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Fear vs. Dismay

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:8-10 ERV)

While I recognize our passage is written to the nation of Israel around 600-700 BC, it still has application in our own lives today. The words I'd like us to focus on today are "fear not" and "be not dismayed". For the longest time I thought these both meant the same thing. Sometimes a quick trip to the dictionary lends just a sweet element of revelation you may never have considered! I think we have "overdone" the phrase "fear not" in today's day and age. It has become the bywords of some companies trying to instill the belief their "super-charged" energy drink will give you that burst of energy you need to go above and beyond, or their logo embossed clothing line will give you the edge to push yourself to the limits. The companies who use these words may do so for the purposes of making money, growing their bottom lines with the newest and greatest trends in clothing or flavors of energy drinks. The truth of the matter is that the words alone to "fear not" are not enough to "fuel us" for the journey ahead!

Joyce Meyer reminds us, "The eagle has no fear of adversity. We need to be like the eagle and have a fearless spirit of a conqueror!" The word fear is used to describe the emotional response we experience whenever their is the perception of impending danger, regardless of the perception being real or imagined. This is important because we often have fears that are simply "imagined" - no real basis in reality, but in our way of viewing a circumstance, the fear is very real. Oftentimes, the way to overcome the fear is to "right" the perception. Once I learned the two-wheeler bike would stay upright without a kickstand as long as I was peddling it at a certain speed and with balance attained atop the seat, I no longer feared that bike. I had to change the way I perceived that leap from a tricycle to a rather large, if not over-sized Schwinn! Sometimes we see the "size" of what is at hand and forget God has a much different perspective we can "tap into" to help us see things much closer to reality than our vantage point allows.

Dismay, on the other hand, is more of a continuous condition of the soul. Fear is situational, and goes away as soon as the "threat" leaves us. Bring a needle close to someone who fears shots and they will panic. Remove the needle and they will soon be breathing relaxed once again - the threat being removed, they are able to regain their "balance". Dismay, on the other hand, is that absolute breakdown of one's courage entirely - you are a broken man or woman - defeated sometimes even before you begin. There was a sudden danger or threat that got you to this place, but you never felt a release from the fear and eventually the fear developed into a place where all courage is gone. You are thoroughly discouraged because your heart believes their is no hope. Some refer to this as being "disheartened". Dismay has a way of affecting our inner man - fear might just get us moving a little bit, but being dismayed almost paralyzes us because we see no hope in moving. Dismay has that element of discouragement that fear may not quite carry.

Both are dealt with similarly, though. For God's remedy to both is to settle into his presence and deal with what is at hand. He settles our fear, giving us perspective that allows us to know exactly what to do to remove ourselves from the threat or deal it a defeating blow. He also helps us move into places of new hope, settling our hearts and assuring us of his consistent care and concern for our well-being. Nothing which seeks to utterly discourage us is from God. To overcome these things, we must ask God for his grace to overcome our sense of hopelessness. In his presence, we find hope and help. Nothing can stand against the one who has learned to nuzzle right up into his arms and get his perspective on the things at hand - NOTHING. Just sayin!


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