The Surprising Antidote to Fear

King David was a man’s man. Any guy who knows how to fight bears and lions has my respect. Yet David also knew a range of emotions, and he seems to have done a good job expressing many of them in the psalms.

One of David’s psalms, Psalm 27, became significant to me a few years back. Reading the psalm, it’s clear that David is familiar with fear:

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
    
When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
    
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
(Psalm 27:1-3)

I like a man who can express, even as he reassures himself, that he’s afraid. I appreciate that he concludes the psalm, in verses 7 to 12, with an apparent struggle in resolving his fear. Life is complicated like that.

What I really appreciate in Psalm 27 is David’s solution to his fear:

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
(Psalm 27:4)

What’s the antidote to fear, according to David. Beauty. In particular, God’s beauty. “Beauty is just what worry needs. Worry’s magnetic attraction can only be broken by a stronger attraction, and David is saying we can only find that attraction in God himself” (Ed Welch).

When I’m afraid, I’m learning that my fears often point to idols. I’m also learning that what I need is a giant dose of the only beauty that is big enough to displace all my fears: the beauty of God himself.

No, it’s not simple. That’s why I’m glad David finishes the psalm by wrestling through what this looks like in my life. But it is profound. The antidote to fear is God’s beauty. It’s often the last place I look, but it’s really the first thing that I need when I get scared.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Show Me

One of the reasons I enjoyed A Praying Life so much is that it’s more than a book on prayer. It’s a book about Paul Miller’s normal (in other words, messy) life, and how prayer takes place in that context. 

In A Praying Life, we discover that Miller is just as neck-deep in ordinary life as we are: lost contact lenses, children who misbehave, burnout, buying new cars, performance reviews, and more. I didn’t really need to read another treatise on prayer, but I sure needed to read how prayer takes place in the middle of the mess.

It reminds me of the time, many years ago now, when I had a pretty good grasp of robust theology, but not much experience with churches that blended robust theology with effective ministry. I didn’t need another theological book; I needed to see a real, ordinary church love truth and model effective ministry. Thank God, and I found a few, and I’m still finding more.

Don’t tell me the truth. Show me the truth. Show it to me in the messiness of kids throwing up, cars breaking down, bills that need paying, and houses that need cleaning. If you're a pastor, show me your church as it loves imperfect people, reaches ordinary neighborhoods, and deals with irritated people, struggling marriages, and discouraged leaders. We don’t need perfect, but we need to see real church planters, real pastors, real marriages, real churches, real disciples, real men and women. And others need to see me being godly and real too.

Show me, and include your struggles too. I’ve read the treatise. I desperately need to see your life, and others do too.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

2015 Is the New 1968

2015 is the new 1968. And I’m glad to be right here, right now, with you, for the most radical cause in history.

Rethinking Conversion in Context

Like the former missionaries, we must reconfigure our understanding and expectation of how people undergo gospel change and how disciples are made. We must be more open to “process conversions” while also guiding that process toward full commitment to Jesus as Lord.

Posture in Post-Christendom

I believe we are now living in a culture of Post-Christendom. While it may be the death of Christendom, I believe it is also the rebirth of Christianity.

What Do You Think Happened to the Emerging Church?

What happened to the emerging church? Let me give you a few reasons why I think it has passed.

The Life of the Mind for Knowing God

The Bible is not ambiguous about the fact that Christians are to be serious studiers.

When to Cover, When to Confront

Love, for the sake of the friendship, covers, ignores, blows off, makes light of, a multitude of sins when those sins are of the nature of a shortcoming. But the same love will risk the friendship with a bold rebuke when the behavior contradicts sound doctrine, when it denies the gospel, when it misrepresents the magnificence of Christ as something ugly and inhumane.

Hoping for Love

When some of us traditionalist Christians were moved by the pictures we saw of gay couples, or moved by the real-life visits with our gay friends, I think this is part of what we were feeling. We were wanting our friends not to be lonely and alienated from love, and we were wanting them to keep hoping and searching for Love Himself.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Negative Preparation

In his book The Making of a Leader, Robert Clinton describes what he calls “negative preparation items.”

God often prepares someone to accept the next steps of guidance by first allowing them to go through negative experiences during their present development phase….Negative preparation involves God’s use of events, people, conflict, persecution, and experiences that focus on the negative, in order to free a person from the present situation to enter the next phase of development with revitalized interest.

We need to be careful. Painful situations are not always a reason to leave.

God may want to use the situation to mature your character, as described in James 1:2-4, and this should not be confused with the negative preparation item in which God wants to break you loose from a situation in order to move you on to something you might not otherwise choose.

The negative situation leads to release, so that we “can be free to embrace a new ministry that would probably never have been considered without the negative preparation process item.”

God can redeem even the toughest experiences of our lives. In his grace, he can use even the negative experiences to launch us into the most fruitful and life-giving seasons of our lives.

 

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High

Pastors have — or should have — a few crucial conversations every week. The challenge: we’re not always equipped for these conversations. In a tense meeting, counseling appointment, or in the dozens of interactions with people every week, we have opportunities to rise to the opportunity, or feel like we’ve blown it.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High is written to help. It defines a crucial conversation as one in which opinions vary, the stakes are high, and emotions run strong. When facing a crucial conversation, we default to one of two responses: silence or violence. We either retreat from the conversation, or go on the attack. “When it matters most,” they write, “we do our worst.”

According to the authors, we can learn a better way. We can learn how to step up to crucial conversations, and handle them well with a set of skills. We don’t have to choose between telling the truth or keeping friends. The skills are simple, and yet challenging.

First, start with the heart by focusing on what you really want from the conversation, and refusing the fools’ choice of silence and violence. Challenge yourself to find a way to express your concerns without offending the other. Begin with yourself, rather than with focusing on the other person.

Second, be alert. Recognize crucial conversations, and watch for signs that people are becoming fearful. Notice your own behavior as well, and understand your default reaction to stress.

Third, make the conversation safe. Once you build safety, you can talk about just about anything. Ensure that you share a mutual purpose and respect; apologize if you’ve violated respect; make it clear what you don’t intend or mean; and create a mutual purpose for the conversation.

Fourth, master your stories. We don’t react to facts. We react to the stories we tell ourselves about the facts. Watch for signs that you are portraying yourself or the other party as victim or villain, or that you see yourself as helpless. Recognize your own role, and assume the best about the other person and their intentions.

Fifth, state your perspective. Share the facts, beginning with the least controversial, most persuasive elements under consideration. Tell your story, and what you’re beginning to conclude. Talk tentatively and ask for their feedback. Make it safe for others to express differing or opposing views as you express yours.

Finally, explore their views. Be genuinely curious and patient. Acknowledge what the other person is feeling; paraphrase their views; draw them out. Agree when you share common ground; build on what they say; compare where you disagree.

Crucial Conversations gives examples and practical advice on each of these steps. It also deals with tough cases in which their advice doesn’t seem to work. At the end of the book, the authors provide a quick summary you can use as you prepare for a crucial conversation.

I’m convinced that this book is a practical application of Jesus’ command to conflict: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). It is about respecting others enough to make it safe to talk about difficult things, without retreating to grace without truth or truth without grace. While not a Christian book, Crucial Conversations will help pastors — or anyone else — understand some of the steps necessary to hold difficult conversations in a way that is both honest and gracious.

I can think of many conversations I’ve had that would have been helped by the principles in this book. While no book can get at the heart change required to hold crucial conversations, this book gets at the skills. That makes it a valuable book indeed.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.