Psalm 46 calls for a courageous facing of our worst fears. It summons us to face head on the possibility of the total destruction of our prosperous way of life, to stare down the worst-case scenario.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. (Psalm 46: 1-3).
Verses 2 and 3 boldly explore the potential arrival of the ultimate calamity. They say: “though the earth should change,” alluding to the shuddering of an earthquake which could make Jerusalem’s walls tumble down. “Though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea” refers to a catastrophe of eschatological proportions, the unhinging of the earth and crumbling of its most invincible towers. Finally, they say: “though the mountains quake at its swelling pride,” bringing to mind volcanic eruptions of Mt. St. Helens-like magnitude, which can result in a Pompeii-like lava flow bringing death and devastation.
The Psalm calls me to boldly entertain the possible prospects of my home being buried, my business going up in flames, my town being leveled in a quake, my children being swept away in a flood, and my spouse being killed in the wreckage.
I may shrink back from this approach to dealing with my fears, claiming it’s too negative, or morbid, or pessimistic. But this is not morbid pessimism. It’s godly realism. These things may indeed happen! And it’s not for us to traffic in deception, evasion, or suppression, but in reality, honesty, and integrity.
Charles Spurgeon, whose sermon on this Psalm is entitled, “Earthquake but not Heartquake,” well summarizes its thesis: “This is the doctrine of the Psalm: Happen what may, the Lord’s people are happy and secure.”
When our firstborn son was about six-years-old, we moved into a new house, and he got a new bedroom. But after a while, this became a big “fear” problem, for on the west wall was a miniature door that led into the attic. To Jared, the attic became a dark cave filled with bears, wolves, dragons, and other hobgoblins. At any moment, it could swing open into his room, and he’d never be heard from again!
What’s a parent to do? Late one night, when Jared was shuddering, I got an extension cord and attached it to an engine repair light. I swung the door open, and, yes, the two of us climbed into the dreaded attic. Pointing the light toward the roof’s northern slope, I whispered, “Look Jared, it’s the killer playpen! And over there, it’s the abominable box of sweaters. And there, it’s the deadly carpet-roll. And there, it’s the quicksand insulation.”
We investigated every corner of the attic and discovered that there was really nothing that could hurt him. And having stared down his fears, he exorcised them, enabling him to sleep peacefully. We put a flashlight on his dresser, in case the lies returned, enabling him to reinvestigate and again tell himself the truth.
Years ago, a twenty-year-old young lady sat in my office sharing with me her oppression and depression stemming from the fear that she’d never marry. She was terrified at the thought of being forbidden the joys of wifehood and motherhood. The thought of living alone in her older years brought on her great emotional agony. My first impulse was to say, “Nonsense, Esther, you’ve got a nice personality, an attractive appearance, a tender heart, and surely God will send the right man your way.” Then I thought, “How do I know that? Sure, the percentages are heavily in her favor. But the pillow of percentages provides no true solace to a worried head. My assurances have no guarantees. I could be telling her a lie.”
Instead, I gave her the Psalmist’s counsel. “Though you have many attractive traits, there is a real possibility that you may never marry. That prospect is like an ominous attic door to you.” Then I told Esther about Jared. “You need to climb into that attic. You need to explore your worst fears. There you are, fifty-years-old, on Christmas Eve, sitting on the sofa alongside the decorated tree, all alone in your apartment, without a husband or children.
It seems unbearable. But is it really? Shine the light on it. I know it seems unendurably bleak and dark like ‘the valley of the shadow of death.’ But shine the light of God’s word on it. Look! You’re not alone at all. Your Good Shepherd is with you there in that apartment valley. He’s pledged, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28: 20). Your Father promised to provide all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4: 19). If you spend some time meditatively exploring this attic in light of the Scriptures, you’ll sleep much better and glorify God much more.”
This biblical prescription is a veritable panacea for treating fear. It sedates the anxious and uptight wife who desperately wants to be a mother, but is worried sick over the prospects of a childless marriage, enabling her to sing from the heart: “Whate’er my God ordains is right.” It remedies the fear of a romance or engagement break-up, enabling the insecure maiden whose clinginess may drive her beau away, to adopt the personality of a well-adjusted woman of dominion and dignity. “Though my mother or my father or my fiancé forsake me, yet the Lord will take me up” (Psalm 27:10). Here is a woman who, by the grace and Spirit of God, is able to subdue her fears under her feet.
— an excerpt from Womanly Dominion: More than a Gentle and Quiet Spirit, by Mark Chanski (Calvary Press), p 179f.
Image: Red Riding Hood by Manuhell