I have a vivid memory of getting lost in the woods at summer camp. I was 9 years old at the time, and it’s undoubtedly fear that seared that event into my memories.
Times of fear heighten our emotions and sharpen our senses. I recall waking up in my bunkhouse in the dim light of late night needing to go the bathroom. I didn’t want to wake anyone up, and I was certain I could find my way to the bath house just a short hike through the woods. So, I got up quietly, set out to find the bathroom and promptly got lost!
I tried backtracking but that didn’t help. I ended up on some small footbridge that I hadn’t seen before and not far away from the cabin full of girls – an area that at that time in my life I had the firm intention of staying far away from! I remember looking all around me, at the woods rising high above, obscuring sky and stars, and feeling panicked. Not to mention that I still had to go to the bathroom!
So, I stopped and prayed. I asked God to help me, and I remembered a verse I’d learned either at church or at home:
Psalm 56:3 – When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (ESV)
As young as I was, I was learning to turn to God when overwhelmed with fear. And as I repeated that verse I continued to ask God to help me get to the bathroom and get back to my cabin. Not long after that I calmed down, and by looking around I could see that the bathroom was just a short distance away from the footbridge I was on. And from the bathroom another small path back to my cabin.
By remembering God, His nearness to me and His promised help, I triumphed over fear.
Psalm 56:8–11 You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
 Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
 In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me? (ESV)
Getting to the Heart
David had his own times “lost in the woods.” In this Psalm David remembers the time when he first fled for his life from Saul and ran straight to Gath in Philistia. It was a foolish move motivated by fear. David was fleeing for his life, not thinking straight. When he arrived in Gath (with the sword of G0liath of Gath tucked in his belt!), the Philistines recognized David and seized him. How did David escape? He started acting insane, letting spit run down his beard and scratching the gate posts in Gath. It was the Lord’s mercy and protection that allowed this façade to work, and David gave God the full credit by writing Psalm 56.
“This I know,” David says in reflection on that occasion when he was gripped by enemies, “that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Ultimately believers feel afraid. We get in situations like I did that night on the footbridge, or like David did by running into enemy territory. Often those situations are the result of our fears, and we face real threats due to making fear-motivated choices. David did wrong in 1 Samuel 21. He should not have run to Gath, and he might have lost his life, if not for the truth that God was for him. David worshipped God in repentance in Psalm 56:1 “Be gracious to me, O God.” David was counting on the Lord’s character of absolute graciousness toward him, and the Lord was true to His character.
Are you in a mess due to fear-motivated choices? Turn to the living God. Seek His forgiveness for choices made by fear. Trust Him for His grace and deliverance as you re-orient your life to “walk before God in the light of life” (Psalm 56:13).
Let’s talk it over:
- Have you ever gotten in trouble by running scared like me in the woods or like David in Gath? What happened?
- What truths about God from Psalm 56 can you find to pray to God and remember about God the next time you feel afraid?
O God, You are so gracious to us! We are prone to fear over things small and big. You know this about us, but You have promised to be for us as we follow You and live life according to Your Word. Sometimes we fail You and wander away from Your path because we feel afraid. Forgive us for those times and help us to worship You and trust You from Psalm 56 and other verses that remind us of Your graciousness and help in times of fear. We love You and thank You that You are our Helper! Amen.
“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”
Thomas Chalmers, 1923
Memory Passage for this Week:
Hebrews 13:5–6 Keep your ___ free from ____ of ______, and be ______ with what you have, for he has said, “I will _____ _____ you nor ______ you.”  So we can ________ say,
“The Lord is my _______;
I will not _______;
what can man do to me?” (ESV)