Make space for fear to be displaced

David Au   -  

When you are walking home at night and you notice someone following you. You become alert, anxious thoughts and feelings flood your mind about what might happen. Or when you are driving and you came to stop at a 4-way stop where you stopped. Just as you’re about to go, a car from the left comes speeding past their stop sign and you pump the brakes to avoid a catastrophic accident. These are situations where we are fearful of being hurt and our natural instinct kicks in to protect us.

There are also other times when we might feel unsafe or threatened: like when a situation introduces a degree of uncertainty to your life. It could be a toxic relationship that is not improving (in which case you would want to get help and get out of the unsafe situation fast). Sometimes, it could be a good situation that challenges you to take the next step to grow, to get out of your comfort zone. Either way, fear plays a part in triggering a host of reactions from us. We might feel angry, sad, or we hold on tighter to get a sense of control, or maybe we want to just run away from it all.

Pastor Vijay reminded us that when we are fearful, 

  1. We make bad decisions
  2. We are constantly restless
  3. it’s hard to put others first

Fortunately, there are a few things we can practice for fear to be displaced.

  1. Make space by yourself, in silence
  2. Make space with 1 or 2 in prayer
  3. Make space with community in worship

In this week’s reading, we jump into various accounts in the bible and reflect on what it means for fear to be displaced and instead to place our trust in the One who loves us.

Day 1

Sit in Silence before God for 2 minutes

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 13:5-12

The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand[c] chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.

Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

“What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

Devotional

The priest and prophet Samuel was “late.”  What was Saul supposed to do? Was he supposed to wait and watch his enemies’ armies get ready to strike?

We live in a world where honour is given to those who can make it happen at all cost. It pushes us to be resourceful, to take it on by ourselves, to go at it alone and be the hero and heroine of the story. The urge to “fix it” is especially strong when we are met with uncertainty. 

Richard Rohr has this to say about the spiritual journey.

Sooner or later, if you are on any classic “spiritual schedule…” spiritually speaking, you will be, you must be, led to the edge of your own private resources…. 

Any attempt to engineer or plan your own enlightenment is doomed to failure because it will be ego driven. You will see only what you have already decided to look for, and you cannot see what you are not ready or told to look for. So failure and humiliation force you to look where you never would otherwise. What an enigma! Self-help courses of any type, including this one if it is one, will help you only if they teach you to pay attention to life itself. “God comes to you disguised as your life,” as my friend Paula D’Arcy so wisely says.

So we must stumble and fall. I am sorry to say… We must actually be out of the driver’s seat for a while, or we will never learn how to give up control to the Real Guide.*

Falling Upward

Question to consider:

What situation in your life at the moment are you attempting to “engineer or plan your own enlightenment” when it may be an opportunity that God is prompting you to give over control to him and trust him?

Prayer

Lord, I confess that it scares me when the future is uncertain and when it appears that I am losing control. Instead of striving to fix every difficult situation and people, would you give me faith to trust in you and allow your life to form in me. In your name. Amen.

End with Silence for 2 minutes

Day 2

Sit in Silence before God for 2 minutes

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:35-45

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Devotional

More than 2000 years after the account of Mary receiving the news from the angel, we have the benefit of hindsight now to know that it was indeed good news. At the time when Mary heard the news, she had questions (to be it mildly). The prospect of her fiance Joseph misunderstanding the situation was a real cause for concern, not to mention the public pressure when they found out. She could have easily succumbed to the fear of public opinion. But instead, one of the first things Mary did was to visit her cousin Elizabeth. There she found a cheerful companion. Mary made space for fear to be displaced simply by being in the presence of someone who can share her joy and her struggles.

It is said that one gloomy day, Dwight L. Moody visited a man who had expressed some interest at one of Moody’s meetings. Moody was ushered into a comfortable room with a fire blazing on the hearth. After some gracious preliminary conversation, the man began to argue that it was possible for a person to be a Christian without participating in the life of the church. As he made his elaborate and detailed arguments, Moody leaned forward in his chair, took the poker and pulled a flaming coal from the fire out onto the stone hearth. Moody watched as the coal slowly dimmed and went out. He then turned and looked at the man, without saying anything. After a long pause the man said “Mr. Moody, you have made your point!”

Invitation to a Journey – M. Robert Mulholland Jr.

Question to consider:

During times of doubt, trouble, or even fear, is your tendency to stay away from your community of friends and keep the problem all to yourself? Or are you willing to make space for fear to be displayed by reaching out to a friend who you can chat or even pray with?

Prayer

God, help me to first open up to you about the troubles I face. Help me to be honest to you with my deepest concerns. Guide me away from self-reliance and toward trusting you. Renew my understanding of what it means to be on a spiritual journey with others. Grant me the courage to share with a friend about my struggles and joy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

End with Silence for 2 minutes

 

Day 3

Sit in Silence before God for 2 minutes

Scripture Reading: Mark 2:1-5
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Devotional
There are at least three groups of people in this account:

First, there is the crowd who gathered and packed the space where Jesus was, they want to hear what Jesus has to teach, to see what Jesus will do. Maybe they’ll catch a miracle or two. Maybe they’ll be fed. Maybe they’ll get to meet and speak to Jesus. Just maybe.

The second “group” is the paralyzed man. He wants to be healed and be able to walk again. He sees Jesus but has no way of reaching him because of his condition.
The third group is the four who carried the paralyzed man. They are often referred to as the four friends. They are absolutely determined to do everything they can to help the man reach Jesus and be healed by Jesus.

Each group has different reasons for being there. Each group has something they want to see happen. They have their own hopes and fears as they relate to Jesus.

Question to consider:
Which one of the three groups do you most identify with when it comes to your relationship with Jesus?

Prayer
Lord, help me be more aware of my motivations as I come before you. Cast out the fears that are holding me back from trusting you. Draw me closer to your heart. Let me rest in the assurance of your love. Broaden my horizon to see beyond my needs and begin to see the needs of others. In your name, amen.

End with Silence for 2 minutes

 

Day 4

Sit in Silence before God for 2 minutes

Scripture Reading: MARK 10:17-23
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[a]”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

Devotional
Jesus is kind and gentle, but he also challenges us to go deeper in our faith.

Giving up something great in your life can be extremely difficult. Whether it is your family, your marriage, your friendships, your career, your wealth, or your prized possessions, they hold a certain place in our hearts. For the man in the account you just read, it was his wealth that he finds difficult to give up.

Sometimes, the hardship in our lives keeps us from following Jesus. In other times, it might be the blessings that keep us from doing so.

Note the man’s reaction: his face fell and he went away sad. His reaction was so immediate it was a “nope!” I wondered what was going through his mind.

What do you think was going through his mind? Can you think of some reasons as to why it was impossible for him to sell everything and give to the poor, store up treasure in heaven and then follow Jesus? Before you keep reading, pause to ponder.

<pause for a minute>

I wonder what would have happened if instead of immediately going away sad, the man opens up to Jesus and begins sharing his struggles with Jesus. I think Jesus would have continued the conversation with him, helping him to go deeper, to become more aware of the hopes and fears in his hearts. That, perhaps, would have been a very good next step to following Jesus.

Question to consider
What blessings in your life might be keeping you from following Jesus? Share your struggles honestly and openly before God.

Prayer
God, help me be aware of the blessings in my life that might be stopping me from following you. Forgive me for failing to see that these great things from you were meant to be shared with others. Help me with my struggles and preoccupation with the great things in my life. Move me beyond my fears and toward your loving kindness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

End with Silence for 2 minutes

Day 5

Sit in Silence before God for 2 minutes

Scripture Reading (two passages):
Matthew 26:33-35
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

John 21:15-19
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Devotion:
In case you don’t know or don’t remember, Peter denied Jesus three times.

The passage where Peter says he’ll never disown Jesus was before Jesus died on the cross. The Jesus who asked Peter “do you love me more than these” is the resurrected Jesus.

My observation about myself: There is the headstrong version of me, and then there is the I-blew-it version of me. It seems to me that part of spiritual growth is to recognize our tendencies to push through by our sheer will.

“God does not want obedience as the fruit of our willful determination. God wants surrender as the choice of the heart. For what we long for in our heart we will pursue with the totality of our being not simply with the resolve of our will.”
David Benner, Desiring God’s Will

Now…. in case you don’t remember, we eventually see a new Peter who is transformed by the love of Jesus, who is far less reliant on his own sheer determination – still not without flaws – but is far more dependent on God’s grace.

Question to consider
In what areas of your lives are you pushing through by your own determination? What does it look like for you to let God shape what you long for in your heart so you can pursue that longing with “the totality of your being?”

Prayer
Lord, I love you. Thank you for your relentless love for me. Thank you for going after me when I am down on my face. Thank you for pursuing me even after I have failed you. Shape my desires, oh Lord, that I may pursue you with the totality of my being. In your name, amen.

End with Silence for 2 minutes