Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Choosing Joy over Fear

Leslie Basham: Proverbs 31 describes a woman who has chosen joy over fear.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Here’s a woman who’s proactive—not just what some of us are, and that’s reactive. You know, the storm comes and then we say, “Oh my, what are we going to do?” She has thought ahead. She is proactive in preparing her heart, her life, and her family for the storms coming. She makes the kinds of choices today that will enable her to face the future days without fear.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, March 19.

When you think about the future, what do you feel? A lot of women would answer, "Fear." It's common to fear the future. Nancy recorded a series of messages during a time of major transition in her life and in this ministry. The biblical insights she explored while in the middle of upheaval will help you trust God when you are tempted to fear.

I'm pleased to tell you that the time Nancy's describing did come to an end, and God did sustain Nancy, day by day. He'll do the same for you, no matter what you are going through. Here's Nancy.

Nancy: It was about six months ago that the Lord put two verses from the Old Testament on my heart to share with a group of women that I had been asked to speak to. I shared those verses with them, and it seemed to minister to them.

So within the next several weeks, I had several speaking engagements. I shared that message or version of it five or six times within the period of a few weeks. What I didn’t realize at the time was how much I was going to need that message and those two verses. The Lord was preparing my heart for what was ahead in the coming weeks.

Over the past few months, as many of you know, we have initiated some changes in our ministry. They are good changes. The team has sought the Lord, and we believe the Lord is leading in this way. But those changes have required some changes for me. I’m in my fifties now, and I just really don’t like change. Maybe some of you are that way.

At times as the journey has unfolded, I have found myself feeling anxious, having fearful thoughts about the future. I’m not prone to be a fearful or an anxious person, but I surely have had those moments over the last weeks, and at times have found myself dreading what lies ahead. Not all of it, of course; there are some wonderful things I know are coming.

But I’ve been dreading at points some of what is unknown to me about the future, and I’ve been dreading some of what is known to me about the future. I’m sure that you’ve had moments of dreading both the known and the unknown.

But over and over again, I have found myself going back to those two verses that the Lord put on my heart months ago, and counseling my heart with the truth of God’s Word. I have found that these two verses have been a life preserver, a life jacket, a lifeline, that have buoyed my heart and my emotions and my thoughts in the midst of some turbulent waters.

So I don’t know what you may be facing today, or maybe your life is going fine right now. But I could give you an advance notice that around the corner you’re going to be facing some things that are difficult. I don’t know if it’s tomorrow or next week or next year, but you can count on it. You’re either coming out of a storm, or you’re in a storm, or you’re heading into a storm. I mean, that’s just life here in this fallen world.

And so you may be facing some things that cause you to be anxious or fearful about the future, to dread what lies ahead. I believe that these words the Lord has spoken to my heart from Proverbs 31 are words that every Christian woman needs to hear and to embrace. So over these next few days I want to meditate with you on these two verses and just unpack for you some of what they have been saying in my life.

So Proverbs 31, if you’re turning there you can look for yourself at these two verses. Now when I say Proverbs 31, I know that a lot of women just kind of groan inside because we think of this woman of excellence, this woman of virtue, and we’re prone to focus on all the things this woman does. I mean, she’s a good cook. She keeps her house clean. She sews. She makes things. She never goes to bed at night. I mean, it’s just amazing this woman’s energy and skills, her abilities, her diligence, her productivity.

It’s important for us to understand that the things this woman does, her work, her efforts, they all flow out of who she is. Her character, her heart attitudes, her relationship with God. We’re going to pick up on that heart attitude as we read these two verses in Proverbs 31. I’m looking at verse 21 and then at verse 25.

Verse 21 says, “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet."

And then verse 25: “Strength and dignity,” or strength and honor some of your translations say, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Or as your some of your translations say, “She smiles at the future.”

So I want to look today at verse 21 and focus on that phrase, “She is not afraid.”

Verse 21: “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.”

