[Editor’s Note: We are forgetful and faithless people, so we need constant reminders of God’s faithfulness. This series of devotional articles will serve as stones of remembrance that God is faithful in every circumstance, even in our struggle with sin, loss, fear, and despair. Learn more about God’s faithfulness by studying his Word and walking in relationship with him through our new Faithful Collection featuring the Give Me Jesus Journal.
The following article includes mentions of panic attacks. This article should not replace seeking help and wisdom from your local church along with professional medical care. Our encouragement is for you to seek counsel from your local pastor, a wise mentor in your church, a licensed counselor, and/or a medical professional.]
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…
Psalm 23:1, 4
God’s Faithfulness in My Fear
We were eating lunch one afternoon when my daughter yelled for me to come to the dining room. My eight-year-old son, who lives with a disability, was choking. I went through the all-too-familiar steps to help unlodge his sandwich, but it didn’t work. My husband, who happened to be working from home that day, rushed in to help yet couldn’t clear our son’s airway. As I dialed 911 and watched my husband desperately try to save our son, my only coherent thought was, “The Lord is my shepherd, the Lord is my shepherd, the Lord is my shepherd.”
When our son’s face turned blue and his body went limp, we thought we would literally walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But after several attempts at CPR during what seemed like an eternity, just as the paramedics arrived, our son finally began to breathe. God graciously preserved his life.
Yet even though he was okay, the fear I encountered during this traumatic event didn’t subside. Over the next eighteen months, I experienced multiple panic attacks that affected my entire body with crippling fear. Sometimes the fear came when I remembered the events of the accident—traumatic images are difficult to erase. Other times I faced fear during normal activities. I was sure someone else in our family would get hurt. Fear became a constant companion. Driving down the interstate, playing in the backyard, swimming in the ocean, or lying in bed at night—I could not stop thinking about my son’s near-death experience, imagining what could have been and what might happen in the future.
Would I ever forget? Could I stand on the front porch again without images of my son’s limp body running through my mind? Was it possible to bear witness to trauma and walk away unscathed?
God had demonstrated his faithfulness in preserving my son. But what did God’s faithfulness to me in the midst of my fear look like?
We often think God’s faithfulness will mean the removal of fear, or at least healthy distance from fearful circumstances. Rather than seeking God’s presence when we’re afraid, we try to hide or move away from whatever triggers our fear. There’s nothing wrong with this instinct; wisdom and discernment guide us from harmful and dangerous circumstances.
But sometimes, perhaps most of the time, God’s faithfulness is demonstrated through the ways he provides for us in the midst of our fear. We may not be able to get away from terrifying images, memories, or even another traumatic experience. There are no guarantees of constant safety and protection. Yet we do have a God who faithfully provides when fear strikes at inconvenient times. Time and again, during the months after my son’s accident, God graciously provided the comfort of his Word, the presence of his people when I needed them most, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, fear was constant, but so was God’s faithfulness.
David’s words, penned in Psalm 23, remind us that God is with us even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. He might not take us around the valley or shield us from its darkness. God’s perfect plan for our lives may be to trudge us right through the middle of the longest night, unspeakable tragedy, or insurmountable loss. Does it mean he isn’t a kind Shepherd? No. Is it evidence of his unfaithfulness to his children? Of course not. A faithful shepherd carefully tends to his sheep through every wilderness, vulnerable exposure, wound, doubt, and dark night he allows them to endure.
Look at verse four of Psalm 23. David says that in the valley, he would fear no evil. No evil. Can you even fathom it?
We live in a fallen world riddled with sin, loss, and death. Tragic events and accidents happen every day. So how can we face the reality of a broken world without fear of what might come?
In the Old Testament, Scripture records David’s encounters with evil. He had enemies who sought to destroy him, and he stared death in the face on more than one occasion. David had much to fear. Yet, he was confident in one thing: God was with him. Even if he went through darkness, pain, loss, and fear, he wouldn’t let fear dominate because he knew God’s promise to be with his people—forever.
Knowledge of what could have happened and the awareness of what might happen can fill our minds with worst-case scenarios. But the actual worst-case scenario is to be separated from God forever. If we are in Christ—the One who was willing to be separated from the Father through his death on the cross on our behalf—then we need not fear the absolute worst. Jesus secured our eternal position. We are safe forever because of him.
We might bear witness to tragedy or trauma that will flood our minds with unforgettable images. God could allow us to experience a fearful circumstance that doesn’t harm us but does leave us trembling with fear. We may be called to stand by a hospital bed and watch as one of our children fights for his life. Yet no matter how terrible, tragic, or terrifying the situation may be, God remains faithful.
Because God isn’t afraid of what happened in the past nor unaware of how the future will unfold, we can rest in the comfort of his constant presence when fear grips our hearts.
Meet the Author
Lauren Washer is passionate about helping women to know and love God more through a deeper understanding of the Bible. She teaches the Bible and serves on the women’s ministry team at her local church. She and her husband Bradley live with their six children in Norfolk, VA. You can connect with her through her monthly newsletter, Hidden Treasure, or on Instagram.