It was the darkest day of my life.
I was approached by a respected church member who threatened me, “Listen, Jap. This is our church and we were here before you got here. We will be here when you’re gone, so go back to your country. You don’t belong here.”
I had been at the church for four years. I was on pastoral staff. I knew ministry was tough, but had never experienced anything like this. I had heard negative comments in the past, but this time was different. I was scared. It felt like the church that once so loved me now rejected me.
My job was on the line, and my family was threatened. I felt like there was nothing I could do to change anything, and my fear only grew and intensified. I felt trapped. I felt hopeless.
I prayed to God, “Am I under attack by Satan? Are You working to move me to another church? God, I am so discouraged. I feel so low in my spirit, filled with a sense of emptiness, I am ready to quit. God why are you silent in my fears?”
As I submitted my fears to God, He comforted me, and here are three questions I learned to ask from the experience.
1. Why Do I Feel Fear?
In a nutshell, I felt fearful because my thinking wasn’t right. In fact, in the midst of my circumstances, I wasn’t even thinking about God! When on occasion I did think about God, He felt neither good nor close. I felt like God had forsaken me. I was letting my circumstances and situations affect my understanding of who He was.
The Bible tells us again and again not to worry: “Do not worry about your life” (Matthew 6:25); “Do not worry about what to say” (Matthew 10:19); “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6); and many others. So why was I afraid?
I was afraid of what this world could do to me. In my own little world, I was so worried about what men might do that they became big in my mind, and God became small. In the midst of possible rejection, attacks or oppression, I completely left God out of the picture.
Fear is not just a horizontal problem—a problem of our circumstances or situations. Fear is actually a vertical problem—a problem in our relationship with God.
2. What Lies in My Heart?
Our knee-jerk reaction is usually, “get out of the situation!” We want to shift gears and avoid our negative emotions by changing our circumstances or situations, the people we surround ourselves with, our hobbies, our career, our possessions.
However, Proverbs reminds us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). When we respond to what life throws at us, our words and actions point back to what’s in our hearts. When I complain about my situation, what is hidden in the deep compartments of my heart are made evident.
Much of my fear revealed how far my heart was from God, and how close it was to the world. I thought my circumstances dictated how my heart responded, but that wasn’t true. The problem was that my heart submitted to my circumstances, instead of looking beyond them.
As I looked to the Bible, it became evident that my fear was magnified when I did not look to Christ as the source of all my hope and all my healing. Instead, my heart had made an idol of the approval of man, and could not see beyond the circumstances.
3. How Should I Respond to Fear?
The antidote to fear is the Father’s unconditional love. I need not dwell on my own imperfections and inadequate response to my circumstance. Instead, I needed to dwell in the abundance of God.
How do we do this? We remember God’s past provision in our lives as we look forward to His hopeful future. When we are hopeless, Scripture reminds us “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I needed to surrender the idol in my heart, and let God take the throne. When I refocused on God, He became so much more pleasing, beautiful, astonishing, lovely, glorious, and breath-taking! This enabled me to overcome my sinful fear and experience true freedom.
Dr. Stuart Scott, one of my professors in seminary, said it well, “Hope is not defined by the absence of hardship. Rather, hope is found in God’s grace in the midst of hardship. Hope is found in his promise to give us a future.”
God used those moments of fear to make me more like Christ. In fresh ways, God pointed out the work that Jesus has accomplished on the cross. In the midst of the imperfections of this broken world, we all need reminders of the death and resurrection of the Savior Jesus Christ. When we do so, Jesus’ perfect, faithful, steadfast, and undying love becomes the strength for today and hope for tomorrow.
That is the reason the Psalmist can cry out, “For I was envious of the arrogant. . . Until I went into the sanctuary of God!” (Psalm 73:3, 17).
Why this hardship of fear in our lives? Ultimately to bring glory to the Father by redeeming His people from the curse of sin.
Faith Instead of Fear
This storm I experienced revealed once again my need of the Savior. Christ’s power is made perfect in my weakness and drew me ever closer to Him. In a divine moment, God allowed calamities and suffering for the sake of humbling my heart and bringing me back to holy reverence.
Maybe you know someone who needs to hear this, or maybe you yourself needed this reminder.
Even when things are not going the way you had hoped, you can still have hope in the Lord. God may not change your circumstances, but God promises to give us the perseverance needed to face tomorrow.
During that season, God did not change my circumstances. But He gave me His peace which surpasses all understanding, and that protected me in the midst of the storm. My future was no longer guided by the fear of giving up. Jesus became the source of my hope.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
If you’re facing fear in your life, be encouraged. God will give you comfort and draw you close to Himself.
You’re not alone in your fear and your struggles, and I want to encourage you to take a moment today to turn to the Lord in prayer.