Overcoming Fear

What is the most negative, most destructive, most harmful emotion? There certainly is no shortage of possibilities – anger, hatred, pride, just to name a few – but in my opinion, the worst of all has to be fear.

Have you noticed how many television commercials make their appeal by trying to make you afraid? A majority of money management and investment ads fall into this category. They’re trying to stoke your fears of outliving your money, or not being able to “keep up your lifestyle,” or some other vague concept to threaten you and make you afraid.

Elected officials give fiery speeches that pump up our fears and appeal to our lowest natures. Some gun owners point to “being afraid” as their number one reason for buying weapons – and especially buying multiple weapons. And, I’m sorry to say, most national news networks seem to exist, not to keep us informed, but for the purpose of stoking our fears and inflating our anxieties.

We live in a society that seems to be drowning in fear – fear of running out of money, fear of burglars, fear of disasters, fear of “others.” We are afraid of dying, and afraid of living too long. We are afraid of the government and afraid of each other.

Fear is destroying the very fabric of our society.

We need to realize this type of paralyzing, crippling fear is not new. In fact, one of the most frequently quoted phrases in the Bible is, “Do not fear” – by some counts, that phrase appears 365 times in the scripture. And it’s clear from the Holy Word that while fear may be common and understandable, it doesn’t have to rule our lives. Consider –

God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7)

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isa. 41:10)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, … (Psa. 91:1-5)

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? (Psa. 27:1)

It’s natural and normal – even healthy – to have a certain level of fear about the unknown, about new situations, or unfamiliar circumstances, but we cannot let that fear paralyze us into inaction. When we are making a decision about something, we need to evaluate that choice, consider the pros and cons, seek the counsel of wise friends – then decide! We must not let the fear make the choice for us.

I am not against planning or preparation; certainly not. But we need to realize that we cannot always be ready for every possible situation. That does NOT mean we should be afraid; it DOES mean that we must recognize our own limitations, and our dependence on our Heavenly Father.

God told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous” (Josh. 1:9). That is still good advice for us today for overcoming fear. Strength and courage!

No Fear

I will not give in to fear. I refuse to give in to hate.

Do I like the direction in which the country is heading? I do not. Do I believe the current occupant of the White House shares my values? I do not.

But I will not give in to hate. I will not give in to fear.

For many though, this election was far from an easy decision. Yes, the positions of the Democratic party on abortion, on gay marriage, and on other issues, are not in line with what I believe. On the other hand, I reject the extreme greed, selfishness and materialism that seem to drive many of the Republican policies. I’m not sure Abraham Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt would recognize what has become of the party they once proudly championed.  But John “ask not what your country can do for you” Kennedy probably wouldn’t recognize some of the Democratic positions, either.

For once, I actually found myself agreeing with Bill Clinton when he said that he preferred a national attitude that says, we need to help one another, because we’re all in this together, rather than one that says, “I’ve got mine, you’re on your own.”

The scripture says, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak.” Might that not include economic failures as well? In Bible times, landowners were required to make provision for the poor, the alien, the widows and orphans. What should that provision look like for today? I don’t know the answer, but I do believe that the fact that some people abuse the system, shouldn’t mean that we refuse to help others.

Granted, we should not reward laziness, and simply throwing money at a problem – whether it’s taxpayer funds, or private donations – rarely solves anything. And yes, Jesus did say that the poor will always be with us. But I don’t think He meant that we should be content with that, or that He meant to let us off the hook from trying to help.

So I will not give in to fear. I choose to live in hope. I will “make every effort” to reach out to the poor, the lonely, the disenfranchised. What does that mean? It means knocking on some doors, offering a hug, delivering a meal or a sack of groceries. It means opening my door for some people to come eat with our family, and opening my heart to others, to build friendships with people who aren’t like me.

It DOESN’T mean just volunteering on Thanksgiving morning at some soup kitchen, or giving a few dollars for a Sunday School Christmas project, so we can have a warm fuzzy. That’s sacrificing to the LORD my God that which cost me nothing.

But I will not harbor resentment, or hate, or despair in my heart. I will not look to Washington for answers, nor wait for the election of 2016, nor put my hope in princes, of either party. The weapons that I fight with are not the weapons of this world, and my struggle is not against flesh and blood.

I will pray for the President and for Congress, because the scripture commands me to do so, and because it’s the right thing to do. I will submit to lawful authority, so long as it does not require me to disobey God, because every civil authority is established by God and answerable to Him. I will render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto to God what is God’s.

The same Roman government that Paul urged his readers to pray for and submit to, was the same government that executed him. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refused to bow to the king’s statue, they didn’t question his right to exercise authority over them.

God establishes seats of power, and brings down nations, to accomplish His purposes, and He doesn’t ask my opinion. Do I like the fact that some states have legalized gay marriage? Of course not. Do I approve of the way my taxes are being spent? Certainly not, at least not in every case. Do I approve of laws making assisted suicide legal? No. (More on that later.)

But these are all symptoms of a larger problem. The human race is fallen. We need a Savior. Relationships are broken – between people and God, and among us as humans and neighbors.  Unless and until we deal with that brokenness, nothing will really change.

(By the way, legalizing marijuana is just one more symptom of that brokenness. It just shows people looking for some peace – they’re just using something that cannot satisfy.)

But I will live in hope. Not some pie-in-the-sky kind of mindlessness that refuses to recognize the seriousness of the situation, but the kind of hope that knows that God is still in charge, even when I don’t understand. The hope that comes from knowing that greater is He Who is in me, than he who is in the world.  Knowing that my God will one day wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more pain, or crying, or death, for the old order of things will pass away.

And there will be no more hungry children. Or crack-head welfare mothers. Or economic oppression. Or injustice against the weakest among us. Or abuse of power. Or corporate greed. Or bloated government. Or environmental disasters.  Or any of the other things that plague us because of our brokenness.

Until Jesus returns to bring the Kingdom in its fullness, I will work to make it real in my life, and in the lives of those around me. I will share my food with the hungry, and not turn away from the stranger in our midst. I will declare good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim release from captivity for those who sit in darkness. I will work to bring justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with my God.

I will live in hope. And I will not give in to fear.