When We Fear

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?

10 Comments

  1. Jennifer Ott February 7, 2016

    So encouraging…especially when I woke before 4am this morning, filled with fear (transitions again with moving to a new city and new ministry, yet more changes for our four kids, all new people, waiting on approval from donors and leadership, husband far away in language school…I should not let myself dwell on all this)!  I am going to let these Scriptutes become my meditation, my mantra today.  Thank you!

  2. Leslie Verner February 7, 2016

    Jennifer, I’m glad you found some encouragement when you needed it.  I was amazed by how often “hesed” is mentioned in Scripture when I started looking for it.  Praying that His steadfast, loyal, and unfailing love envelopes you today.

    1. Jennifer Ott February 8, 2016

      I keep returning to reread this. Thank you, again! Not going to let fear consume me today!

  3. Ruth February 8, 2016

    I love the “Hesed is the “yet” in the middle of our fear.” And also the description of God like a child playing hide and seek and jumping out as soon as we start . What a great picture.

    Here I am with baby 3 and Still find myself doing the continual “is she still breathing” checks in the middle of the night. I was reminded of my funny story from baby #1 though: I felt Kevin’s foot in my sleep and woke in a panic thinking, “The baby is at the bottom of the bed!” Nevermind that I was looking at her lying in her crib as I panicked. Then my next thought was, “It’s a raccoon!!”… In our third floor apartment in the city when I’ve never even seen a raccoon in China! Ha! But it does seem our fears come so naturally.

    1. Leslie Verner February 8, 2016

      Ok, that’s hilarious about the raccoon.  And it sounds exactly like the kind of things I conjure up to fear (which my husband just read over my shoulder and confirmed).

      On days when I panic the most about my babies, I remind myself that God loves them MORE than I do.  His promises of steadfast, unfailing love are just as much to them as they are to me.  And that helps.  A little, at least;-)

  4. Candy February 8, 2016

    I also love that child playing hide and seek image; it is so vivid and so on target! Thank you for putting into words the fear and the absolute love that conquers and casts out that fear. I’ve taken some quotes for you from your article, and I’m sure I will be reviewing them and sharing them for years to come as I continue walking in a single female overseas worker life.

    1. Leslie Verner February 9, 2016

      Yes, His absolute love conquers and casts out our fear.  I’m glad you found some truths to tuck away for today and for later, too!

  5. Elizabeth February 10, 2016

    I love Lamentations 3. I’m a big believer that His mercies are new every morning and to access that mercy, one needs only to fall asleep and then wake! But I did not know that the love in that verse is hesed!

    Also LOVE the Message’s Isaiah 54 passage — my love won’t walk away from you. Love that.

    Thank you for sharing these.

    1. Leslie Verner February 10, 2016

      There are so many more verses that talk about “hesed” that I wish I could have shared!  It was so cool to see that it appeared in so many familiar verses.  It reminds me of those words that we learn in other languages that are so hard to translate into English because there really isn’t a good equivalent.   Thanks for reading and commenting!

      1. Elizabeth February 11, 2016

        Yes! Was just having  similar convo with my daughters about how there aren’t enough words for “friend.” There are so many different kinds and levels of friendship, and though we really should be nice to everyone (lecture, lecture), we don’t have to be best friends with everyone. But we use the term friend to talk about online people we’ve never met, loose acquaintances at school or work or church, AND the people we’re closest to. We need better English words for friend too!

        (Sorry total tangent!)

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