Mountains, beautiful and majestic, serve to remind humans of their mortality and insignificance. There are those who climb the mountains “because they are there,” and we consider them fearless. Don’t be deceived—they are not without trepidation. They are fully aware that one misplaced grip, one sudden avalanche, or one failure in equipment could lead to their sudden and immediate death. Fear motivates them to check their equipment and make diligent preparations for the climb. Fear motivates them to do what they can to prevent sudden death.
Fear keeps most of us on the ground, but for the climber, fear is a reminder to proceed with caution. Any sudden danger will still trigger their fight-or-flight response. They are not fearless; they simply put fear in its place.
The Lord who created our parasympathetic nervous system knows how we will respond to threats and stressors. Regardless of your level of faith and trust, fear will strike.
If, for example, my child darts suddenly into the street as a car is speeding their direction, I am going to feel a stab of fear. My fear creates an impulse to act in such a way as to stop the threat. I might shout an alarm or run to pull my child out of the way. If we did not feel fear, we would not respond to danger with the immediacy necessary for survival.
Fear will strike.
Reading about the lives of people in the Bible, we have a tendency to believe they were completely fearless, yet the Psalms in particular, provide insight into the very real emotions of these very real people. In David’s Psalms, he expresses his emotions, then puts them in perspective through his faith in God.
Consider the danger stalking David in the early years of his life:
As a young shepherd:
- Goliath (David faced this hardened warrior before he himself became a renowned warrior)
As the Lord’s Anointed (not yet established as king):
- Saul’s frequent attempts to kill him
- Israel’s enemies
As an Established King:
- Temptation (Satan)
- Israel’s enemies
- His own son, Absalom
God loved David. He called Him “a man after my own heart.” Yet, in spite of being so special, he still had to face trials and challenges just as we do in the present day. His feelings did not vanish the minute Samuel dumped oil on his head and the Spirit of God rushed upon him. His circumstances and his feelings remained, like mountains looming large and ominous.
David’s psalms give us direction on how to manage both our fears and our challenges. David expresses emotions, then puts them in perspective through God.
Look at Psalm 56 (click the link for the full passage text):
“Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.”
Can you hear the exhaustion? “All day long…”
Do you hear the hurt? Listen to the words:
What would you feel in the face of trampling, attacking, and oppressing?
Verse 3 begins, “When I am afraid.” Notice a key word in this sentence: “When.” Not if, but when.
How would you fill in that blank? “When I am afraid, I ____________…”
Here’s how David responds:
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
David recognized that only through God would his fear be subdued. He could not face his mountains without knowing God was His strength. He could not conquer his fears without knowing God was bigger than the danger. David was not some superman; he simply knew where to take His emotions.
We cannot conquer the mountains of life alone. Eventually we will fall or be crushed by an avalanche. Our self-inspired tenacity will not sustain us forever. At some point we’ll face a mountain bigger than our moxie.
The question is not, “are we fearless?” it is, “what will we do with our fear?”
Tell God about your mountain, then tell that mountain about your God.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”
~ Hebrews 13.5-6, ESV