I recently asked my Facebook friends what kinds of fears are commonly faced today, in preparation for this article. Here are some of the things they said:
- Terminal illness
- Financial concerns
- Not being good enough
- Being alone
- Public speaking
- Phobias (ex: claustrophobia)
- An uncertain future
- Other people’s opinions
- Going to Hell
- Losing a child
- Being misunderstood
- The unknown
- Being disappointed
- Being forgotten
- The aging process
Perhaps you can identify with something on that list. It might just be taunting you as you read further. But, don’t stop reading.
Fear is defined as, “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat”. As a verb, fear means to “be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening”, according to dictionary.com.
According to Merriam-Webster, fear is “anxious concern” and means “to be afraid of: expect with alarm”.
Other words interchangeable with fear are: anxiety, apprehension, concern, nervousness, worry, stress, uneasiness, panic, alarm and terror.
We have all felt fear. Perhaps we’ve had terrifying moments, when danger was imminent. Most often the fear we experience is continual, constant. It dwells within us as if it has made its home in our hearts. For some, it has been there so long that it’s hard to imagine life without it – like a prisoner who has become accustomed to, and even longs for, his cage.
Dietrich Bonheoffer said the following about fear: “It crouches in people’s hearts. It hollows out their insides, until their resistance and strength are spent and they suddenly break down. Fear secretly gnaws and eats away at all the ties that bind a person to God and to others, and when in a time of need that person reaches for those ties and clings to them, they break and the individual sinks back into himself or herself, helpless and despairing, while hell rejoices.” Read more of his sermon here.
Fear can be debilitating. It causes pain and unrest. Struggling with anxiety can cause a range of physical ailments, from nominal to serious. Our thought processes and decision-making abilities are also affected. Many people develop emotional and psychological disorders and need to be medicated for months and even years just to treat the symptoms of overwhelming anxiety.
We look at the world around us and cringe at the economic, social, and political instability. Everything seems to be spinning out of control, with no real solution in sight. Many are quickly losing hope.
Even closer to home, we worry about so many things. The bills pile up, the company’s cutting back, and the marriage is falling apart. We feel we are invisible, undervalued and unworthy. We constantly feel like we are on the verge of losing something: a friend, our health, a child. Respect, our home, our job. We believe the myriad of lies we are told by bullies, by educators, by society – by the Devil himself.
Our eyes are downcast, shoulders slumped, and hearts heavy. And the enemy rejoices.
But, do you know what the enemy of fear is? Peace. It’s what we really long for. I like what Marshall Segal, staff writer at Desiring God says, “God wants our inner peace to disturb the world, leaving others wondering how we could possibly enjoy emotional stability and rest in the midst of what we’re suffering or enduring.” God wants his divine peace to replace our fear. Segal goes on to say, “The peace God pours out by his Spirit does give us space and freedom to rest, but it also inspires us to live boldly and courageously for him at the front lines of the fiercest battles and in the most challenging circumstances we face. God quiets our souls — and he sets them on fire.”
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Are you ready to let go of your fears and receive God’s peace? It won’t be easy. Fear won’t go away quietly. It will cling to you and will try to sink its claws into you with all its might. But, against the power of God, it cannot prevail.
Here’s how to start:
Proclaim with the psalmist, “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4) And believe God’s promise: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:10, 13)
We will dig deeper in part 2 of this series, and I hope to provide practical tools for dealing with fear so that you can dismantle its stronghold on your life.
Peace be with you!
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