We had planned the trip for months. I looked forward to seeing God’s wonders on display in the majestic peaks of Northern California. I couldn’t wait to hear the sounds of rushing water and stand beside the towering ancient pines.
After a long hike, we waited for our turn to stand at the rickety metal fence that was the only thing keeping us from falling thousands of feet to the Yosemite Valley below. As soon as I stepped up to the fence, my stomach grew nauseous. Then my head started spinning and all I wanted to do was run the other way. I could barely stay long enough for someone to take our picture.
So Many Fears
We’ve all met fear before. It’s been a ready companion since the day our first parent’s fell into sin and hid from God. We fear all kinds of things, from heights to deadly storms; from debilitating illness to lost jobs; from terror attacks to empty nests; from failure to the unknown future. For some of us, fear is a constant companion, enslaving us, ruling our days and our choices.
Some run and hide, staying as far from what they fear as possible. Others spend their days plotting ways to control what they fear. We search online to find solutions to our fears, only to end up more fearful. In the end, no matter what we do, fear wins the day as it robs us of our joy.
As believers, we know the Bible’s frequent admonitions against fear. We know that God calls us to trust in Him and to depend on Him alone in the face of fear. But the question is, “How?” How do we live in a broken and fallen world where fears surround us on every side? How do we turn to God in the midst of such fears?
Fear and the Psalms of Lament
God is rich in grace; He does not call us to a task without giving us the grace we need to carry it out. He provides this grace through His word which is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). One of the most profitable parts of His word–often overlooked, yet full of instruction for the life of faith–are the Psalms of Lament.
Most of us have turned to the Psalms when we are overwhelmed by the cares of this life–and, for good reason. As Calvin noted, the Psalms are an anatomy of all the parts of the soul. They mirror what is happening in our hearts in vivid prose, describing the deep pains of life in ways that we all understand.
The Psalms were not simply beautiful poems but were the songbook for God’s people. The Israelites sang them in worship the way we sing hymns on Sunday morning. They even sang the laments, the darkest of all the Psalms. Such psalms express the hardest and most painful of all emotions that humans feel: sorrow, rejection, despair, and fear.