Fear, My Foe
Aug 15, 2008 by Nancy Buschart | 1 Comments
This morning I conducted an impromptu survey here on the second floor of the admin building at Denver Seminary. The question, "What are you afraid of?" yielded answers that, I believe, reflect a universal condition - we are all afraid.
Spiders, snakes, the dark and heights were frequent answers. Other answers included scary people, unfamiliar situations, and "traveling in countries where I don't know the language." Being alone was mentioned more than once. One person hesitated, then replied, "I'm afraid of hurting."
I have a VVV lesson on fear titled, "Ghosts, Goblins, Tornados, Terrorists and Other Frightful Things." It's a good lesson because everyone can play this game: to name one's fears is an essential step toward becoming the man or woman that God created you to be.
There are degrees of fear. There are "silly" -- yet, not so silly -- fears (ghosts and goblins-"things that go bump in the night"); there are "out there" fears that happen to other people (tornados and terrorists). Then, there are "in here" fears.
These "in here" fears are awful monsters. Superstition says, "Don't talk about them, because they might come true." I'm going to go ahead and "tempt fate" by naming some of these terrorists:
- Fear of failure, fear of success
- Fear of losing a spouse, a sibling, a child, a parent, a friend
- Cancer, disease
- Fear that I will become a burden
- Fear of my past; fear of my present; fear of my future
- Being found to be incompetent, imperfect, a fraud
- Rejection, loneliness, abandonment
- Fear that my secret sins will become public
- Loss of security
- Poverty, persecution, powerlessness, helplessness
- The unknown
- Pain -- physical or emotional
- Fear of fear itself
Fear is a motivator. The Three Questions posting for August 5, "Fear, My Friend" suggested that fear can motivate us to declare our need for God; fear can lead us to the Savior. Fear can indeed be a spiritual friend. Even the above list of fears can be friends that lead us to the Father.
However, our deepest, "in here" fears are not friends when they are left unspoken. They increase in power as they are left alone and unchecked. Subconsciously at work, our fears can become the decision-makers of our lives. "When our fears dictate all our actions, we can become paralyzed and incapable of thinking clearly or living faithfully."
Fear and The Three Questions
When my fears reign, who is my God? He is small, smaller and less powerful than my fear. He is weak, uncaring and unconcerned about the fears that possess me. He has left me alone to battle the life and death struggle of fears that seek to annihilate my ability to stand. Rarely do we admit that this is how we view God. It's that dichotomy between what we know cognitively to be true and the truth that we are enacting in our lives. Fear kills faith!
When my fears reign, who am I? I am isolated. I am buffeted by the wind and waves of a cruel world that seeks to defeat me. I am unloved, unprotected.
When my fears reign, how am I living? I panic-sleepless nights are spent envisioning the worst case scenario. I settle for what is safe and live in frustration at the gulf dividing reality from God-given dreams. I try to ignore my fears by staying so busy that I don't have time to think about them. I project responsibility for my inaction on others rather than facing the fear that is deciding my course. Living in fear means I am not living in faith, hope and love; I don't trust.
A Lens Adjustment
When I turned forty, seemingly the moment I turned forty, I found it difficult to focus my eyes to read. Letters blurred and the needed distance between page and eyes increased. I went to the optometrist and, sure enough, it was time for bi-focals. When these new lenses arrived I was amazed by their effect-letters on the page were once again crisp and legible.
When we are looking at our lives through the lens of fear, all is lost. No focus upon Truth is possible. But, when the dissatisfaction of living a fear-controlled life motivates us beyond fear, there is One waiting and ready.
We need to ask ourselves which is greater: our fear or our God?
An Action Plan
If the honest answer is "our fear," then we need an action plan that will provide us a necessary lens adjustment.
Get to know God-Father, Son and Spirit
If our fear is greater than our God, then we don't know the God of scripture very well. Knowing Him is to know that He is greater than anything that could befall us. Knowing Him is to know that He loves us, never, ever leaves or forsakes us, and will companion us, strengthen us, and comfort us in every situation. We don't trust what we don't know. We won't trust God with our fears if our god is false.
Put scripture to work
The Word is a weapon against fear. Learn it and live it. Philippians 4, familiar and oft cited, is an active response to fear that acknowledges our need for God.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Lord, I praise you even though I am afraid. I remember your faithfulness of the past and rejoice that you are faithful in the present and the future.
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
Quiet the spinning in my heart and my mind.
The Lord is near.
I cling to the truth that you are with me.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
I am anxious, terribly anxious. I can't overcome my fears just by willing myself to do so. I give my fear of ___________ to you. Give me what I need to surrender all to you. I even want to thank you in the midst of this because I know you are with me to comfort me and that nothing and no one can pluck me from your care.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Lord, I long to receive your peace in this situation. Peace seems impossible to me, it makes no sense at all. In Christ, I cast all my cares on you.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things.
Lord, keep my mind out of the gutter of fear-filled existence. Remind me, by your Spirit, to think more of you and less of my fears.
Engage Christian community
Isolation nourishes our fears. We may even believe that no one else fears as we do. This is a nasty strategy of the evil one. Name them. Share them. Let the church be the Church-to encourage one another on to love and good deeds.
I know that these words go against popular wisdom, but the bottomline is that you will not be able to conquer your fears. Small or large, spoken or unspoken, fears will always be a part of your daily life. The choices we make in response to our fears are a significant part of the faith journey that leads us into ever deepening intimacy of relationship with God, in Christ, through the Spirit. To some degree, our fears will remain and will return. However, when we focus our attention upon the One who is True and Right and Pure, when He becomes the lens through which we live and understand life, our fears lose their power and the precious peace of God prevails.
Fortune Cookie Wisdom
"Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow."
The Three Questions for today-
Who is God?
Greater than all my fears put together! Kind and gracious Companion in fearful times, Author of peace that passes understanding
Who am I?
How am I living?
"Lord, keep my mind out of the fear gutter! Help me surrender my fears and insecurities to you."
©2008 Vine, Vision & Voice
Nancy R. Buschart