I had already decided to talk about fear this week. Then the Connecticut tragedy happened and now fear is everywhere. It’s working on me too. I get it.
I’m going to explore three kinds of fear over these next posts. Fear derived from people and circumstances, fear from the Lord Himself, and that mystical concept of “fearing the Lord” that’s been floating around in my head for a long time.
So let’s dive into fear we feel from circumstances and crazy people doing senseless things. Terror is the pain of what’s happening now coupled with the fear of what’s happening next. I think we all feel some of that fear right now to some degree or another. Fear we’ll get that dreaded phone call. Hear the back door being busted down. See the oxygen masks drop from the overhead bin.
Recognize first that ‘fear of the thing’ and ‘the thing’ are different. A fraction of ‘the things’ we’re afraid of actually happen. But how do we deal with the ‘fear of the thing’?
One of my favorite Scriptures is 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT). “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” The ‘spirit of fear’ that grips us is not from God. It’s coming from the other source…from the evil one. We can argue all day about ‘the evil one’, but almost everyone will go along with the idea that evil is at least the absence of God. So re-phrase the verse and hear it say “the spirit of fear shows up when God is absent”.
Is God ever absent from the life of the Believer? Not ever. Never.
Remember what Jesus taught about His presence and the presence of evil being mutually exclusive? “Where the light is, the darkness cannot be.” If we remember to call out to Jesus the instant we feel fear, the spirit of fear (which didn’t come from God) will disappear. The Holy Spirit will be there to comfort us. Now we can engage ‘the thing’ instead of the ‘fear of the thing’.
I wonder if this is what Jesus was doing when He’d say “Fear not!” He might not have been talking to the people at all. Maybe He was calling out the spirit of fear.
The next phrase of the verse says that instead of fear, God gives us a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline’. Now He reminds me He is powerful. That He has the ability to protect me from whatever people or circumstances I’m facing. I have to be prepared to deal with the outcome, whether it turns out the way I want….or not. Whether I get hurt….or not. Whether my family or friend dies…or not. I move forward knowing that God has the power to protect. The question isn’t about His ability..it’s about His willingness.
Then He tells me He’s given me His spirit of love.
God is love. Perfect love. And Scripture says “Perfect love casts out fear.” Now I’ve taken a double dose of calm pills. I’ve realized the fear I’m feeling isn’t from God. I’ve called out to Jesus who’s replaced the darkness of fear with light. His perfect love will cast out my fear. I’ve reframed the deal from “Oh my God, what’s about to happen?” to “Oh….my God, my Almighty God. My Heavenly Father. I know you love me. I know you’re here with me….I know you’re close. Protect me, and please… let me feel your presence.”
“Self-discipline” and “self control”? He’s reminding me to “pause”. To receive this ‘fruit of the Spirit” as the gift it is. Not something I have to muster up. But something that comes to me when I pause. Breathe. Pray. Put whatever it is on His altar. Trust Him with it. A “sound mind” calls me to do everything I can reasonably do to help myself and the people involved. But it’s futile to think my limited ability can prevent bad stuff from happening. The scope of bad stuff is just too large. I’ll wear myself out and waste my life trying to manage outcomes that aren’t manageable….by me or any other human being. I use my sound mind to take reasonable precaution. I call on Jesus the instant I feel fear. And I rest in the confidence that my Heavenly Father loves me immensely. My prayer is that He’ll help me adapt my desires to line up with His. “Whatever you want Lord, that’s what I want. No matter how hard. How painful. How devastating. I trust you and I know you love me. So have ‘thine own way, Lord….have thine own way’.”
We can’t imagine the pain of losing a child to a senseless shooter. But imagine a Father who loves His kids so much He’d voluntarily send His first and only natural-born Son to be brutally murdered to spare the lives of a whole bunch of adopted children, many of which don’t appreciate His sacrifice and never will.
The love God has for children…for ours and those who died….is so incredibly great that He made a place for them to live on after this tragedy. To live with Him and with saints who’ve gone before. Wonderful, loving, kind mothers and fathers. Grandmothers and grandfathers. Surrounded by angels, healed of the trauma of what happened, and nurtured by God Himself in a place more beautiful that we can imagine.
“So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6
Question: Is there someone God is leading you to comfort today? Someone whose fear might be getting the best of? Love does. Call them. Or better yet, go see them.