Leading to Water- Genesis 32:9, 11, 24, 28

And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

COMMENTARY

And Jacob said, O God, Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children
Over the past two days I have shared how Jacob entered into a covenant with the Lord in his moment of want and began a partnership with him. From that foundation he gradually accumulated the family, the wealth, and position that would define him. Together with God, Jacob had found himself.
But then, after he had gained so much, he came to a moment where he might lose it all again. Esau, his brother, had previously sworn to kill Jacob, and was now approaching with a battalion of men.
Jacob was in danger of losing everything that he had gained, and not only that, but even of losing the little he had always had, even his own life. In this moment of desperation he once again turned to God and petitioned for help.

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
And he said, Thy name shall be called Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God.

On the eve of meeting his brother and receiving his judgment Jacob was left in total solitude. He was alone with his fears, and here he had another miraculous encounter with God. This one was a bit different more active than the vision he received in his sleep, though! This time he physically wrestled with the Lord, just as he had been wrestling with his fears.
And while I do not know the exact state of Jacob’s mind, I can personally see how in the moment of great duress I would benefit from a moment of exertion and struggle, a time to get out my fearful energy before the calming reassurance was given.
Ultimately Jacob prevailed and his request for preservation was granted. Not only this, but he grew even more fully into his true identity. He proved worthy of a new name, one that would define both him and the nation that issued forth from him.

Influence and Persuasion- Alma 20:20-22, 23; 22:5, 15

And he stretched forth his hand to slay Ammon. But Ammon withstood his blows, and also smote his arm that he could not use it.
Now when the king saw that Ammon could slay him, he began to plead with Ammon that he would spare his life.
Now the king, fearing he should lose his life, said: If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee whatsoever thou wilt ask, even to half of the kingdom.

Now the king said unto them: What is this that ye have said concerning the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, this is the thing which doth trouble me.
And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.

COMMENTARY

Now the king, fearing he should lose his life, said: If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee half of the kingdom
My wife pointed out to me how a story in the Book of Mormon applies very well to this topic of study. In it, a king is hostile towards a missionary and tries to kill him. But when the missionary gains the upper hand and the king sees that his own life is in danger, he immediately tries to bargain. As we see in this verse, he is motivated by that fear to give up an entire half of his kingdom, which would make his assailant as powerful as he is. Fear is a powerful way to pressure people into doing things.

And after Aaron had expounded these things the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life? I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
Of course the missionary does not kill the king, which catches the king by surprise. Later, when the king meets the brother of that missionary, he requests to be taught. For the first time the king hears the gospel message, and at this point he is filled with hope, not fear. Now he makes another offer, this time for his entire kingdom, which would leave himself powerless, if only he can have the goodness that his heart desires.
This story is a wonderful example of how fear is a powerful motivation, but hope is even greater. People that are inspired by hope will always be able to do more than those who are driven by fear.

Influence and Persuasion- Moses 1:12-13, 19-20

And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.
And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?
And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.
And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.

COMMENTARY

Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me
Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded
Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell
Satan wants Moses to do something for him. His first approach is to “tempt,” trying to coerce Moses into behaving the way he wants him to. Moses is resistant to that, and Satan responds by getting loud and angry, now trying to frighten Moses into doing what he wants!
Coercion and fear. This one scriptural example gives us a very clear picture of Satan and his methods, and it is a picture that we are all too familiar with. For Satan has taught these tactics to all mankind, and we have been quick students of the form. I am sure we can all recall times that another person has tried to manipulate and frighten us into giving them what they wanted. I am sure we can all recall times we have used these tactics to get what we want, too.
Of course, this method requires a great deal of energy from the forcer, as they must submit the other against their will. And obviously the person being forced will not be converted to the cause, they will only remain subjugated so long as they are under the power of the controlling force. It is only their behaviors that are being influenced, not their inner desire. Thus, even from a pragmatic standpoint it is an unsustainable method, and sure to falter sooner or later. But more importantly, it is unquestionably immoral and abusive.

Dealing With Failure- Proverbs 3:5, 1 Corinthians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 2:5

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

COMMENTARY

Lean not unto thine own understanding
The weakness of God is stronger than men
Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God
I have previously spoken of how I have sometimes been too hard on myself when I slip, and as I’ve considered that negative self-talk I have realized that it is a misguided attempt to control my behavior through fear. I am trying to force myself to be better via the tools of shame and embarrassment.
And this is me relying on my own strength, trying to control things according to my own power. In this effort I am utilizing the same forms of coercion that mankind has relied on through all of history to get what they want. Fear and shame are techniques that we continue to fall back on even though they are hugely ineffective. They are techniques that we use as a substitute for genuine power and confidence.
But as these verses suggest, there is a better way. There is another source of strength that each of us has access to, one that is greater than any mortal strength. So now the question is, how do we stop relying on our own power to improve ourselves, and utilize God’s instead?

The Captive Heart- John 16:33

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

COMMENTARY

In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
We have spoken about how we tend to fear the world, and have a strong desire to conform to it. This eventually leads us to compromise our conscience, which results in us feeling broken and unworthy.
And so we are, for we have traded God for carnality, and have consigned our fate with the rest of this temporary, soon-to-die world. The pain that we feel is nothing more than the accurate and appropriate realization of our own condemnation. Our fates are now sealed with this world forever.
Or so they would be…if one had not come to overcome the world. When Jesus speaks of his conquering the mortal realm, it has two applications in our life. The first is that he is able to ransom our hearts from the fallen world tp which we have sold it. He brings us back to belonging to heaven, and not to earth. The second application is that he can overcome the fear of the world in our hearts, so that we do not feel so compelled to sell ourselves to it again in the future. He both frees us, and enables us to remain free.

