I remember the moment when I had to tell my mother that her cancer had returned. She’d had surgery for a brain tumor and had been undergoing cancer treatments for about a year when her legs became weak. I delivered the news to her while she was lying in bed in our home: “Mom, the cancer is back.”
I remember the sense of despair that she felt for a brief moment. She put her head down in her hands and said “Oh, what’s going to become of me?”
What do the Scriptures say about fear?
There’s nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to fear. Fear can be part of a survival instinct, and the Scriptures tell us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Still, there is a fear that can overwhelm us at times. There’s a fear that can rob us of faith and trust. Faith and fear are opposites in some Biblical texts.
In Scripture, the heart is not just the seat of emotions, but it also governs our actions. Jesus referred to this when he said,
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. (Matthew 15:19).
Panic can take over when we think about the wrong things, but Paul says that the peace of God can guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).
Paul showed us what we should do when we’re afraid.
Paul must have felt some of the same panic when he was hungry and cold in Roman imprisonment. He told the Philippians:
Therefore my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. (Philippians 4:1-2)
Paul wanted all the household churches and all the Christians to be harmonious so that they could stand firm against the opposition as one body. He went on to tell them how to do that:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Learn how to cultivate New Testament faith by reading the Old Testament.
My mother followed Paul’s advice. Just a few seconds after her despair set in when I told her the cancer had returned, she lifted her head. “What’s wrong with me?” she wondered. “I know what’s going to happen to me. I trust in the Lord.”
Paul’s instructions to the Philippians came straight out of the Psalms. It’s amazing how much of the Old Testament is evident in his New Testament writings. Paul had immersed himself deeply in the Scriptures, and he had no doubt memorized many of the Psalms. We’ll take a closer look at this passage and at the Psalms which inspired it in my next blog.
The previous was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon featured on Dr. Sloan’s radio program, A Higher Education, on August 1, 2013.