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Fear and the Believer

I read an excerpt on fear by Dr. E. Welsh, a Christian counselor and teacher. I found his comments on fear were very insightful; so this month I want to share a few thoughts based on his insights.

How many of us experience fear? There is fear of change, fear of financial loss, fear of being exposed as less than perfect, fear of failure, fear of not measuring up, fear of being alone. This is a lengthy list of common fears but clearly it is not an exhaustive list of the things that cause us fear. The question before each of us as Christians is not how we handle fear, but who do we turn to when we are afraid?

When he was young, my nephew used to say defiantly: “ I laugh in the face of fear.” While we all used to chuckle at that, there remains a question: what response are we “supposed” to show others when we are afraid? Is it a cool stoicism; is it a “I won’t go quietly” attitude, or perhaps a “never let them see you sweat” attitude? We may exhibit the right attitudes externally, but is that really what we believe when faced with fear internally?

I recall many years ago, one famous TV anchor who interviewed the deposed Shah of Iran. The Shah had abdicated his position in Iran and had fled to Mexico. In the political world he was a pariah. No country wanted him, and no country wanted to be subjected to the angry backlash by the Iranians and their minions throughout the world. Under pressure, the Mexican government was contemplating expelling him from their land. The question the anchor posed to him regarding fear was so brazen it was almost silly. “What are you afraid of?” she asked. Here was a deposed; cancer riddled former dictator who was facing possible extradition back to his country for trial and execution. “I fear nothing.” was his reply. I remember laughing at both the stupidity of the question as well as the reply. Despite our best efforts, fear is a pervasive characteristic of the human condition.

In fact, fear is the most resounding emotion found in the entire Bible. In both Old and New Testaments fear has gripped almost everyone, including the powerful men and women of God. Elijah was gripped with fear and fled into the wilderness. King Hezekiah experienced fear when his nation was invaded; and they were not the only ones. In the Christmas story, when the shepherds encounter the angels announcing the birth of Christ, first the angels tell them to “fear not.” In the Psalms, so many of our favorite verses rest on the fact that we promised relief, help, and protection from fear.

Fear is so powerful an emotion, it can literally make us sick, weak, and unable to act. How do we handle fear in a world where we are not in charge of the events? How do we respond to the 24 hour bad news. One of the purposes of the Lenten journey is self-examination. A large part of this self examination should be where we place our trust.

When fear comes, what do we do? Get angry, lash out, or cry out to God: “WHY ME?” These are normal human responses, but we are instructed to dive into the scriptures to find the true answers that consist of assurance, support, and deliverance. How do these work?

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” is what the Psalmist tells us in Psalm 56. In this passage, the Psalmist merges fear with faith in the trustworthiness of God. Often in passages regarding fear, several remedies are given to us from scripture. When fear strikes, we need to rest in the love and comfort that God is with us. As we have said, God does not hold your failings, doubts or sins over you. The heart of the Christian walk consists of repentance and honest confession, but the main emphasis in these trials is to find comfort in the arms of Christ. Jesus Christ will never leave you or forsake you. He died for you, rose for you and reigns for you.

God the Father knows all things that will happen from the beginning until the end. Can we find the faith to believe that God knows what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, and next year? Can we faithfully do what we are called to do? Think of it this way: we have all the grace we need today! When tomorrow comes, new grace will power us for the new day. In the words of Christ, “do not be anxious for tomorrow.”

Finally, our thoughts, words and deeds need to be under the obedience of Christ. Do not let your thoughts, imaginations, or expectations lead you further into fear and ultimately paralysis.

I would encourage each person to enter a deeper study of the scripture, particularly in terms of fear. The time to turn to the Word is not when we are afflicted. We must be in the Word to be ready for whatever comes our way. If we fail to exercise this spiritual discipline, we will be “out of shape.” My prayer is that you will find comfort, peace and assurance in Christ’s reassuring promise: “FEAR NOT!”

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Harry