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“Mommy, when you talk about storms, my belly feels funny.”
My youngest said this to me as he listened to his older brother and I talk about hurricanes. He has always feared storms. Thunder, lightning, tornado warnings, and the threat of hurricanes put him on edge. When a storm rages outside, I often find him hiding under the covers or in the dark depths of my closet. It doesn’t help that we live in Florida, the lightning capital and often hurricane central.
I understand his heart. I have many fears of my own. From snakes to accidents, from failure to terminal illness, my heart has often been consumed by fears. I have feared the future, the unknown, and the uncontrollable.
The problem with fear is that it can paralyze us and keep us from moving forward. It can block our vision so that we can’t see anything else but the giant looming before us. Fear can also motivate us to try and control our circumstances, our life, and that of those around us. Our days become filled with trying to keep our greatest fears at bay.
We recently went on a field trip to our local emergency operations center to learn how they prepare our county for disasters. In our community, we are used to storms and every hurricane season we plan, prepare, and practice our response to disasters. In knowing beforehand how to respond, we are better prepared to get through and recover from a storm.
In a similar way, we ought to plan and prepare our heart for the storms of life. Because the reality is, we will face fearful circumstances, losses, trials, and unexpected events. Yet when we prepare our heart before a storm arrives, we are able to face the storm with confidence. Fearful events and circumstances do not have to hold us hostage. We can live life in freedom. We can be confident and have peace, no matter how fierce the storm.
There are a few ways we can prepare:
1. Have a theology of suffering and trials: When we know what we believe and why regarding the purpose and place of suffering in the life of a believer, we don’t get caught up in the why’s and how’s of a trial (James 1:2-4). When we know the truth about God’s goodness and his perfect plan for our life, we have greater trust in his purposes for our life (Romans 8:28-29).
2. Know what’s true: Fear is a big fat liar. It tells us lies about ourselves, about God, about what’s important, and about the solution to our problems. It makes us look at the waves crashing around us instead of at Christ standing before us with outstretched hand. It makes us panic that we will drown instead of realizing Christ is in the boat with us. Paul says in Philippians 4:8 that we must focus on what is true. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” We must study the word; immerse ourselves in it so that we know the truth. Each time fear rises up in our heart, we must defeat it with the truth of God’s word.
3. Remember the cross: The cross of Christ is where our greatest fears were conquered once and for all. The cross is where fear’s power was taken away and where it died. Jesus endured our greatest fear (eternal separation from God) when he took on all our sins for us. He suffered the wrath and rejection of God in our place so we wouldn’t have to. When fears threaten to paralyze or consume us, we must return to the cross. It’s there where we remember the depths of love God has for us in Christ. It’s there where we remember that we have been restored in right relationship with our Creator. It’s there where we remember that because of Christ, we can now enter the holy of holies and “approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
4. Faith is key: Each time the disciples showed fear, Jesus said, “Oh, you of little faith.” The greater our faith is in Christ, the deeper are our roots of trust. In a ferocious storm, it’s the trees with deep roots that are able to stand strong in the winds and rain. Sometimes we need to pray like the father of the boy Jesus delivered from evil “I believe, help me in my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Scripture promises that if we seek Him with all our heart, we will find Him. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
When storms blow in and I hear the lightning rumble outside, I go and look for my son. I reassure and remind him of God’s love for him. We pray together as Paul instructed, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6-7). And in the midst of the storm, the miracle that makes no sense to the world--peace that passes all understanding--envelopes our heart and we rest in the strength and love of our Savior.
Christina Fox, @toshowthemjesus, is a homeschooling mom, licensed mental health counselor, writer, and coffee drinker, not necessarily in that order. She lives in sunny S. Florida with her husband of sixteen years and their two boys. You can find her sharing her faith journey at www.toshowthemjesus.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ToShowThemJesus.