The Captive Heart- Matthew 26:73-74, 1 Samuel 8:4-5, 7

And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

COMMENTARY

Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man
Yesterday we examined how Saul and Aaron succumbed to their fear of the people, and did something that went contrary to their conscience because of it. Today we have another example, that of Peter denying the Christ.
What I find particularly interesting in Peter’s situation is the exact pattern of his failure. It is his speech that brings him into disharmony with the masses around him, his manner of words shows that he is a Galilean, and an associate of Jesus. So what does he do? He changes his speech. He curses and swears and denies. He will conform his words however he needs to to disassociate himself from the truth. Our social fears lead us to conform, even to our own condemnation.

Make us a king to judge us like all the nations
And the Lord said unto Samuel, they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them

As the Lord spelled out to Samuel, the choice to conform to the masses, contrary to our own conscience, is us rejecting Him. It is as simple as that, and I think the aching of our hearts shows that we already know this to be true. The excuse “they made me do it,” just never tastes right in the mouth.
Even so, we do need to understand the reality that each of us will be afraid at times, we will conform to those around us, and we will reject God in so doing. It isn’t a good thing, but it is a reality that has to be acknowledged. It is simply part of the package of mortality. Given that fact, it becomes clear that we need a Savior to rescue us from the masses.

The Captive Heart- 1 Samuel 15:24, Exodus 32:21-23

And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?
And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.
For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

COMMENTARY

I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, because I feared the people.
What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.
Saul and Aaron were spiritual giants of their times. A king-prophet and a high priest intended for greatness. However each of them showed moments of weakness, times where they disrupted their streak of faithfulness by going contrary to their own conscience. In both cases, this sudden shift of spiritual trajectory was due to their fear of the people.
To fear the people is understandable. Being “swayed by the masses” or giving in “to peer pressure” are common foibles of humanity. When we are outnumbered we have a sense of possessing less mortal power. Our survival instincts recognize that the masses have the ability to shun us, brand us, or even kill us. When we succumb to that panic, we will do whatever we can to save ourselves. So yes, it is understandable, but losing oneself out of such fear it still as heart-rending as losing oneself for any other reason.
Indeed the guilt of wrongdoing is now coupled with the shame of weakness. It is a hard thing when each of us discovers that in spite of knowing what we ought to do, we do not have the strength to see it through.

Count Your Blessings- Psalm 23:4, 3 Nephi 10:6

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart.

COMMENTARY

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me
The Psalmist knew a great secret when it came to overcoming the fear of the world, it was his understanding that “thou art with me.” Going through hard times is hard, but going through hard times alone is unbearable. If God is not with us, then we are left to fear every evil that lurks within the valley of the shadow of death. If God is with us, though, then we have a sure confidence from all else.

How oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will return unto me
But it isn’t simply a question of God being with us. God is ever with us…if we will allow Him to be. Many people are lost in despair not because there isn’t any healing available, but because they will not permit themselves to receive it.
Counting one’s blessings is not simply to reflect on what good things there have been in the past, it is reminding oneself of what assets are still available right this very moment…if we are just willing to make use of them.

Count Your Blessings- 1 John 4:18-19

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
We love him, because he first loved us.

COMMENTARY

There is no fear in love; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love
It is impossible to properly love God when we are afraid. And the value of loving God is not only in rendering to Him what He is due, it is for our own benefit as well. For when people do not love God, they are not good to themselves or others. When people do not love God, and are instead afraid, they compromise their soul and make choices that they are ashamed of. Thus fear is not only unpleasant, it is one of the great destroyers of the self.

But perfect love casteth out fear
We love him, because he first loved us
Fear can be dispelled, but only by retaining a lively sense of love in our hearts. Where love is, fear cannot also be.
But how to obtain that perfect love that casteth out fear? It is not something that we have the ability to conjure up in ourselves. As we learn in the second verse from John, it is something that God gives to us first, and then we maintain it by loving Him back. Thus by regularly exchanging love with Him we keep our fears at bay and live as our best selves.
And inherent in that exchange of love is a remembering of that love. Every time we praise and give devotion to God, we signify that we recall what He has given to us.
Or, to work it backwards, those that regularly count their blessings are the ones in whom the cycle of perfect love is turning. They are constantly refreshing in their minds the reasons that they do not fear, the reasons that they know it is worthy to rely on the Lord. For He has already loved them once, and they remember it, and know that He will love them again.

What Chance Do I Have?- 2 Timothy 1:7, John 14:27

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

COMMENTARY

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power
Peace I leave with you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid
It might be natural for us to try and weigh the odds of our remaining faithful, to question whether we have the “right stuff” and can hold out valiant. But such a spirit of uncertainty is not divinely approved. Many a soul runs into trouble when they start to question if they have the capacity to be good, creating for themselves a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Rather we are reminded that God gives a spirit of power, and of peace.
We are commanded to be faithful in all things (1 Timothy 3:11). Most often we speak of being faithful as being loyal, but the composition of the word literally means “full of faith.” And included among the “all things” that we should have full faith in…is ourselves. When I feel God’s spirit I feel a confidence in myself, an assurance that I am made in His image and that I am good. That isn’t to say that I don’t need help, only that I know God believes in me, so I should, too. The “right stuff” is in me, I don’t need to worry about that. I just need to get out of its way and let it shine forth.