Back in 2016, a man in New York City turned down a promotion, because he knew his office would be on the tenth floor. What is wrong with the tenth floor? This man suffered from what many of us struggle with—fear. He admittedly had a fear of elevators, which is called claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces, which combined with his acrophobia, his fear of heights, cost him his promotion.
Fear has a way of taking hold of us all, and if it gets a solid hook in our jaw, it doesn’t let go. Some of us have a fear of nighttime or darkness. Nyctophobia is an extreme fear of night or darkness that often causes intense anxiety and depression. Regular fears become phobias when they become controllers of our mind and result in excessive, irrational, and uncontrollable terror that impacts our day-to-day life. Being afraid of the dark often starts in our early childhood and we all view this fear as a normal part of our development, because we can’t see what’s around us.
Many of us fear each other, and God tells us in the Bible that this fear is a snare, but if we trust in the Lord, we will be safe. For most of us, thinking or meditating on our fears leads us to anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Doctors report that white-coat syndrome is part of most of our life when we go to see our doctor. White-coat hypertension is a normal phenomenon for many of us. We exhibit a higher blood pressure level above our normal range in a clinical setting like an emergency room, a hospital, or an urgent care center, although we do not exhibit this higher blood pressure in other settings.
God knows that whatever our fears, we exhibit more rest, peace, and calmness when we meditate on His Word in the Bible. The apostle Paul encouraged us all to give attention to reading the Scripture, to encouraging or exhorting each other, and to studying the doctrine of God. He adds, “Meditate upon these things.” The Greek word Paul used is “meletao” which means to make these things the object of our care, our forethought, and our interest rather than being anxious. The psalmist in Psalm 119 tells us to meditate. In verse 15, he writes, “I will meditate on Your precepts and fix my eyes on Your ways.” In verse 23, the psalmist says, “Even though princes sit plotting against us, we as God’s servants will meditate on His ways.” That means we don’t focus on our fears, but upon our Lord. In verse 48, the psalmist calls us to “lift up our hands toward God’s commandments, which we love, and to meditated on God’s statutes.” In verse 78, the psalmist reminds us that “proud folk will be ashamed because they wrong God’s people without a cause, while God’s people meditate on God’s precepts.” In verse 148 of Psalm 119, the psalmist tells us, “My eyes are awake before the watches of the night so that I may meditate on God’s promises.”
God’s Word is given to us to conquer our fears, but meditating has become one more fear of thousands of born-again believers. The Hebrew word the psalmist uses is “siyach.” It means to ponder or talk to ourselves or to others aloud about a subject. We can meditate in prayer or in singing, or in conversation.
The American Heritage Dictionary says to meditate is to think or reflect. Yet the enemy of our souls who is the author of many of our fears knows how to rob us of what God wants. We read about how Eastern religions use meditating on a specific word or thought as a way to empty our mind and promise us a deeper sense of awareness or reality. Many try this kind of meditation that has grown in popularity. Ironically, what those people are doing is the opposite of real biblical meditation, by trying to empty their mind.
The Bible wants us by meditating to focus on Jesus and God’s Word, to fill our minds and focus on God’s promises which will help us to overcome our fear. Using another Hebrew word, “hagah,” which means to think upon, David, the psalmist tells us in Psalm 63: 6-7, “When I remember You upon my bed, and meditate on You in the watches of the night, for You (Lord) have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings, I will sing for joy.”
Perhaps you’ve tried over and over to overcome some irrational fears such as the fear of the dark. Please begin meditating on the Word of God and watch your fears melt away and turn into hope, rest, peace, and joy in believing the Lord. Take heart when fear creeps in. Go to God’s Word and take heart. You will win many battles over fear by trusting and meditating in God’s Word.
Richard Carlson is the pastor of the Rock Springs Evangelical Free Church. Of his 52-plus years in ministry, he has pastored locally for the last 43 years.