Psalm 55 Study Guide

Fear is a physical response to perceived threats. When fear is triggered, it sets in motion the biochemical cascade known as the “fight-or-flight” response where a burst of adrenaline prompts a cortisol dump into the blood stream. When this happens, your body goes into overdrive. The prefrontal cortex, a major blood guzzler, also gets rationed and reasoning and analysis become non-responsive. Your nervous system begins to shake because of the enhanced nerve activity, often to the point that you can’t control the shaking.

Question: Think of a time when you were gripped with fear and the “fight-or-flight” response kicked in.

What brought on this fear?

Can you remember how the physical response felt?

Have someone in your group share their story.

Objective: To learn from the Psalms what an appropriate response to fear should look like in the life of the believer. When fear comes our way, we want to learn to run toward God and not away.

Read / Understand:  
Note: Walk through the Psalm with your group members. The comments and questions are there to highlight points made in the sermon and intended to help you make personal application. You can use as little or as much as you want…remember you don’t have to use all of it. Tailor it to fit your group.

The intro discusses a physical response to fear, but it doesn’t really tell us what fear is.

Key point: Fear comes from our thinking; our belief about threats.

Fear is complex: Fear can be really bad and it can be really good.

A person with a hyper response to fear can, over time, degrade their bodies and minds. We are not designed to live in an ongoing state of “survival stress response”. Living this way can disorient us spiritually and emotionally.

Key point: All fear is not bad. Fear can be essential to survival; it protects us from harm.

In the spiritual world, a properly oriented fear is also essential. It is part of being oriented to God and the world God has made.

Take a moment to contemplate: How can living in this “hyper response to fear” cause us to lose sight of who we are, who God is, and what life is supposed to be about? Has it happened to you or someone close to you?

Terry stated that “in the spiritual world is it essential that we have a properly oriented fear.” Why is this important? Share your thoughts with the group.

Key Point: Fear is normal. The person who doesn’t ever experience fear isn’t brave or full of faith; they may be naïve, apathetic, or possibly have a mental disorder.

Note: Understand that sometimes fear is specific and at other times is vague or non-specific. It can be anything from mild anxiety all the way up to sheer horror. The main point…we all experience fear.

Question: Do you agree with Terry’s statement that “fear is normal”? Why or why not?

Question: Take a moment and think about what makes you afraid. What made you afraid last week, today, and right now?

Take a moment to contemplate: Terry said that “worry and fear are cousins.” Have you ever thought of these two emotions being related?

Now think about the things in your own life that you worry about.

What’s the correlation with fear? Take a moment and discuss this idea with your group.

Here’s a quote from Longman:  

“Fear is provoked when the threat of danger (physical or relational) exposes our inability to preserve what we most deeply cherish.”

Question: What is it that you most deeply cherish?

Think again about your own life or someone close to you. What are some of those fears that expose our/their inability to preserve what we most deeply cherish?

Have your group look at Psalm 55. Below are four reactions we see David choose in his response to fear. Discuss these with your group.

  1. David’s heart was full of fear…and he admitted it.

Psalm 55:1-4

“4 My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me.  5 Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.”

  1. He wants to run.

Psalm 55:6-8

“6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest — 7 I would flee far away and stay in the desert; 8 I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”

  1. He continually cries out to God.

Psalm 55:17

“17 Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice.”

  1. His confidence is in the objective reality of God, not the subjective feelings about his situation.

Psalm 55:19

“19 God, who is enthroned forever, will hear them and afflict them —men who never change their ways and have no fear of God.”

Again and again we see the Psalmist do two distinct things:

  1. Admit his feelings…honestly.
  2. Choose to navigate life by the objective reality of God as He has revealed Himself in human history and spoken through His word.

Question: What can you learn from David’s four responses to fear?

What would it look like for you to model what the Psalmist is doing here?

Key Point: I hope we learn to see our problems not merely as things to be solved so that we can move on in life (less need for God), but to see them as pathways that God intends to use to get deeper into our hearts (closer relationship with God).

Key Point: In the Bible there are two kinds of fear: God and…everything else. Learning to fear God in a gospel-centric way is essential to moving away from destructive fears that take us away from living life as God intends.

Question: If learning to fear God in a gospel-centric way is essential, how might that play out in your own life so that you can move away from destructive fears?

Ps 147:11

“The LORD delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”

Psa. 111:10

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.”

Question: Fear of the Lord…what does that mean?

Take a moment to contemplate: Reflect on the following thoughts from Terry.

“We do not come to God with a fear that creates separation, fear of terror, and of law and potential death; the perfect love of Christ has driven away that fear. Our fear now is reverence, awe, respect, and love. We still could not stand in God’s presence in our current state of being, but God became one of us and dwelt among us. Now His holiness and His power is something that draws and attracts; we do not flee in terror. We are drawn to God like moths are to flames. Our love for God moves out in love for others. This is always the process we see in Scripture.”

Question: How does the work of Christ help us to run towards God when we’re faced with fear?

Share your thoughts with the group.

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