We live in an age of anxiety. Even though we have more safeguards to prevent danger and more means of rescue from danger, we are a people wrought with fear. All of these protections have convinced us that life can predominantly be controlled. But, in fact, it can’t. It often feels like we are on a raging roller-coaster with nobody at the control panel as we wait for the next disaster to happen. And for many of us that are more acutely plagued with fear and anxiety, this problem is coupled with spiritual shame as we tell ourselves how faithless and weak we are to not trust God’s love, power and plan. And down the black hole we go.
The good news (and frustrating news) is that fear is one of the most common issues we see all through scripture.
- Adam said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Gen 3:10)
- God’s people were afraid of their Egyptian captors (Exodus 14)
- God’s people were afraid to go into the promised land because of the overwhelming “giants” (Numbers 13)
- The Shepherds were afraid of the angels (Luke 2)
- Jesus’ disciples were afraid of the wind and waves (Matthew 8)
- Peter was afraid for his life while Jesus was being crucified (Luke 22)
The incredible news it that “Peace” is also one of the more pervasive commands and promises God has for us:
- God told Abraham to not be afraid to go to the Promised Land (Gen 15)
- God told Jacob to not be afraid to go down to Egypt (Gen 46)
- The angels on Christmas morning told the Shepherds “Fear Not”
- Jesus told all of us to not be afraid because God even takes care of the birds (Mt 10)
Fear comes when we see a “Future without God.” We see real, imagined or potential problems and quickly deduce all the painful outcomes that could result. We naturally fall back into believing that our worlds, our problems, our lives are spinning out of control and about to fall of the cliff. It’s not that we are faithless, it’s actually a great deal of faith…faith that:
- God isn’t loving enough to desire what’s best
- God isn’t powerful enough to do what’s best
- God isn’t wise enough to know what’s best.
We don’t mean to believe this, it’s just where our natural minds and hearts go.
So what do we DO about it? Is there a help, a cure, a hope?
Yes, but slow.
Believing and actually “resting” (the foundational definition of “peace”) in the Lord is a very slow marinating process. We swim in an insta-pot and instagram pool. But learning to trust is slow, and involves us, by the Spirit’s power, to re-focus out eyes off of the potential car-wreck and onto the whole journey. When I am struck with fear, I am forgetting the whole story and the character of God. I am forgetting the infinite proofs that God has always carried his people through the waters and fires. I am allowing what MIGHT happen to eclipse what HAS happened and, in the end, what WILL happen. I am believing that God is small and powerless; that his love for me is weak; that his arms are too feeble to carry me; that his wisdom is too faulty to know what is best for me and the world.
And so, once again, the initial weapon against our problems isn’t to “try harder” (“Just stop being afraid!”) but to believe differently….to be overwhelmed with the glory of God. The greatest weapon against earthly fear is the “Fear of God” — to be overwhelmed like Isaiah (in Isaiah 6) with the mind-staggering holiness, beauty, glory, power and perfection of the Lord.
Let’s look practically at a real-life example in Matthew 8
24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men MARVELED, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
The wind and waves were real. The potential danger was extreme. But their eyes (just like mine most of the time) were not on Jesus but on the problems. Instead of being in awe of Jesus, they were in awe of their problems, and their own comfort. And this issue is debilitating, hindering us from living the passionate ambassador-lives to which we have been called and empowered to live. God isn’t slapping our hands for being fearful, He’s working to set us free from the slavery of fear that keeps us from fully enjoying Him and this life he’s gifted us. He’s setting us free from the shackles of this world that scream at us that “this is all there is.”
That’s why Jesus gives us this gift:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Jesus himself gives us Peace (doesn’t just tell us to be at peace) and He himself IS our peace. He has even given us the Spirit of Peace, the Holy Spirit, who resides in us to speak peace into our hearts when the rest of the world is screaming chaos and fear.
And so today, when fear begins to gurgle up from the springs of your heart, take some deep breaths and fight mis-belief with Gospel-belief. Ask the Spirit to overwhelm your mis-belief with the True-belief that Jesus has always carried you through and, as we see in Romans 8 over and over, will carry us through to the end.