Feb 28

 “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

I love this quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. I can only imagine how many “scary” things this American First Lady had to do each day. She was described as a shy child and was orphaned by age 10. Later her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was stricken with polio, necessitating her expanded role in his political career. Eventually she became the first First Lady to speak out on political and humanitarian issues, for which she was both strongly criticized and enthusiastically praised. I wonder if she woke up each day reminding herself: Do one thing today that scares you.

That’s probably a good mantra for those facing serious trials and their caregivers—although some days you may have to do several things that scare you!

A post appearing online in recent years asserts that the phrase “Fear not” appears in the Bible exactly 365 times—one for each day of the year. The first time I saw that post, my natural reaction—as a reporter who needs two sources to verify anything—was to look it up and count them for myself.  I turned to BibleGateway.com and discovered the King James Version uses that phrase 64 times—exactly .1753424 times for each day of the year.

Okay, just because it’s not listed 365 times doesn’t mean it’s not good advice for every single day.  So what do we do with our understandably fearful reactions?

There’s a great story in the Bible which I believe offers some clues. It’s found in 2 Chronicles 20. The Jewish king Jehoshaphat was told that some great armies were coming to attack Jerusalem. His reaction was not atypical from what ours might be—he “was terrified” and then he “begged the Lord for guidance” (2 Chronicles 20:3). Shortly, God answered that prayer by sending His Spirit to speak through one of the king’s men:

He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!” 2 Chronicles 20:15-17

The king and his people agreed to “fear not”—instead they believed God and began to worship Him, praise Him, and sing to Him. At the very moment they did this, the Bible says God caused the approaching armies to fight amongst themselves and kill each other. The Israelites won the battle without a fight because God fought for them.

Logically, standing still does not sound like a good way to win a battle. But then God’s ways are not our ways, are they? The armies coming against Jehoshaphat were way too large and powerful to be defeated by him. The situation was hopeless from his perspective—but it was hope-filled from God’s vantage point. All the king had to do was acknowledge his fear, pray to God and then stand still.

One of the most difficult admonitions in Scripture for me to follow is Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” 

The word translated still in Psalm 46:10 is the Hebrew word harpu. I’m no Hebrew scholar, but I did some research and found it conveys the idea of ceasing to act or letting go. It’s the opposite of striving with our arms up, ready to fight or at least defend ourselves.

I know that we talk about “battling” cancer or other illnesses, but I also think that at times we need to quit striving, acknowledge our fears, surrender the fight to God and release His power to work in our situation.

Perhaps the scariest thing God is calling you to do today is to “be still” and trust Him.

The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Psalm 118:6 NLT

COURAGEOUS PEACE REPLACES fear when we are still and know He is God. (This post is excerpted and adapted from Peace in the Face of Cancer, copyright Lynn Eib 2017.)

[1] Although this quote is widely attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, including in a 2013 book by the same name, I could not verify any original sources. The earliest verifiable print source with this phrase appears to be a June 1997 Chicago Tribune advice column by Mary Schmich. But even if Mrs. Roosevelt didn’t utter this sentiment, I think she lived it!

(If the music doesn’t load, please use this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0B-yfgmezM)