The experience of dread is one we have all tasted. If we were to compare it to an actual taste in our mouth, it would be bitter. What makes dread so bitter is revealed to us in the definition of the word. Dread is “to fear greatly, be reluctant to do something, or apprehension of something in the future” (Dictionary.com). The association of fear and reluctance to do something, go somewhere, or make changes in our lives is dread. It can be associated with anxiety as we rehearse the dread over and over in our minds. The result of these thoughts will be bitterness toward the reasons we have dread. If we are thinking about making a job change because the company is closing, we may be bitter toward the company as we dread the change. We may become bitter against a person who we see as the instrument of the change we dread. How can I handle these thoughts of dread? What is causing me to fear? What are the thoughts I keep having that fuel this dread? Does the Scripture have anything to say about dread? Let’s look at a couple of examples.
“But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.” Exodus 1:12-14
Remember the sons of Jacob who sold their brother, Joseph, into slavery. He ended up in Egypt and became the right-hand man of Pharaoh. Eventually the brothers needed food and had to go to Egypt to get it. After that, there is a family reunion when Jacob and all his household go to Egypt to live with Joseph. God had orchestrated this in Joseph’s life in order to save many people. The King of Egypt loved Joseph and welcomed his family. After Joseph died, his family continued to grow in number, but a new king began to rule over Egypt. This king didn’t know Joseph. He had no idea about Joseph being instrumental in saving the people of Egypt during a famine. All he could see was that the people of Israel continued to multiply, and he was afraid. He dreaded the possible takeover by these people. He chose to handle his dread himself. Here’s what he did.
- He became ruthless with the people.
- He made them his slaves.
- He made them work at hard labor in all areas.
So what we see is that the king of Egypt dealt with his dread by becoming a mean taskmaster. He thought he could control the Israelites this way. However, this didn’t really relieve his dread because the people continued to multiply. He had to change what he was doing and became more ruthless and even killed their young sons. This is not the way to handle dread!
You may be saying but I would never enslave or murder anyone because of my fear and dread. Maybe not, but our goal is the same as Pharaoh’s, we want to control the situation. In trying to control we’ll choose to manipulate, avoid, or fret about our circumstance. All of these choices will lead us to bitterness when the circumstance doesn’t change. Our way doesn’t work!
“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:40-44
Jesus is our example of how to handle dread. He was full of dread before the crucifixion. He was going to become sin for us and bear all of God’s wrath against our sins. The Father was going to turn away from him because of our sin. These were very grievous conditions for Jesus. He didn’t want to do it and was looking for another way. We can learn from him as we look at what he did do.
- He prayed. The Son of God, part of the Trinity, got down on his face and he prayed. When was the last time you got down on your face and petitioned God? There are a few times I have done this in my life and from that humble position, the Lord revealed things to me in a different light. When Jesus prayed, it was not just a “God bless” prayer, he prayed from his heart of dread and anguish. We need to pray earnestly and humbly.
- He prayed three times. Our dread needs to be something we pray about more than once. We can’t lift it to God and then walk away. As we bring it before God and share our emotions with him, he begins to work even through that. God wants us to present all of our concerns to him. If it’s still a concern, then present it again. Talk it out with your Father who loves you as many times as you need.
- He yielded to God’s will. Jesus prayed concerning his dread but he always spoke of his awareness of God’s will. He was aware of God’s will and he was desirous to do God’s will and not his own. When we dread, our first instinct is to just change the situation, but that really isn’t the answer. Jesus knew the answer, and that’s always God’s will. God has a purpose for the something you are dreading. He will see that purpose through, and we can follow kicking and screaming or yielding. Jesus shows us yielding is the answer.
- He was obedient. After Jesus prayed this prayer, he was arrested. He knew he was headed for death on the cross to redeem those who would follow him. He walked the road to Calvary. We must be obedient to follow Christ in the midst of our dread. What do we need to change in order to be obedient? Maybe just our outlook which should be trust in the Lord, rather than dread and fear. Jesus was obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Egyptians or Jesus?? What example will we follow today? The road Jesus took was hard and ours may be too. We know we don’t walk the road alone. Jesus has gone before us, walks alongside of us, and protects our backs.