Now snow represents the cold weather, the frost, the storms that are coming. If you’ve been to Israel, you know that Israel is basically a warm country, it doesn’t snow there very often. But it does occasionally snow. It can get cold. Here’s a woman who has taken measures to prepare her family for the snow when it does happen. It’s not something that happens every day. It’s not something that happens often. But she’s taken steps to prepare her family for when the snow does come.

She knows the snow is coming, and yet she’s not afraid. She’s not afraid. That’s a phrase that God needs to speak to the heart of many of the women in this room. She is not afraid.

Now that doesn’t mean that problems aren’t coming for this woman or for you. They are. The snow is coming. She doesn’t have her head in the sand. She’s not oblivious to the issues. She’s a woman who is knowledgeable. She’s alert; she’s aware of what’s going on. She’s not a woman who just sticks her head in the sand and says, “Oh, there are no problems that are going to come in the news or in the world or in my family.” She knows they are going to come.

But the thought of cold weather, the thought of crises, the thought of difficult or trying circumstances does not cause this woman to panic. She’s not caught off guard, and that’s because she has thought ahead. She has anticipated the issues. She has planned. She has made necessary preparations for her family’s needs to be met. She has done it before the snow comes, before the storm comes.

Here’s a woman who is proactive—not just what some of us are, and that’s reactive. You know the storm comes, and we say, “Oh my, what am I going to do?” She has thought ahead. She is proactive in preparing her heart, her life, and her family for the storms coming.

She makes the kinds of choices today that will enable her to face the future days without fear. So when the storm comes, she can use the deposits that she’s made. They’re in the bank. She’s made the preparations in advance.

Now, "she’s not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet." That word scarlet is an interesting word, and there are translators over the years that have translated it in two different ways. The ESV, the English Standard Version that I’m teaching from, has a marginal note that says the word scarlet could be translated “double thickness."

In fact, some of the old translations—the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate translations—translate this “double garments.” Her household are clothed in double garments. They are doubly clothed. And that makes sense if you’re thinking about snow coming that that would be the meaning, that her family is warmly clothed. They’re adequately clothed. They have warm enough clothes to get them through the cold winter snow and storms.

Some commentators believe that this translation makes better sense than the word scarlet because after all, how can a color, scarlet, keep you warm in cold weather? But most translations, most modern translations do translate the word scarlet.

If that is the correct translation, it is referring to a color. But the color scarlet, scarlet clothing in that era, would have represented high quality clothing because it was more expensive. It was harder to come by, and we’ll see why in just a few moments.

So her family is clothed in the quality of clothing that they need to take them through stormy weather. Her household are all clothed in scarlet. Here’s a woman who cares for her household. I would say by way of application, expansion of this concept, it’s not just her literal family. Though if you have a husband and children, that should be your first concern of those that you care for.

But some of us in this room do not have a husband, do not have children. I believe household could apply to any of those that we care for—those that we serve, those that we minister to, those that we’re responsible for in some way. Here’s a woman who is concerned about the needs of her household—not concerned first about her own needs but concerned first about the needs of others.

Here’s a woman—you see it all the way through Proverbs 31—who lives first for God, then for others, then trusts God to care for her own needs. And as we think about our own lives, I think the call is for us to make sure that we’re caring adequately for the needs of those that God has entrusted to our care rather than worrying first about our own needs. If we will serve the Lord, serve others, then God will make sure that our needs are met.

She’s a woman who plans ahead. She’s diligent. She works hard. She’s intentional. She makes sure that her family is prepared for what lies ahead. Now the Scripture says that she’s preparing her family for snow. And I think in the immediate context here it’s speaking literally of storms, cold weather, inclement weather. She’s preparing them, making sure that their physical needs are met when the storm comes.

But as I’ve been meditating on this passage, I think we can make a spiritual application here about the word snow. Snow can refer, of course, and some it does in this passage to physical, literal storms. But there are other kinds of snow that comes into our lives. There are other kinds of storms:

  • the storms of life
  • economic pressures
  • physical pressures
  • relational issues
  • marriage issues
  • health issues 
  • conflicts in relationships

And there are storms of life, things that catch you off guard, things you weren’t expecting, things you didn’t know were around the corner.

