Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, This is what the Lord says:
‘Do not be afraid of what you have heard.’”
(Isaiah 37:6a NIV)
Alarms. We hear them every day, beginning with the dreaded alarm clock. Police sirens, ambulance sirens, emergency vehicles or fire trucks rushing to answer a call, weather alerts, and many other sounds of alarm warn us of a situation or an impending threat. Most of these are genuine, while others are false. I heard the ominous sound of tornado warning sirens for the first time while living in Memphis. I stopped what I was doing to listen and find out what was wrong. Upon seeing my reaction, someone explained that it was a regularly scheduled test of the tornado warning system, not a real tornado threat. It was a false alarm.
Too many times we hear tragic news reports of people who ignore a railroad crossing warning, a valid alarm. But, we also hear stories of people who become alarmed by false information and foolishly act on it. For instance, many stories on the internet about everything from our health to our finances are unsubstantiated half truths that some people choose to believe and act on without giving any thought to source or facts.
Have you been fearful without reason? Have you felt anxiety, even though there was no legitimate cause for alarm? Don’t feel you are alone. Many of us have and do.
What do we do when we hear of an impending threat? Let me offer five steps we might take when a perceived threat grips us with fear.
1. Decide if the threat is perceived or real. Is what you have heard based on fact? Is it first-hand information or are you reacting to a rumor? Is it “fake news”? Recognizing the difference between a perceived and a real threat is the starting point. The Israelites, not trusting God, perceived the “giants” in the land of Cannan as a threat based on what they heard (Num. 13:32-33) and refused to enter. But, King Hezekiah heard a real threat from Sennacherib, ruler of the Assyrian Empire, who commanded a fighting force of thousands. His reputation as a ruthless warrior who left a trail of bloodshed and destruction in his wake was accurate and well-known. (2 Kings 19:10) Hezekiah trusted the Lord and was delivered from the threat.
2. Determine to ignore a faulty warning signal. If you find the “threat” is based more on your imagination or your emotions than in fact, you can continue to worry or call it what it is–a lie. Remember, the Lord described our enemy as “the father of lies.” (John 8:44) If there are no facts to support what you have heard and perceive to be a threat, treat it and your accompanying emotions as you would a faulty light on your car’s dashboard. Pay no attention to it. Instead, take it to God and ask Him to show you how to trust Him and ignore lies.
3. Devote yourself and the situation to God. Wisely, king Hezekiah sought the Lord and the counsel of His prophet Isaiah. While we no longer have miracle-working prophets like Elijah to speak to us on God’s behalf, we are far better off. Today, those of us who have surrendered our lives to God and have trusted Christ to save us don’t have to find a go between to talk to God on our behalf. We are invited to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may find mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)
4. Dive into God’s word for guidance. By His Spirit, God will speak to us through His word, the Bible. He shows us how others handled threats, gives us principles we may apply to our situation and provides us with the comfort and encouragement we need to find peace as we follow Him. He uses people who know His word and are submissive to His Spirit to encourage and guide us in these times. Your pastor and members of your church family have likely been where you are and would love to pray and search the Scriptures with you.
5. Delight in trusting God, he will have the last word. The words king Hezekiah and his people heard originated from an evil enemy with blood on his hands. This demented despot not only threatened God’s people, but he also blasphemed God. In this life, people will lie, slander, gossip, and attack each other. Some who do this believe they are serving God. (John 16:2) Sometimes God will deliver us and other times He will allow us to experience pain and great heartache, even if we are not at fault. But in every instance, He will have the last word. He will use the threats to strengthen our faith and the challenges to cause us to examine our hearts and remove every offense.
We may have no control over what people say and some of the situations we face, but we can control our response. We must ask God to increase our faith, so we choose to trust Him and not fear what we hear.