“Lisa, you need to go to the principal’s office,” my fifth grade teacher informed me one day. Oh my! Instantly, the rosy colors of the day turned to gloom and doom. I left the classroom with sweaty palms, a pounding heart, and my mind racing, trying to recall what I might have done to earn the principal’s attention. I felt like I had 4 cotton balls in my mouth as I reviewed the events of the day, the week, even the last month! “What had I done wrong that would make him call me to his office?” I worried and walked slowly, but not too slowly; I didn’t want to get in more trouble.
Smiling timidly I walked into his office. I remember he greeted me with an effort at a joke as he gave me some papers my mother needed. That was it? I wasn’t in trouble? Only then was I able to manage a big, though slightly shaky grin. I wasn’t in trouble! Nothing was wrong! I had only feared receiving bad news, though I couldn’t think of any reason that would warrant it. I have to confess that even now, that fifth-grade response of fear and worry can strike my heart at any time and I still have that sense of dread over the unknown. A natural enough response I suppose, yet not at all what God desires for His children.
God doesn’t want us to live in fear of bad news or to create trouble in our minds that hasn’t even transpired; that’s why He explains in the Bible how not to fear evil tidings. Psalm 112:7 gives us a picture of what this would look like in our lives, “He will not fear evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” There’s no escaping the connection between not giving in to fear and worry and trusting the Lord.
But how do we get there? How can we become that person? That person whose heart is not alarmed, even in unexpected circumstances. Psalm 112:1 tells us: “How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments.” Do you see the glimmers of hope and practical help here? The Psalm 112:7 woman is first the Psalm 112:1 woman who fears the Lord and greatly delights in the Word. That combination of holy reverence and love for the Word forges a steadfast heart. Proverbs 1:33 illuminates this truth further, “But he who listens to me (me = wisdom that comes from God) shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil.” A woman who fears the Lord, heeding God’s wisdom, and delighting in God’s Word won’t fear bad news. Why? Because she doesn’t live in the realm of what-if, she fastens her thoughts upon the One who is over all things, over all circumstances, over all events. As she does this she is comforted.
The Psalmist explains this process further when he says in Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” In another psalm he said, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You (Psalm 56:3).” What we see here is the Psalmist actively putting his faith into practice. Though he was afraid, he didn’t wallow in his fear and give into worry’s paralyzing effects, instead he turned to the Lord for deliverance, help, and hope.
Times like these—when we’re tempted to worry and give in to fear and anxiety—are the perfect time to apply Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Using this list of things to dwell on helps us keep our thoughts reined in and on the Lord, so worry and fear are kept at bay. As I apply that list to my thoughts I rarely get past “Is it true?” before my fears dissolve. The positive and practical nature of Philippians 4:8 helps me turn from groundless fears to the solid truths of God’s character and ways. A woman who tests her thoughts under the microscope of Philippians 4:8 will find herself living like Isaiah 26:3-4, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.”