In these days when it seems so normal to feel fear and anxiety, let’s not beat ourselves up if we have such feelings. Even when they drive us toward darkness.
First, we must own our feelings, authentically acknowledge them. If we don’t, they will not guide us in the midst of this “whatever has happened” event to where God longs to lead us. I find it freeing to acknowledge these feelings out loud to God, no matter how dark they may sound. David in this timeless Psalm 13 has given me a superb model in verses one and two how to lean into God with authenticity.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day? [And] have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:1-2).
These feeling are your feelings. Own them. Claim them as yours. Yet let’s also not allow them to drive our lives. Our feelings are fueled by our thoughts. As New Testament believers, we have authority as gatekeepers of our heart, including our thoughts, even if it takes hard work and time. After acknowledging your fear and anxiety, explore. Ask transition questions into verses 3-4: “Where are these feelings leading me?” “Is this where I want to go?”
Second, when such feelings drive your life, examine those feelings like a good detective looks for clues. Feelings spring from our thoughts. Our thoughts drive our feelings. What did you listen to shortly before these feelings were aroused? Newscasts? Friends sowing fear or criticism? In what direction are your thoughts traveling? Begin to bring what was in darkness into the light.
Since you can’t do this alone, intentionally choose to bring these budding insights of what is driving your feelings into God’s presence. Again, David models a healthy response in Psalm 13:3-4. He is aware of three specific needs…and prays them to the LORD. David uses his negative feelings as clues to discover whatever has disturbed his heart. David ushers his heart into the presence of the LORD, rather than blindly following the deceptive guide of his feelings into deeper despair. He directly and passionately lays these requests before the LORD. He knows that without His help, he will slide back down into lament (3b-4). What are the three requests David asks the LORD, as He leans in close.
Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall (Psalm 13:3-4).
- Above all else, David must be reassured that His LORD still has His eye fixed on him (“look, consider me”). Through a New Testament lens, our Family-of-Three is the touchable God, the ever-present God. He sees us and cares. He is the God who comes close, and even closer in times of deep need. David’s heart needed encouragement that His LORD was still near, even in his despair.
- David needs answers to this “whatever has happened” event (“answer me). The event knocked his inner spiritual compass out of proper calibration. He needed his mind renewed. David knows the only answers come from “O LORD, my God” so he leans in close.
- Finally, David asks for light to flood his spiritual eyes in order to give clarity to what thoughts are driving these dark feelings (“Give light to my eyes”). If not, David will slide back into the lament of the first two verses.
Third, David chooses to refocus, despite any indication of change in the “whatever has happened” circumstances that have driven him to despair. Read Psalm 13:5-6. And update it with all the New Testament promises for followers of Jesus. This was David’s healthy will-choice in his time. What is your will-choice today? Note the emotional shift with His thoughts now focused on Reality…trust, joy, singing, praise “for He has been good to me!” A renewed mind changes our feelings over time so persist!
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me (Psalm 13:5-6).
WHY is this threefold response effective?
These responses return to God’s original design that was restored in Christ.
God fashioned us in His image, as much like Him as a created being could be so He could have heart-connection with us. God is after wholehearted responses from His Bride, and the enemy seeks to abduct our heart from our passionate Lover, our Triune God, Father, Son and Spirit.
In Scripture, our heart is the core of our being, our affections with its feelings, our mind with its thoughts, and our will with our choices to act, even when everything within screams, “I can’t!” Psalm 13 teaches New Testament followers of Jesus to lean into the Stronger Man, Jesus, who overpowers the archenemy sowing fear and attempting to kidnap our heart (Luke 11:22).
Our enemy still attempts to steal our heart from our Lover (our feelings, our mind and our will) in this season by sowing fear regarding Covid-19 and the future results in business and culture.
WHY is this threefold response effective?
- Real Feelings (Psalm 13:1-2): We cannot control what we feel so give yourself space. Don’t beat yourself up. And also choose where these feelings are taking you. Decide whether that’s the direction you want. Honestly express to God (out loud is best for me) what you feel. Bring all your raw emotions into God’s presence, just as they are, raw, unfiltered, often untrue (like David’s fourfold repetition). Yet they are ours.
- Renewed Mind (Psalm 13:3-4): Detective David identified current needs where his mind was not focusing on Reality (God-Reality, not our perceived reality). Tough times expose longstanding, harmful thought-patterns to renew our minds. Pay close attention to where our negative feelings are pointing. Seize the moment! David’s needs were (1) to know God sees/cares, (2) for specific answers, and (3) for insight. What are your needs in the midst of this “whatever has happened” event? Tell God directly. Even if you are unsure, explore with God in a prayer-dialog.
- Responsive Will (Psalm 13:5-6): With a gentle will-thought, nudge your will to choose life. Lean into the LORD and affirm truth about who He is and what love-response He longs from us, even if your emotions for a time still scream, “I can’t!” As His child, He has already given you the authority as the gatekeeper of your heart. None of this caught God by surprise.
A friend of mine, a long time Christian who admittedly did not know how to study the NT well, asked to meet with me to go through the book of Philippians before the Covid-19 coronavirus was a pandemic. Just this week he said something like: “I had a tough week, beyond description. Relationally. Physically with a lingering cough. Lost my entire business. Yet I’m in such peace because Philippians prepared me for this.”
Now is the time to soak in Scripture.
I would encourage my simple, user-friendly way to study a book of the Bible with a bias towards doing. You can find Philippians, Joy Overflowing, Living in Word and Spirit available as paperback or kindle on Amazon.com. Philippians 4:6-9 is my favorite antidote in Scripture to work through anxiety.
In this time of dire news and ever shifting cultural realities our faith can falter, becoming fractured by fears. However, “Things are not what they seem.” Our archenemy still attempts to steal our heart from our Lover, today by sowing fear, using the unnatural mutation of the Covid-19 coronavirus stemming from living in a fallen world.
Our faith can also flourish!
This is the kind of “soil” that encourages us to turn turn our attention to God-Reality. Trust that nothing ever surprises our Family-of-Three, even as we exercise caution without fear, so we don’t contract or spread this pandemic.
My prayers go with this blog that your faith will flourish!
Feel free to respond, and I will pray specifically for you.