PRINCIPLE: “When fear sets in, retreat.”
I was, admittedly, scared. It was a typical opening to the school day – as the doors to my Junior High School opened, there was an instant mass of students in the entry foyer. Shoulder to shoulder, hollering morning greetings to friends, squeezing and pushing our way to our lockers – everything was routine. Until – big Randy hollered from across the foyer. Big Randy was tall, very tall – so tall he could see over the sea of humanity and spot me. Big Randy wasn’t often mean, but could be if he chose to be. He and I hung in different crowds. Big Randy and his crowd frequently got into trouble; my crowd did not.
And therein was the problem. Big Randy had been to juvenile court, and had apparently appeared before the judge, who happened to be my father. And Big Randy wasn’t happy about it. Now he was calling to me from across the foyer. Somehow I knew it wasn’t to thank me for having a wonderful father! At the sound of his voice I knew I could be in trouble. I wasn’t a fighter, I didn’t like conflict, and Big Randy was ready for both. The only thing separating us was a sea of fellow students. In an instant I was scared.
But before I could even decide what to do Pat, a friend of mine who got along fairly well with Big Randy, moved over to Big Randy and said something – I think he reminded him that his problem was not me and that the momentary pleasure he might have in confronting me would be short-lived because he’d only have to see my father again. But whatever Pat said worked – Randy backed off and it was over.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but Pat was my refuge – he protected me in the time of trouble. In the Old Testament we find that God established cities of refuge for people accused of murder but who might be innocent. In a city of refuge they would be safe. When filled with the fear of being caught and condemned, they could run to refuge. “When fear sets in, retreat.” In that context, Ps. 46:1-3 takes on significant meaning. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” God is our refuge and strength. “When fear sets in, retreat.”
It’s worth noting that the phrase “an ever present help” can be translated “God lets himself be found in trouble.” We don’t need to look for God or wonder where He is – when trouble comes He’ll let Himself be found. Verse 7 reinforces the concept: “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” So “When fear sets in, retreat.” Ps. 91 states it beautifully (1-12 CEV). “Live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then you will say to the Lord, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.” The Lord will keep you safe from secret traps and deadly diseases. He will spread his wings over you and keep you secure. His faithfulness is like a shield or a city wall. You won’t need to worry about dangers at night or arrows during the day. And you won’t fear diseases that strike in the dark or sudden disaster at noon. You will not be harmed, though thousands fall all around you. And with your own eyes you will see the punishment of the wicked. The Lord Most High is your fortress. Run to him for safety, and no terrible disasters will strike you or your home. God will command his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will carry you in their arms, and you won’t hurt your feet on the stones.”
Whatever your fear, whatever is threatening you, whenever your Big Randy appears, whenever your world seems to be falling apart: remember who and whose you are. Don’t fight, don’t run, don’t panic – “When fear sets in, retreat.” God is waiting to be found; He’s waiting to help; He’s got you covered. “When fear sets in, retreat.” And nothing, no one, anywhere, anytime, anyplace can ever separate you from His love made known to us through Jesus Christ our Lord.