I can remember a scary coat rack that stood behind my bedroom door. During the daytime, it held a few coats and one of those brim-styled fedora hats I wore when I was eight. It wasn’t scary at all. But when the lights went out, the coat rack turned into a spy or monster or some other terrifying creature, and while my reason told me it was only a coat rack, my fears spoke louder than reason. Fear is like that; it tries to rob you of truth so you have nothing with which to battle your fears. Children, with their vivid imaginations and less robust sense of reason, are particularly vulnerable to fear.
Whether our fear is real or imagined, in his Word God gives us all that we need to fight our fears. Perhaps there is no better advice than David offers in Psalm 56: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3–4 ESV).
Psalm 56 provides an antidote to fear—whether real or imagined—and offers helpful truth to teach our children and encourages them to lean on him whenever they are afraid.
Here are a few lessons we can draw from this psalm.
1. Fear is a normal emotion we all face in life.
David did not write, “If I am afraid,” as though fear might come, but instead, he wrote, “when I am afraid” (verse 3). Fear is a common emotion, one which we all experience. So, let us not scold our children for their fears but rather be compassionate and share times when we ourselves have struggled with fear.
Fear can be a good thing when rightly placed. A fear of heights, for example, can keep us safely away from a dangerous fall. Solomon writes the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Fear of the Lord helps curb our sinful nature for fear of judgment of consequences. We should welcome fear that keeps us from making foolish choices.
2. Trust is a decision of the will.
David shares, “I put my trust in you” (the second half of verse 3). David also declares in verse 4, “I shall not be afraid.” Again, we see David is making a decision. So, we see that trusting is a deliberate move. A child must put on a helmet or a seat belt to benefit from its protection. We rely on these safety devices to protect us, trusting the assurance of the manufacturers, who know the shock absorbing qualities of the foam or the strength of the belt to hold us in a crash. Similarly, our motivation to trust God comes from the assurance of his Word, which informs us of his character—that is the next point.
3. Trust is founded on the Word and character of God.
David declares in verse 4 that he will put his trust in God, “whose word I praise.” In the midst of his fear, David places his trust in God, having learned that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1) and God is a “refuge” and “fortress” in whom we can trust (Psalm 91:2).
4. We need to remember.
David repeats his trust in God. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God—in God I trust; I shall not be afraid” (Psalm 56:3–4). Encourage your children to memorize Psalm 56:3–4 so that in their time of need, they have it accessible in their hearts and minds. One way to rehearse these truths of God is to set them to a rhyme. Here is a poem you can teach your children.
I Shall Not Fear
When fear floods in depend on him,
whose word is true and pray,
In God I trust amid my fear,
I shall not be afraid.
For if a foe should seek my harm,
or darkness threaten thee,
God’s mighty hand will hold me fast.
What can man do to me?
5. God is sovereign over our troubles.
David opens the psalm describing his dire situation to God, saying, “man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me;my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly” (Psalm 56:1–2). Yet a few lines later, David declares, “What can flesh [man] do to me?” David knows and trusts that God is over all things and that nothing takes place apart from his command. He says as much in Psalm 139: “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16 NIV).
We need to help our children see just how much bigger God is than any of our problems, trials, or fears. How do we do that? By studying what the Bible says about God. Share the following verses with your children, which describe the sovereign authority of our all-powerful God.
- “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)
- “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
- “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39 NIV)
The best preparation to fight fear is knowing that God is all-powerful and is at work watching over us, protecting us from anything that should try to snatch us away from him. Fighting fear on our own is an impossible task. But we do not fight alone. When it comes to fear, we fight with God against our enemies. Our trust is not in our strength but in his.
Angels on Your Side
When a storm keeps Logan up one night at Grandpa’s house, Grandpa comforts him with stories about angels in the Bible who are ever at the Lord’s command. When an incredibly powerful angel is on your side, there’s no reason to be scared or worried! (Includes 3D imagery.)