God, Fear, and the Presidency
Jan 22, 2017 05:59AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
My brawny Shih Tzu Samson spent the entire morning running around afraid and jumping to high surfaces to escape a mouse while his slight little sister, Delilah, sat confidently on the floor, alert and nonplussed.
It occurred to me: This is me on any given day.
What about you?
Do we fear the issue at our feet that is taunting or stressing us, or do we know our Defender well enough to rest that He will eventually take care of that “mouse”?
I need to remember my advice to Samson: “Some days I am like you, Buddy. I jump to higher surfaces because I forget my Master's care and strength. Rest, my little fuzzball. You are safe and very loved.”
Can humans royally mess up? Yes. Are there reasons to be fearful whenever the “other” candidate comes to power? Sure. Is this a particularly worrisome election year? Depends on whom you ask.
But this is not about the president or who runs Congress. I wouldn’t try to tell you how to vote even if I wanted to. You know why? Because our great democracy allows us to become informed as best we can and cast a vote in the direction we’d like to see the country go. We win some. We lose some. The pendulum swings.
What does God say about sovereigns and rulers—and what to do with fear?
For some folks, the fear may feel like it’s about our new president and what he stands for. It could be about ISIS. It could be about Korea, Russia, and nuclear missiles.
On some days, my fear starts right at my own doorstep about the future of my children, whether my newly minted teen driver will navigate slick roads, if certain relationships will ever repair this side of heaven. I understand fear. I struggle regularly with social anxiety. On some occasions, fear threatens to determine if I walk into an event or social setting, if I’d let it—but I’m learning not to.
The author of fear is not God. Here’s why.
2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
I love the New King James Version translation of this verse. God can’t give us fear because it doesn’t originate with Him. He gives us love and a sound mind. In other versions, “sound mind” translates as “self control” or “self discipline”; either way, it means we do not have to spiral in anxiety. When we focus on Him and not on fear, we are tethered to God’s promise of peace and love.
Fear causes confusion, chaos, and disorder. If we take its pulse, we can diagnose that it is not from God.
1 Corinthians 14:33, ESV
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints…
Fear is a thief—but only if we let it steal from us. It can be overcome.
Psalm 27:1-3, ESV
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
Fear is not productive.
God is not the author of fear—He is the remedy.
1 John 4:18, ESV
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Guess who “Perfect Love” is?
Hebrews 13:6, ESV
So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"
Oh thank You, Jesus, there is a remedy, and it’s You! You are our helper.
What do you think about this verse?
Proverbs 12:25, ESV
Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.
I understand the tendency to “process” our concerns on social media, but fearmongering seems to be the opposite of speaking productive words that advance God’s kingdom. Wouldn’t we all feel more peaceful if we didn’t ride the torrents of reactions to the latest news but spoke “a good word” to make each other “glad”?
I have to remind myself of this often. I have had my share of disliking and exaggerating the mistakes of former presidents. It’s also easy to cast blame when it’s a person I struggle to respect.
As Christians, though, where do we place our faith? I hope we don’t offer it up to temporary administrations that have their four- or eight-year expiration dates. If we leave it with only humans, we are very right to fear, but if we trust in Christ, we are not left with what this world, or our country’s election, offers us during our short tenure on the planet.
Daniel 2:20-22, ESV
Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
I was on a social media forum in my town where other parents were discussing whether or not their elementary school children should watch the inauguration at school. It was a mostly productive conversation, I’m thankful to say, but there were a few folks who took the fear train and wanted to ride it to the end of the line. Without moderation, they would have whipped many people into an anxious frenzy that clouded the issues and derailed the true concerns. By the end of it, had there not been some even-keeled folks redirecting the conversation, we could have all benefited from group therapy sessions (which I’m all for, by the way!) and my essential oil “Balance” and “Serenity” blends wafting through the air.
I would like to suggest if we are spreading fear, we are part of the problem. When we fear, we don’t give God room to display His peace. We shut out the voice of reason. We think it’s up to us. We forget we do not hold the reins.
Try to put those fears to rest—in God alone.
Psalm 62:5-7, ESV
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
The United States of America is going to ride another wave of adjusting to new leadership. We may see more polarization. We may see more darkness come to light—on either side—but let’s not spread the fear. Our new president answers to his Creator, just like our former president did—whether or not they are aware of this isn’t even the issue. For all we know, God’s purposes are to show His power through their leadership, whether or not they cooperate with Him.
Romans 9:15-18, ESV
For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills [emphasis mine].
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.