Fear not. This is a common theme in the Bible, and in subsequent songs, where God encourages His children to take their eyes off the things they fear and put their trust in Him.
But just what is it that we fear? There are many things, of course – from spiders to dying – but I’ve observed both in my own life and in the life of others that the root of much of that fear is the fear of pain. Whether it’s physical or emotional pain, we expend a great deal of our energies trying to avoid it.
And those avoidance techniques often result in sin, from the time we’re little kids. We don’t want our boo-boo cleaned and bandaged, so we kick and scream. We don’t want a spanking, so we lie and blame our siblings. We don’t want to get our shots (which is actually a good idea, but that’s another story) so we cry and try to manipulate our parents.
But we’re not little kids anymore. We’re supposed to “grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,” (Eph 4:15) and it’s hard to imagine Jesus kicking and screaming at His mother. In fact, this incredible Savior of ours embraced His coming pain. While his flesh would have liked a way out, His spirit said, “yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
So how do we get from here to there? How do we grow past our sinful avoidance techniques and take up our crosses? I can’t speak for everyone, but in my life this process has been furthered by suffering.
From the time I was first saved, I went through one emotionally painful betrayal after another, each time closer to the bone than the last. I cried, and cried out to the Lord, to protect me from all this pain. It didn’t stop. Then I asked Him to help me deal with the pain. He did, but it still didn’t stop. After many years, I finally got to the point where I could honestly say, “yet not My will, but Yours be done.” I had become willing to suffer emotionally if it would further His plans for my life or the lives of others.
From that point on, other people simply couldn’t cause the pain that they used to, and I stopped trying to protect myself from it. Near the end of this process, the Lord impressed on me this verse:
Because in much wisdom there is much grief,
and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain. (Ecc 1:18)
As I read this, I realized that all that emotional suffering had been an answer to prayer, because the cry of my heart from the beginning had been to know Him and His ways. He is faithful to give us what we ask for.
Then one day I was talking and praying with a dear Christian friend who had watched and helped me go through much of this process. We were talking about the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7), and I said that while the Lord had been teaching me how to handle emotional pain, I was a big baby when it came to physical pain. I didn’t think I’d be able to represent the Lord when I was being stoned or fed to the lions or hung on a cross.
She said, “Uh, oh.”
Sure enough, before much time passed I started having back problems, which progressively got worse. Then came hypothyroidism and chronic fatigue. Then I developed tendinitis and a frozen shoulder. Then all my muscles started hurting with a pain that prevented me from sleeping. I was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia, for which there is no cure and no definitive treatment
Being one who learns from experience, I skipped the prayers to make the pain go away, and went straight to the “help me deal with this” prayers. I occasionally can say, “Your will,” with an honest heart, but this process is far from finished and my poor husband still has to listen to me whine – which he does with more grace than I give myself.
But I can say that the fear of physical pain is abating, and much of the time I can keep my eyes on the goal.
The goal? I’m being prepared to represent the Lord while being stoned, of course.
Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul;
but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt 10:28)
You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;
and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,
NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons;
for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers,
then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them;
shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?
For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them,
but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful;
yet to those who have been trained by it,
afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:4-11)