Some of you as I’ve said are in some of those storms perhaps right now. Here’s a woman who has looked ahead and taken the time to prepare her family—those under her care—for the storms that lie ahead. She has taken time to train them, to fill their minds with the Word of God, to teach them how to think biblically about those circumstances of life.

For example, and we won’t look there now, but the first nine verses of Proverbs 31 are a good illustration of this. King Lemuel—we don’t know who he was—but his mother speaks to him in those first nine verses, undoubtedly before he was the king but as he was being prepared to become the king. Perhaps as a young man or even a boy she taught him things that would prepare him for his future as the king.

She talked to him about very practical things. She warned him against immorality, against the use of alcohol, against indifference to the needs of others. She tries to build into his life the character qualities of purity and sobriety and compassion. She’s preparing him for the snow, for the storms that are coming. She’s getting him ready for the future.

The wise woman, the true woman, the woman of God, prepares her family and those within her care for the future. She prepares them also for the storms that relate to God’s judgment and God’s wrath. Those are storms that are coming some day to every part of this planet. She prepares those she loves for those storms. And how does she do it? By pointing them to Christ, by pointing them to the gospel.

That word scarlet refers to a dye. The scarlet dye in these clothes comes from an insect. And the insect is called the tola worm. In fact, usually when this word in the Hebrew is used in the Scriptures, it’s translated scarlet. But sometimes it’s actually translated worm. That worm, that insect, when it's crushed to death releases a fluid that is used to make this scarlet dye that is put into those clothes.

Jesus Christ the Son of God became a worm, so to speak, on our behalf. It pleased God to crush Him, Isaiah 53 says, to put Him to death. He was crushed; He shed His blood for our sins. I believe that that scarlet in Proverbs 31 with which her household is clothed could be seen as a symbol, an emblem, for the blood of Christ by which we are justified and by which we are able to be clothed in His righteousness.

So as you think about your children, your family, those within your care, it’s a call not just to be concerned about getting their physical needs met. That’s important, and a wise woman does that. But also to be concerned that their spiritual needs are met, that they are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

Now you can’t do that for them. You can’t save your children. But you can create a climate and an environment where they’re surrounded with the reality of the gospel:

  • where you’re proclaiming Christ to them 
  • where you’re living out what it means to have a relationship, an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ
  • where you’re pointing them to the cross
  • where you’re letting them know what really matters

In so doing you’re clothing them in scarlet. You’re preparing them for the storms down the road.

Harold Ironside in his commentary on this passages says, “Jesus was bruised and slain so that all His redeemed might be clothed in splendor for eternity." Isn’t that what you want for your family? Are you taking concern, care, for their spiritual future? Or are you just getting caught up in the demands and responsibilities of everyday life—getting them clothed, fed, to school on time, to ballet lessons, to soccer practice? Is your life just filled with those things and have you been neglecting their spiritual care?

The wise woman is not afraid of snow for her household, for the future, of the wrath of God, the judgment of God, of future trials that her family may experience because she has taken care and concern and precautions to make sure that they are clothed with scarlet, clothed with Christ.

Now here’s a woman who is not afraid. She’s not afraid.

When you think about the future, there’s a lot you could be afraid of, any one of us. I mean we could come up with quite the list of things we could be afraid of.

  • Some of you have kids getting ready to get a driver’s license. That’s something to be afraid of.
  • your kids growing up, leaving home
  • parents getting Alzheimer’s
  • your husband losing his job
  • child killed in an automobile accident as happened last week to some very dear friends of mine, a family on our staff
  • your husband deciding he doesn’t love you anymore, leaving the marriage, being unfaithful

A lot of things could happen. Some of those things are happening in some of your lives. We need to remember that the righteous people are not going to be exempt from bad weather. But as godly women, true women, we can face the prospect of the future in a way that is qualitatively different than the rest of the world.

