Praising God in Times of Fear

Fear. There’s a lot of that going around lately, yeah? If you’re unsure, just turn on the news and listen for about 5 minutes.

A virus is spreading across the world. The US economy is barely hanging on, and people are feeling the strain of increasing financial burdens and concerns for the wellbeing of loved ones.

Due to the current circumstances, I’ve been contemplating the concept of fear and its impact. While doing so, I’ve also been trying to remember times that I was thoroughly terrified and how I responded in those moments.

The first incident I recalled happened several years ago at a youth group camping trip.

One thing you should know about Grace Baptist Church youth group’s canoe and camp out trip is that it will, without fail, rain at some point during the trip. When I say rain, what I mean is “torrential downpour.” Such was the case in this particular story.

We had a beautiful day on the river (well, as beautiful as it could be on Muncie’s White River), and everyone was finishing dinner and starting to head to the tents. Seemingly out of nowhere, dark clouds rolled in, bringing thunder and lightning with them.

Despite being a Midwest girl, thunderstorms are not my thing. My fellow Midwesterners are shaking their heads in shame right now, but I can admit it. Thunderstorms scare me, especially after this trip.

Knowing his impeccable track record for planning camping trips during rainstorms, my youth pastor had shared with the group the safety plan in case of a severe storm. Everyone was to get to the campsite’s bathrooms to bunker down until the storm passed. The only discrepancy was in HOW we were to get there.

The bunker bathrooms were located at the entrance of the campsite. I’m not sure the exact distance, but at the time, they seemed miles away. When we heard the call to head to the bathrooms, I and two other friends starting running without waiting for further directions. If we had waited approximately 10 more seconds, we would have heard that a sponsor would drive campers to the bathroom because that was, you know, safer.

As we ran, rain pelted our faces, and thunder boomed in our ears. I happened to look over right as a massive streak of lightning flashed across the sky and struck the middle of the cornfield we were running past.

I shrieked in fear, and at that moment, I knew I was going to die.

SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t die, and I haven’t been good at predicting the future since then.

The three of us finally made it to the bathrooms, soaked, terrified, and out of breath. Probably 15 seconds later, the rest of the campers showed up, warm and dry from their short ride in a climate-controlled SUV.

We all huddled together in the makeshift storm shelter and waited for the rain to die down. When Rock Paper Scissors was no longer effective in keeping our minds off the raging monsoon outside, someone suggested singing.

I cannot adequately describe the peace that flooded the room when we sang the first verse of “It Is Well.” The downpour could not drown out the praise and adoration that poured out of us as we lifted our voices to God in worship in the middle of the storm.

It may sound strange, but there’s something incredibly calming about praising God when everything around us feels out of control.

We are living in uncertain days, yet, despite the anxieties that loom ahead, Psalm 33 tells Christians that we still have hope and reasons to sing. The psalmist begins the praise psalm by calling the reader to worship, exalting God with instruments and singing (33: 1-3). Then, he elaborates on why, in all circumstances, we can praise God.

His Upright Word

“For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth were all their host” (33: 4-6).

These verses tell us two things about God’s words. First, they are powerful. God created the entire universe by speaking it into existence. With a single word, He can part seas or calm winds and waves. His words are also upright–fitting, proper. Combine that with His steadfast love in verse 5, and we see that God’s plans are best. His intentions for his followers are ultimately good.

His Prevailing Will

Not only are His plans good, but they always prevail.

Prominent political figures, news journalists, and concerned Facebook users alike speculate the cause and spread of COVID-19. I personally cannot speak to that issue, but I do know God’s plans will never be thwarted by any government.

Psalm 33: 10-11 tells us, “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”

Even as nation battles nation for the top spot on the world’s list of “Best Economies,” no country is mighty enough to overcome the Lord’s predetermined will. His plans cannot be foiled by deception, twisted words, or shady political deals.

His Discerning Gaze

God sees all, and though He sits high above enthroned in heavenly glory, He is never far away. Nothing escapes His gaze as He observes the deeds of all mankind. This means that your struggles are not unseen. Your prayers are not unheard. And, though you may doubt it right now, you are not unloved, for those who hope in God dwell under His watchful gaze and steadfast love that He may deliver them from death, famine, and pestilence. (33:18).

Therefore, hope in God. Not the government. Not your stimulus check. But God.

Sing with the psalmist, “Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (33: 20-22).

Just like the worshipers in ancient times who sang this psalm, we can have confidence that only God’s plans will succeed, and that knowledge brings wonder for His greatness, rest for the soul, and praise in times of fear.

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