One of the issues we regularly concern ourselves with in our world is that of anxiety. The very mention of the word can lead us toward a heart palpitation. There are very serious causes to consider when we wrestle through such matters. There may be truly vital issues at work to cause our distress, or merely perceived issues. Nevertheless, anxiety and panic are serious foes which seem to linger in the corridors of our hearts as properly unwelcome guests. Is there a Christian response towards such things?
On the one hand, sometimes very well-meaning individuals seek to underplay the reality of such devastation. “You simply need to pray about it” often fails to relieve us of our crippling fears. Sometimes it may even feel as if such well-intentioned characters belittle our experiences, and even our trust, when we expose the wounds within our chests. But though they may align themselves with the rogues gallery of Job’s friends, there is a piece of proper wisdom gifted in their prickly wrapping.
In Scripture, there is a very unique story that is intended to be a refuge for us in the midst of our great fears. This story comes to us from 2 Kings 6 and involves the prophet Elisha and his servant. Elisha had been receiving words from God Himself for the good of His people against the warring nation of Syria and their king. The king of Syria got word of Elisha’s exploits and sought to snuff him out.
We are told that “[the king] sent … horses and chariots and a great army and they … surrounded the city.” (2 Kings 6:14 ESV) Let’s be honest here. The king of Syria wasn’t seeking to capture the likes of Achilles, Odysseus, Leonidas I or even Ezio Auditore da Firenze. He was looking for a prophet. Imagine if you had to capture a pastor, I imagine all it would take is an offer for lunch. But here the prophet of God arose the next morning to his own servant panicking. In this instance, panic seems most appropriate. The servant cries out, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15 ESV)
What Elisha says next is most telling. Think for a moment what you would say. In these moments, we often see the blips of our hearts for a brief second. What do we learn about the estate of Elisha’s heart from his own words? Elisha said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16 ESV) It would have been easy for Elisha’s servant to imagine that his master had lost his mind. There were no soldiers within their gates, at least none are mentioned. So what on earth was Elisha talking about?
The text continues, “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17 ESV) Such a story seems too fantastical for our modern age. But our anti-supernatural bias cannot undo the reality that God has promised to us the perpetuity of His presence and protection. We are often more committed to examining the finer details of our difficulties than considering the track record of God’s faithfulness throughout history. And it is the faithfulness of our God that grounds our hope in the midst of absolute uncertainty.
We will not be victorious over the difficulties in our world because of our savvy, wisdom, charm, or intellect. God has not called us to distract ourselves by such superficial means. Instead we are always drawn to consider the One whom we serve, and how He has been only always faithful. Elisha’s prayer is not that God would remove the fears of his servant, but to redirect them towards their proper target, which is God.
We don’t like to talk about fear. Everyone needs to happy, or outraged, or some other non-sensical overreaction to something as directed by social media. But the original direction of the human heart was to be that of proper reverential fear. And this sacred fear was not to be directed towards anyone or anything other than the triune God, who has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The “fear of the LORD” we are told “is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” (Prov. 14:27 ESV) My prayer for you, is that you would not cease to fear, but that your fears would be directed towards their proper source, the LORD, and that such fear would give you hope as you begin to perpetually consider the promises of God that have been extended to you through Christ, and that you would “forget not all His benefits,” (Psalm 103:2 ESV).
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