When a woman loves to pray, sing, and mediate the Psalms -and then encourages others to do the same, you know you want to become her friend. Thank you, Lindsey, for being a woman of the Word, what a gift it is for the church to have women like you!
And thank you for writing today for our continued series on Faithful Obedience.
Faithful Obedience: Fear and Gratitude
By Lindsey Tollefson
Obedience requires a command. We cannot obey unless there is something to be obeyed. I often give me children a list of what I want them to do with their time. Giving them something to obey is a kind way of helping them stay out of trouble. We have a kind Father in Heaven who has given us clear instructions about how we should be spending our time, how we should be thinking, and how we should be living. One of the most frequent commands in Scripture is “Do not be afraid.” The phrase “Fear not” is found 365 times in the Bible. Our faithful obedience to God means that we do not give in to fear. We do not fear the future, we are not afraid of how the past has affected us, we are not afraid of what God is asking us to do in the present.
It sounds so simple, but I think we all know that eradicating fear is not as simple as telling ourselves not to be afraid. In Psalm 118:6, the author writes “The Lord is for me, I will not fear. What can man do to me?” He goes on to remember all the ways that God has rescued him. In verse 21 he says, “I shall give thanks to you, for you have answered me, and You have become my salvation.” He is not afraid because he rests in the protection of God, and He rests because he is thankful. Gratitude is the great antidote to fear. In order to obey the command to “fear not” we must offer gratitude for everything.
A couple of months ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. This did not come as a surprise to me, as I’d been feeling half alive for a few years. But having the diagnoses brought about a new opportunity for fear, and therefore a new opportunity for me to faithfully obey. I found myself being tempted to fear my future. Would I be able to be the kind of mother that I want to be? Would I be able to be a helpful wife who brings blessing to my husband? Would I be able to serve my church and show hospitality? Would any of the treatment plans we put into place be effective or would I continue to get worse? In the midst of my uncertainty, I knew one command that I needed to obey: “do not be afraid.” If I was going to obey without fear, I needed to give thanks for the disease every single day. On the days when God pours out a gracious amount of energy, I give thanks. On the days when I am struggling to walk up the stairs, I give thanks. On the days that I am frustrated with how little I am able to accomplish, I give thanks. I give thanks for my illness.
Whatever circumstance you are in, faithful obedience to God means that you resist fear. It means that you use thanksgiving to crowd out your fears. If you are home with a bunch of small, needy children, do not be afraid that you won’t have enough energy. Do not be afraid that you are missing out on things the culture tells us are more important than children. Give thanks for the children and the fatigue. If you are praying that God would give you children, do not be afraid of the possible future without them. Give thanks for the barrenness. If you are working at a job you don’t love and earning a paycheck that barely sustains you, do not be afraid that you are wasting your time. Give thanks for the job. If you are struggling with relationships in your life, do not be afraid of what the future holds. Give thanks for those people.
God always takes our obedience and turns it into blessing for us. As soon as I started giving thanks for my sickness, I began to see all the ways that God was transforming our life through it. I began to see that there were weeds that could not have been uprooted any other way. I began to see that my health struggles are the goodness and mercy of God chasing me down wherever I go. When you take off the glasses of fear and put on the glasses of gratitude, everything comes into clear perspective. This is faithful obedience. Switch glasses and start seeing how your troubles are bringing glory.
You can find the introduction and index to this series here.