157 – Psalm 91:7 & 8
Chronic fear can have lasting effects on the body physically whether or not the feared thing is real or comes to fruition in the individual’s life. Consider the following excerpt from the University of Minnesota’s site “Taking Charge of Your Health and Wellbeing” (https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/impact-fear-and-anxiety).
Impact of Fear and Anxiety
- Physical health. Fear weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility. It can lead to accelerated aging and even premature death.
- Memory. Fear can impair formation of long-term memories and cause damage to certain parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus. This can make it even more difficult to regulate fear and can leave a person anxious most of the time. To someone in chronic fear, the world looks scary and their memories confirm that.
- Brain processing and reactivity. Fear can interrupt processes in our brains that allow us to regulate emotions, read non-verbal cues and other information presented to us, reflect before acting, and act ethically. This impacts our thinking and decision-making in negative ways, leaving us susceptible to intense emotions and impulsive reactions. All of these effects can leave us unable to act appropriately.
- Mental health. Other consequences of long-term fear include fatigue, clinical depression, and PSTD.
When we ourselves are experiencing fear we generally don’t stop to ponder whether the fear is merited or not. However, when someone else in our circle of acquaintance is experiencing fear often our first thoughts are center around whether or not they are justified in being afraid. We place the fear they are experiencing in one of two general categories. One, their fear is justified, or two, their fear is baseless and therefore not justified. Our response to the individual in fear is directly related to which category we have determined for them. If we have determined their fear is baseless we tend to not be sympathetic nor even empathetic. We say “don’t be silly! Don’t be afraid of that.”
This type of “encouragement” is never helpful! Not only have we not equipped our friend or loved one to not be afraid, but we’ve also unintentionally heaped shame upon them, potentially burying them deeper into despair.
I find it interesting the scriptures are full of encouragement concerning fear. The promises found in the two verses we studied last time, Psalm 91:5-6 were about being free from fear.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
The next two verses give additional detail.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
8 Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
The danger of examining only a couple of verses at a time is no matter how hard we try to keep them in textual context we can easily miss the ties to the surrounding previous and next verses.
I missed this at first, so I want to encourage you to not miss it. Verses seven and eight are directly related to verses five and six. Let me demonstrate it by asking a question. What is causing the thousand and ten thousand at the individual’s side to fall? That’s right, the terror, arrow, and pestilence of verses five and six!
The next thing you and I dare not miss is the promises in these few verses are conditional! Not everyone is protected as evidenced by those around the one falling to the devil’s targeted attacks. How can one be protected then? Again go all the way back to verse one. They must “…abide under the shadow of the Almighty”.
Because of our sin nature, we very often don’t like it when God puts conditions on us. We see it as unfair and immediately question God’s goodness and love for us. After all, if God was love then why doesn’t He just automatically protect everyone?? Don’t we all have guardian angels assigned to us? We’ll talk about guardian angels, just not this week.
Again because of our sin nature we would much rather put conditions on God. We say things like, “God if you are there, then I’m on your side” or “God if you’ll heal me then I’ll serve you the rest of my life” or “God if you’ll get me out of this situation then I’ll go to church every Sunday starting this coming Sunday”!
I didn’t make any of these up. I’ve actually heard people say such things. Years ago I was sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a man in a restaurant. He bought Jesus a cup of coffee, poured the coffee, then looked at me and said, “if Jesus will show up and have coffee with me then I’ll become a Christian.”
Sometimes the condition we place on God is “prove it the way I want you to, then I’ll believe it”.
Look, no guilt and no shame. Are you afraid? I understand that whether or not there is a foundation for your fear, the fear itself is real and it is debilitating! Let me encourage you God is good. He does not want you living in bondage to fear real or imagined.
2 Timothy 1:7
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Trust in the LORD, for He is Good! Psalms 91:7 talks about justified fear – people by the thousands are falling all around you. But you don’t have to be afraid if you are dwelling in the secret place. Why not submit to God’s condition? Abide in His shadow and be safe and fear-free.
God is truly worthy of all praise, worship, and glory for He alone is good!
All Scripture quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print