I watched my 9-year old son playing in the ocean on our yearly family vacation in Fenwick Island, Delaware, and I learned something about life (yes, there’s a beach in Delaware; and no, it’s not cold there, at least not in August).
When we first got there, Joshua didn’t worry at all about the waves. He just dove in headfirst and attacked the sea with passion and full abandon. He wore a life jacket only because his dad and mom made him.
Then, it happened.
He got rolled by a monstrous wave. I mean it broke right on him. It wasn’t an “over, under, or through” type of wave. It was an all-out sucker punch. He had no time to react. The wave just came upon him like an uppercut, and Joshua took it directly on the chin. Driven harshly into the bank, he lost his breath, cut his lip on the sand, and tasted the salt water’s sting.
Dazed and confused, a new emotion entered my son’s soul, not something he’d previously associated with the ocean.
It took him two full days and a lot of encouragement before he ventured back in the water, this time with his dad by his side. On one of those days confined to the shore, we talked about what David said in Psalm 56: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.” That verse helps me tremendously because I, too, struggle with fear. I told my son that my fear may look different from his, but the truth is that there are many times when I’m very afraid, and it helps me to know that King David struggled with fear, too.
I think I often approach life a lot like my son was approaching the ocean. I dive in laughing until I get smacked around. Then everything changes. Disillusioned by hope deferred, I keep my dreams to myself. Knocked over relationally, I’m less apt to dive back in. Sometimes, it’s easier just to say, “I’m not getting in again.” But then I think about all I’m missing and wonder if there’s another way of dealing with my fear than pulling back. I see another way in this psalm.
I like how David admits his fear in this verse. He doesn’t walk around saying, “I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid.” He doesn’t drive around with a No Fear bumper sticker on the back of his car.
Instead, David just acknowledges his fear. He owns it. He confesses it. And then he goes to God with it. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
I talked to Joshua about what it looks like to admit your fears and to take them to God in honest prayer. I shared with him about my own fears in business and how I was praying through them. I encouraged him to talk to the Lord, as David talked to God in this psalm, to battle his fear through prayer and trust in the Lord.
A huge smile came across my face when he got back in the ocean, this time with a healthy respect for the waves and a greater appreciation for the God who controls them and who helps us battle our fears.
As I survey the landscape of my own life, I can relate more to Joshua and to King David than to the No Fear guys. The truth is, I’ve been knocked around a few times. And every time it happens, I’m less likely to dive in to the deep-end and more tempted to fear. But every time fear strikes, I’m beginning to see it as an invitation to go to God in my trembling and put my trust in Him. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust, I will not be afraid.” (Psalm 56:3-4. Isn’t it good to know that we can be honest with the Lord about our fears, and He will give us courage and peace?