Following God's Diversions
I'm infinitely glad that the Bible tells us not to be afraid so frequently.
The fact that the words, 'do not fear' or 'do not be afraid' appear over sixty-five times in the Bible (some sources suggest it's over one hundred) tells us that God recognises something about humanity:
We're very easily scared.
This is something I've been praying a lot over the last few years, because I'm the kind of person who will 'what if' all day until I'm convinced the world is going to end because I made a stupid comment on a meme post.
(alright, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get what I mean)
My disposition tends towards imagining the worst outcome of a situation - doubting that God will work the situation for good- and with the way the world has been lately, I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling unsettled. With skyrocketing prices, invasions, political unrest, persecution and myriad other issues, all of us are being faced with some bleak, anxiety-inducing worst-case scenarios. It's difficult to find stability in a world that's constantly shifting.
But unsurprisingly, this is nothing new.
Since the first of January, I've been starting my day with Dane Ortlund's devotional, In The Lord I Take Refuge; although the exterior is extremely pretty (the cover is absolutely stunning, and the pages of my copy actually smell like brown sugar) the true beauty is in the interior. The thick hardback book contains the complete ESV text of the Psalms, along with a short devotional for each one.
I've been making the effort to not just read the sections, but meditate on and study them, and it's really worth it; I often come away amazed, wondering once again how on earth a God so mighty and so great could want a loving relationship with people like us. The Psalms are such an intimate expression of this relationship; each chapter is full of the soul-spilled words of songwriters who walked this journey of faith before us, including the famous man after God's own heart.
Ortlund expresses the uniqueness and intimacy of the psalms in this way;
The Psalms give voice to our hearts. The wide range of human feeling here is given concrete expression. We are given language to address God with thanks and praise, but also with our feelings of desolation or despair or overwhelming guilt because of our sin. 
As such, the Psalms express everything we as human beings can feel on our journey through this life. David experienced betrayal, grief, anger, doubt, false accusations, guilt and utter despair. Throughout his life, he was semi-constantly under attack, first from Saul, then from foreign enemies, and then from his own son. The peace that the nation of Israel experienced under Solomon was only possible through the relentless efforts of his father to make their land secure and to establish their borders.
What with so many enemies, if anyone had something to be concerned about, it'd be David.
As a result, one of the things I love about his psalms is the utter honesty; David doesn't downplay the difficulty of his circumstances, and he doesn't try to hide his feelings about them either. In Psalm 6:6, he even admits that his despair has brought him to tears. The emotion is real and raw; there are no meaningless 'I'm fine's here.
But then the Psalm pivots.
It's inevitable; every single Psalm but one in all one-hundred and fifty has an upward glance, a glimmer of hopefulness. David pours out all of his concerns to God, but he doesn't dwell there. Instead, he turns his gaze to the dwelling of God.
When David is doubting God's promises, he reminds himself of God's faithfulness in the past (Ps. 25:6). When he fears the power of the nations, he reminds himself of God's might (Ps. 2:1-6, Ps. 9, Ps. 10). When he feels lost, he turns to the guidance of his Shepherd (Ps. 23). He rests in God, and only then can he find the peace to sleep soundly, even as the storm rages outside (Ps. 4).
David somehow always manages to find refuge, even when his life is a complete mess, and the world is out of whack - and that's something that most believers deeply desire.
But to find a peace that the world cannot touch, we need to have a peace that the world cannot give.
A Comfort Crisis
What's your favourite form of comfort TV?
For the last few weeks, mine has been Crash Landing on You on Netflix. Before that, watching a lifestyle vlogs from my favourite YouTubers was my main form of escapism, especially the ones who lived in extremely aesthetically-pleasing houses; essentially, I wanted to watch something that could make me forget about everything that was going on, even if only for a few hours.
The 'comfort genre' has become bigger in recent years; many of us have books, films, TV series, channels and songs that we put on to make us feel safe, or to help us out with a bad day. And don't get me wrong; these things can be helpful, and they're not inherently bad - there's nothing wrong with watching something that boosts our mood, provides us with inspiration or reminds us of good memories.
But when something is in such easy reach, there's always a danger of becoming reliant on it.
Like David, we're all pretty practiced at redirecting our thoughts when we don't like the direction they're taking - but unlike David, we don't often redirect them to God. Many times, we'll direct them right back to the world, which can only give us temporary answers. In fact, it'll often only make it worse.
Something I noticed about myself is that I'm most susceptible to YouTube binges when my mind is tired. Even today I've been on and off that infamous site, trying to find an excuse to procrastinate on anything that required mental energy.
More than that, I noticed that I'd go to social media whenever I was sad, anxious or overwhelmed, to help me forget how I was feeling. It did its job. For a few minutes, I'd be completely absorbed in forgetting my problems... but then they'd all come back. In fact, a little too much time on the internet and I'd feel a whole lot worse, after wasting my time with a whole lot of hopeless, unfulfilling emptiness.
I was ignoring the arms of the God of all comfort for the quick-fixes of the world, and it needed to stop.
The Discipline of Redirection
Over this month, I've been asking God to help me with the skill of redirection, though I couldn't recognise or pinpoint it at the beginning. With his help, instead of giving in and going down the easy road, I've started taking the diversion he points out to me. There always is one; a track leading off the well-worn, downward-sloping path of worry and strife, up a narrower path to green pastures and still waters.
It's all just a matter of looking in a different direction.
Try it for yourself; take notice of when a situation is beginning to overwhelm you, or anxiousness starts nibbling at the edges of your consciousness. Recognise when your thoughts are starting to circle around a concerning circumstance or 'what if' comes on repeat - and stop.
Hold yourself back from logging into Instagram, or tapping the Netflix icon. Don't go to your coping-mechanism; pick up your Bible. Get on your knees.
Tell your Heavenly Father about it.
Yes, it takes more effort. Yes, it takes willpower. No, it's not your natural response; but as soon as you get your feet on that Solid Rock, you'll realise that the waves of the world can't touch you.
Think about it for a second. What do we have to be afraid about? Jesus loves us, with a love that will never let go, no matter how many times we sin or feel as if we've let him down. Our worst failures cannot change his plans; no catastrophe can surprise him, and he will always be in control. Your worst-case scenarios are nothing compared to his incredible ability to work even the darkest of circumstances towards good. As believers, we're spiritually invincible; death has no hold on us. Our home is secure, our lives are secure, our future is secure.
When you are weak, he is strong. When everything is changing, he remains secure. When you have nothing, he will provide. He is your most faithful Friend, your loving, everlasting Father. If you don't believe me, just take a look at Romans 38 (especially verses 31 - 39). There's nothing God can't do, and there is no way He will ever let you be lost.
When we turn our eyes from our situation, and look fully into Jesus' face, what do we really have to worry about?
David phrased this truth so much better than me in the psalm I read this morning, Psalm 27.
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? 
If we run to our stronghold instead of to the world's castles of sand, we will realise that in reality, our circumstances need not terrify us quite so much after all. Choosing God's diversion is a daily discipline, and one that I know I will fail in over and over again, but I'm so grateful that it's always there. That He's always available for me, to help me in every circumstance.
So be intentional; turn from your circumstances and your coping mechanisms, and run to the Prince of Peace. Let him free you from the weight of concern, and the messiness of your situation; he is always ready, and he loves to be your refuge.
 Ortlund, D. C. (2021) In The Lord I Take Refuge: 150 Daily Devotions through the Psalms. Wheaton: Crossway
 Psalm 27:1, ESV
What have you been reading in your devotions over January? Do you have a favourite psalm? Let me know down below! <3