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Know Fear (and scriptures to cultivate peace)

Everyone is familiar with fear.  Whether it's the kind of fear we experienced as kids huddling together to watch those horror films we were not supposed to or it is the type of fear that holds us back from doing the things we dream of doing. If you are like me, living in a country where we normally don't have to fear too much disturbance, navigating through a pandemic has been like being in uncharted waters.  Not knowing what to expect from week to week has been unsettling (at best).

I remember the first time I was hit with the reality that things were no longer normal right here in my little world.  I was standing in the grocery store looking at rows and rows of empty shelves and could not believe my own eyes.  I immediately began to think about how I would feed my kids, husband and myself and I felt a little panic flutter rise in my heart. Not wanting to come apart in the grocery store, I took a deep breath and said, "okay Ursala, it's time to get creative."  I began to look around the store and I devised a meal plan for the next few days from the things that I could find.  I told myself that I could come back in a few days and, hopefully, I'd have some different options.  After my little pep talk, I finished my shopping in the eerily empty store, feeling a little better--unsettled but better.  

Over the next few days I felt fine during the day, but at night I struggled.  My mind would wander and then review the symptoms of COVID-19 until I had convinced myself that I had all of them.  I would tell myself that I was being irrational and try to go back to sleep only to wake up 20 minutes later to restart the cycle.  Waking up with shortness of breath and my heart racing became my normal routine.  I had to find peace, I couldn't go on like this.

If I am being honest, this fear was familiar to me.  As a mother of three I know fear of the unknown all too well.  When I was a new mom I frequently sneaked into my sleeping infant's room to make sure she was still breathing. Yes, I was THAT mom. Every time I checked, she was breathing, but I still checked the next time, even though I knew she was fine. Multiply this process by dozens of other things, and you can quickly see that many of my early mom hours were wasted fearing the unknown. I know that I am not alone here, but the good news is that by the second child I barely checked in (yes, I said barely).

The current climate lends itself easily to fear. There seem to be so many questions: "Will I get sick?"  "Why do people hate?" and "When will it be safe for my family to resume our regular schedules?"  These questions are pressing and yet there are no real answers to them.  Remembering this I realized that this 'new fear' was not new at all; it just dressed itself up in some different clothes.  Fear is stealthy; it can camouflage itself. Sometimes it camouflages itself as judgment or hate, other times as a defense, and sometimes it can disguise itself to look like a friend.

As followers of Christ we do not have to surrender to fear. The Psalmist said in Psalm 119:105, "your word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path."  Through God's word and by the direction of the Holy Spirit, God has given us the tools we need to recognize fear. I want to be clear here, just because we recognize fear in our lives doesn't mean we do not feel it's effects.  Just like a bullet proof vest, God's word protects against fear, but we can still feel it's sting.   And just because we feel fear does not mean we don't have faith in God.  

The Bible says we are empty vessels, and we should be filled and poured out over and over again like a pitcher of water. God will fill us if we allow Him to, but in this broken world, often fear rushes in to fill our empty vessels. Fear is heavy and it causes cracks to surface in our lives and, if left too long, it can erode the very container it is in.

Since all this began I have been reminding myself that faith in God is saying that, despite the way I feel right now, I know that God is in control and that he can still pour good into me.  Using scripture as a tool to cultivate peace during unsettling times can be helpful.  I have never counted, but it is said that there are 365 occurrences in the bible that tell us not to fear in some way. That is a daily reminder that God is in control, nothing surprises him, and we should not be afraid.

Below are a few scriptures that I have been holding onto during this time to help keep my heart anchored in peace.  I find when I'm struggling with fear and receive empathy it grounds me so I can stand up again. It clears my heart and mind to receive the comfort, wisdom, and strength of God's Word.  I hope you can find peace in these scriptures as well.  All these scriptures are taken from the NIV translation.  

Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning;great is your faithfulness.

Psalms 119:105
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Psalm 55:4-5, 16-18
My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me… I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. He rescues me unharmed…

Zephaniah 3:15, 17
Never again will you fear any harm… The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Three times I [Paul] pleaded with the Lord to take [the thorn in my flesh] away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' …That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Psalm 46:1-2, 9-11
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea… He makes wars cease… He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.' The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

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