The natural woman is insecure. She hoards what she has because she is afraid of running out, not having enough. But the woman of strength and dignity is generous. She shares what she has with others, trusting that when she has a need, God will meet it. In fact, that’s what you see about this woman.

In verse 20 of Proverbs 31 it says, “She opens her hands to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” She’s generous. Even though she knows storms are coming, she doesn’t hoard the little bit she has. She’s generous, and she trusts that God will meet her needs.

The natural woman has a tendency to give into depression and despair when she thinks about the storms that are coming. But the woman of strength and dignity has hope. She exhibits joy regardless of how grim or dark the future may look.

Ladies, people should be able to look at Christian women and see a response to troubling times that is different, unexplainable. And let me tell you this—the world is not impressed when you are happy and peaceful and joyful in the good times. But when you go through the tough times and you don’t crack up, fall apart, get into depression and despair, they take notice. That’s when the gospel that we preach becomes believable to those that we live with.

I’m thinking of a woman who came up to me recently and she said, “My husband has lost his job, and I’ve lost my job.” And then she said with a big smile, “But we still have Jesus.” That’s a woman who is a woman of strength and dignity.

Leslie: Nancy isn’t finished. She’ll be right back to describe a Scripture passage that matches Proverbs 31. A few minutes ago Nancy described a season of upheaval in her life. She talked about the fear that tempted her, the same kind of fear that threatens each of us. 

We want to help you prepare for whatever challenging seasons that are ahead. We'd like to send you a booklet called, "Worries, Woes, and Worship: Moving from Fear to Faith." Our team put this Bible study together based on the book of Habakkuk.

Do you ever feel like God isn't hearing your prayer? Do you get tired of the injustice you see all around you? The prophet Habakkuk was bothered by questions like these. This booklet will show you how questions like these opened up the door to understand God in a new way. The study will encourage you to choose faith over fear and worship over worry.

We'll send to the study "Worries, Woe, and Worship" when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for it when you call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Anything that makes you need God is a blessing. That includes the problems causing you fear. Nancy will explain why tomorrow continuing to tell us how to face the future with joy from Proverbs 31. Now she’s back to wrap up today’s program.

Nancy: In Psalm 112 we find a parallel passage that speaks to men who fear the Lord. And let me just read a few verses from that passage. It’s so similar to this passage in Proverbs 31. It says:

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. (vv. 5-8)

It’s said here that we’re living in uncertain days, and there’s a sense in which that’s true. But there’s a sense in which the days in which we’re living are certain. Because the Scripture tells us in 2 Timothy 3 along with other passages that in the last days things will get worse and worse. And you can go to 2 Timothy 3 and read those first four verses and be reminded of what these last days are going to be like.

"People will be lovers of self . . . proud, arrogant, abusive . . . ungrateful, unholy, heartless . . . slanderous, without self-control, brutal." How much of that are we seeing in our culture? "Treacherous, reckless" and so on. These are uncertain times. We know that things are going to get worse and worse.

But I want to challenge you with this thought that for such a time as this, God is raising up women whose lives stand out as being different, women who make a difference in their culture, in their environment, in their homes, in their communities.

You see, the reason this woman is not afraid as she faces her future, the reason she doesn’t have to be afraid is that she fears the Lord. She’s a woman who fears the Lord. I think about that verse in Isaiah chapter 8 that says,

The Lord spoke thus to me with this strong hand upon me  . . . saying . . .  "Do not fear what they fear, [do not] be in dread." But the Lord of hosts . . . Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. (vv. 11-13)

Ladies, if you fear the Lord, you don’t have to fear anything or anyone else. As we read in Job 5, “You shall not fear destruction when it comes. At destruction and famine you shall laugh, and [you] shall not fear the beasts of the earth” (vv. 21-22).

Here’s a woman who fears the Lord so she’s not afraid of the future. She trusts in God’s sovereignty. "In quietness and trust shall be your strength." (Isa. 30:15)  “She’s not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” (Prov. 31:21, 25).

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version. 

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion