As women, we instinctively understand what it means to fear. We fear that God won’t meet the desires of our heart. We fear being insignificant or ordinary. We fear rejection. We fear cancer stealing our lives or the lives of our loved ones. We fear tragedies and accidents. Fear is our default emotion.
Living abroad, I feared not having adequate medical attention. I feared that I had given up my opportunity to get married by moving to the middle-of-nowhere-China. I feared that I was missing everything back home—my nieces and nephews growing up, friend’s weddings, babies—all of it. I feared I would never fit in anywhere again. That I had lost my sense of home. I feared failure and not being able to tell my supporters that their money was well-spent.
When we become mothers, we board the Fear Train and never seem to be able to get off. With each of my babies, I spent the first year of their lives waking up terrified that I had rolled over them in the night—even when they were asleep in their cribs. When they started walking, I would leap out of bed in at night to prevent them from killing themselves in a multitude of creative ways in my dreams. Night was the time my every fear had its rehearsal.
Fear can consume us and spread like a communicable disease. I witnessed this in China after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. Though we were hundreds of miles from the quake, we felt the earth riot violently and send our buildings swaying as if at sea. And the fear in the weeks following became a sickness. Many students refused to sleep in their dorms and camped outside. Students skipped class. Rumors of aftershocks and reports of the aftermath in Sichuan fed our fears. It was the first time I had experienced the choking power of fear to control en masse.
But God does not intend for fear to consume us.
Jeremiah had reason to fear. He was called to confront people he knew wouldn’t listen to him. He was persecuted and eventually taken into exile. He’s often called the “weeping prophet” for the sorrows he experienced.
He laments, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:18). I confess to having felt this way: worthless, unlovable and like God ignored me as I poured out my hopes to him. Recently, I have allowed myself to be consumed by fear as I read the news and follow current events.
But in his darkness, Jeremiah catches a glimpse of light:
“YET this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s hesed we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Hesed is the “yet” in the middle of our fear.
Hesed is God’s steadfast, loyal, unfailing, unconditional, merciful love. It is an anchor love that roots us solidly within the storm. It is following our headlights straight into the darkness and trusting them to lead us as we drive on. It is the love of Jesus who, like a small child playing hide-and-seek, jumps out of hiding the second we begin to seek Him, crying, “Here I am! Find me!”
God’s hesed is the mercy that pulls a hesitant Lot and his family away from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19: 15-17).
God describes Himself before He delivers the Ten Commandments to Moses as
“…a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—loyal in love [hesed] for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin” (Ex. 34: 6-7 MSG).
Hesed is the love Ruth showed to Naomi, a love that was committed to staying with her, though she had every reason to leave (Ruth 1:8-10).
It is a love that rescues from fear:
“For even if the mountains walk away and hills fall to pieces, My love [hesed] won’t walk away from you, my covenant commitment of peace won’t fall apart.” The GOD who has compassion on you says so” (Is. 54:10 MSG).
His hesed will not walk away.
Hesed often coincides with verses about the morning. Mornings are for hesed because mornings bring second chances. We fall asleep in fear, but wake up with reminders to trust.
“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your hesed; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” (Ps. 59:16).
“Satisfy us in the morning with your hesed, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Ps. 90:14).
“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your hesed in the morning and your faithfulness at night” (Ps. 92:1-2).
As we proclaim it, we start to believe it.
And sometimes we need to place His hesed on repeat in the soundtrack of our mind. The refrain of Psalm 136, “His love endures forever,” repeats hesed like a steady pelting of rain:
“His hesed endures forever.”
“His hesed endures forever.”
“His hesed endures forever.”
Hesed is being rooted in His love that will not leave us, though we abandon Him the first opportunity we get. God’s tenacious love allows us to pound His chest, then holds us down until we stop our tantrum and relax in knowing that we are in strong, trustworthy arms after all.
Though many of my fears are irrational, some may one day materialize. But because God’s hesed can never be shaken, He promises that I will not be consumed by fear (Is. 54:10). His hesed clings to my stubborn soul like a parent clings to a wandering child at the railroad station. His hesed cradles me, giving me gifts I am not entitled to and whispering love’s intimate secrets to me.
I do not need to fear because His love cannot fail.
He is always for us. His hesed is triumphant, secure and steadfast. It will not let us go and it will not walk away.
“Surely goodness and hesed will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:6).
How have you seen the destructive power of fear spread?
What fears do you need to surrender to God and trust that He is for you?
Are you resting in His loyal, unfailing, steadfast, merciful love (hesed) today?