When I Am Afraid: Denial or Peace?

Woman trusting not in denial in peace

Are you in denial? It doesn’t seem like you’re taking this seriously. Do you realize what’s going on?

Actually, I don’t know for sure what’s going on. I do know that surgery is scheduled and that the doctor expects it will explain the seriousness and cause of this pain.

There are moments when waves of “worst-case scenarios” and “ugly what-if’s” wash over me. But mostly, without the barrage of second-guessers wondering if I’m being too cavalier or “trusting,” there’s peace.

Only Two Choices

When I am afraid,
    I put my trust in you.

That is Psalm 56 verse 3. Notice, the verse doesn’t say, “I’m never afraid because I trust in you.” It says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” David was not in denial. He wrote the Psalm “when the Philistines captured him in Gath.” That colorful episode is recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-15. In enemy hands, David was alone, desperate, and afraid. And he put his trust in God.

I put my trust in you means we choose to trust. We choose to stand on the promises of God. But that doesn’t mean we don’t fear. In his comments on Psalm 56, C.H. Spurgeon observed, “He feared, but that fear did not fill the whole area of his mind, for he adds, ‘I will trust in thee.’ David chose trust when he was afraid. We must choose trust when we are afraid.

Because, as Elisabeth Elliot explained, there are really only two choices: You either trust God, or you don’t trust God.

There are really only two choices. You either trust God, or you don’t trust God.

Elisabeth Elliot

Something More Important Than Fear

Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” Taking God at his word is more important than fear.

In Matthew 24 verse 6, Jesus said, You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. Don’t be alarmed, He said. Fear not, he said. Our Lord Jesus Christ said that a lot.

This is either the statement of a madman or of the being who has power to put some thing into a man and keep him free from panic, even in the midst of the awful terror of war…Our Lord teaches us to look things full in the face. He says – “when you hear of wars, don’t be scared.“ It is the most natural thing in the world to be scared, and the clearest evidence that God‘s grace is at work in our hearts is when we do not get into panics.”

Oswald Chambers, Shadow of an Agony

I’m not in denial, but I’m also not immune from “panics.” By grace, I want to “look things full in face.”

Can God Really Fulfill His Word?

Years ago, I heard Elisabeth Elliot in an old recording that struck me. I transcribed portions, and have returned to it these past few weeks when I wondered about repression and denial.

Shortly after her husband Jim was murdered, Elisabeth received a concerned letter from her mother-in-law. It said,

She was very much afraid that I was repressing my feelings, that it wasn’t normal the way I was reacting and just carrying on that I was just trying to be busy and maybe I was burying myself in my work. And she said, “Eventually you’re going to crack.”

Well then, all of a sudden my peace disappeared, and I began to say, “Is she right? Is there really no such thing as the peace that passes understanding? Can God really fulfill His Word?

I kept going back again and again to the promises that God had given me, and I had to write them there in my journal day after day. God was giving me promises which enabled me to get through.

Was Elisabeth in denial? Am I in denial?

I think not. I think it’s called trust.

Did He Not Promise?

Did He not promise that He will keep in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in Him (Isaiah 26:3)?

And did He not promise that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds when with thanks we make our requests known to Him (Philippians 4:7)?

Did He not promise great peace have they who love his law (Psalm 119:165)?

Is there steadfast men who have no fear of bad news (Psalm 112:7), and a strong women who can laugh at the days to come (Proverbs 31:25)—not because they’re in denial or never afraid, but because they trust in God?

So no, just because we’re not in a perpetual panicky hot mess, even when we are afraid, it doesn’t mean we’re in denial.

It might just mean that God‘s promises are true. The peace that passes all understanding is a real thing.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

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