, divorce papers served, a wayward teen who felt the tug into rebellion.
Fear for the future can easily overwhelm us these days, but we can fight it through the simple act of remembering.
Remember the Creator
Paul tells us, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16, 17).
These verses say that He who created, controls; He who authored life is authority over life. The same God who spoke the universe into existence oversees counseling sessions and chemotherapy. No wonder God asks, “To whom shall I be equal?” (Isaiah 40:25).
Life, with all its fearful debris, rotates around the fixed axis of God’s sovereignty. “This is my Father’s world,” the hymn says — not mine, not the government’s, not the surgeon’s who will be operating in the morning. This doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen but that God will tell us what to do when we don’t know what to do. He’ll impress us with proper actions and attitudes. The Holy Spirit instructs, convicts, and guides (John 16:13). We can count on Him to give us sanity in the midst of panic. And we can count on God to work bad into good if we love Him (Romans 8:28).
We lose sight of this because fear of the future blurs our perception. One bad report from the blood test, a meltdown on Wall Street, and God shrinks in our fear-skewed perception. But the truth is, if we remember our Creator, we shrink — not God. “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers . . . What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3, 4).
Confidence in God’s control puts us at ease no matter what looms ahead. Jesus, for example, knew exactly what suffering awaited Him in Jerusalem. Yet He didn’t shrink from the future; He led the way to Jerusalem (Mark 10:32). Jesus knew that the plan God set in motion after the Fall had triumph written between the lines of tragedy and that even Pilate merely fulfilled a role God had given him (John 19:10, 11).
Despite what we see or can’t see, what we feel or dread, God’s world has purpose and plan. Mistakes and mishaps do not have the final word.
Remember the Past
God knows that our perspective of the future is often limited to what we can see now. That’s why the refrains of “remember” and “do not forget the past” lace the Scriptures together. With the psalmist, we must determine to “remember Your wonders of old” (Psalm 77:11) when we fear the future.
Psalm 105 commemorates God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt. He protected them from oppression; permitted Joseph to be enslaved, planning the key to future survival through him; made the Israelites fruitful; empowered Moses and Aaron to perform miracles before Pharaoh and the people; sent plagues and led the Israelites out of Egypt; guided them with fire at night and a cloud by day; supplied food and water in the wilderness; gave them lands of other nations.
Why so much detail? Because a short memory is dangerous. If we don’t recall God’s help in the past, we neglect to depend on Him for the future. The overall tone of the next psalm is set with one key sentence: “Our ancestors in Egypt were not impressed by the Lord’s miraculous deeds. They soon forgot his many acts of kindness to them” (106:7). This psalm alternates between the Lord’s mighty acts and Israel’s lapses of memory. When the people faced new challenges after their deliverance, they refused to wait for God’s counsel because they had forgotten what He’d done (v. 13). Their forgetfulness gave way to rebellion, impatience, murmuring, complaining, envy, idolatry, and ultimately unbelief.
We face the same danger. When fear grips us, we tend to forget what God has done for us in times past. Most of us have racked up enough mileage to survey the road behind us. Where in our journey did God intervene? When did He send a messenger of hope? When did He change our attitude and bring peace? How did He supply our needs? In custody battles, court appearances, caring for aging parents, adjustments to singleness, long-term illnesses, and separation through death and divorce, we can trace God’s providential hand.
One of my Red Seas was a layoff in 1989. When I read my journal from those seven months, I see God pushing me to mail résumés despite my apathy. I see caring friends He sent to pray with me when I sank in depression. I reread thoughts of a sermon on John 6 — the feeding of the 5,000 — that assured me of God’s provision.
It would be healthy for us to write our own version of Psalm 105, especially if we find ourselves more prone to the attitude in Psalm 106. Recounting the Red Seas in our pasts assures us that we can once again “Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face evermore” (105:4).
Remember, God Remembers
God has a unique memory. When we repent of our sins, He remembers them no more (Isaiah 43:25). But He never forgets those He formed in the womb (Isaiah 49:15, 16).
Genesis offers an account of yet another dimension of God’s memory. If we keep this in mind, we place a firm grip on fears about the future when they threaten to overwhelm us.
Though He decided to destroy the earth with a flood, God made a promise to Noah: Follow the instructions for building an ark, take your family and animals aboard, and you will be saved.
Noah may have wondered, Will the pitch hold? Is the wood strong enough to endure the torrents? Once the ark comes to rest, then what?
For forty days God remained silent, except for the sound of His lashing fury. The text says that after the waters flooded the earth for about five months, “God remembered Noah . . .” (Genesis 8:1). This doesn’t mean that God recovered His memory but that He recalled His promise to preserve Noah, his family, and the animals (6:18) and then acted to fulfill it. A wind blew over the earth, and the floodwaters receded. In the seventh month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat and with it, whatever doubts Noah may have had. When conditions were right, God permitted Noah, his family, and the animals to disembark into a fresh, clean world.
God has made many promises to us in His Word. Which ones can we look to when we’re paralyzed by fear of the future? He pledges strength and aid when we’re terrified (Isaiah 41:10).
He vows that the waters will not overwhelm us, that the fire won’t scorch us (Isaiah 43:2). He promises perfect peace if we keep our minds riveted on Him (Isaiah 26:3).
When God closed the door on me during my layoff, I tested His memory. I trusted in the Lord and constantly retrieved my fears from the quicksand of my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Though no money was coming in, I sought God’s kingdom first and tithed on my unemployment and severance pay (Matthew 6:33). I feared the Lord and called to Him (Psalm 25:12; Jeremiah 33:3a).
When I had only three weeks of unemployment money left, God remembered me. He directed my paths to an organization looking for someone just like me. To this day, He tells me “great and unsearchable things” about His faithfulness to do what He says He will do.
Richard Fuller writes about an old seaman’s wisdom: “In fierce storms we must do one thing, for there is only one way to survive: we must put the ship in a certain position and keep her there.” Fuller likens our soul to a ship in a storm: We must put it in one position and refuse to move it, no matter what.
When the waves of fear roll us from side to side, exercising our memory holds our souls in a steady position of trust. The Creator’s control, His past help, and a sharp memory of His promises — with these, we can face the storms of fear with confidence.
Comments on this article? Contact Sherri
Adapted from an article originally published in the July-August 1999 issue of Discipleship Journal.
Sherri Langton, associate editor of the Bible Advocate magazine and of Now What? e-zine, has worked 20 years in Christian publishing. She is also an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in Focus on the Family, Decision, Discipleship Journal, Today's Christian Woman, and other publications. Sherri has contributed poetry and articles to the collections My Turn to Care, Teatime Stories for Women, Becoming a Godly Man, Faces of Faith, and Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause.
© Sherri Langton. Used with permission.
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