Life is too short to give way to fear. Fear will always be there, lurking around in the dark, trying to convince us that all the worse-case-scenarios we are playing out in our head are real. But here’s the thing…FEAR IS A LIAR!
Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t dangers out there in the world, or that we shouldn’t take heed in certain situations. Of course we should! What I AM saying is that fear is our response. It is something we can control. I remember almost twenty years ago when I first came upon the readings of a Greek Stoic philosopher, Epictetus. I WAS BLOWN AWAY! It had a HUGE impact on me and began to change my way of looking at and thinking about things.
Wow! I had never really thought about it that way. Epictetus went so far as to say that even the death of a loved one is not really what causes us pain, but it is our interpretation of the death of our loved one that causes grief. I had to wrestle with that one for awhile, but I found that there is some truth in it. We don’t always control the events in our lives, but we DO have control over how we respond to those events.
So, back to fear. Fear is an emotion. It is something that we feel based on something that has happened to us or that we worry about happening to us. Therefore, as Epictetus would explain, it is something that we can control. Fear often leads to the fight, flight, or freeze phenomenon. These are the three most common responses, but it doesn’t mean they have to be the only response. It doesn’t mean that we can’t change our perception of our fears. It doesn’t mean that our fears are beyond our control!
We have something greater than fear. We have FAITH! We have a mighty God who cares about us, who loves us, who promises us that He works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). God does not want us to fear.
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. —Isaiah 41:10
HUNDREDS of times throughout the Bible, God commands us not to fear! He assures us that when we are struck with fear, that He is our God, He is with us always, He will strengthen us, He will help us, and He will support us.
Fear sucks up love. It contracts. It makes us anxious. It makes us defensive and want to fight. It makes us want to run and hide. But God is LOVE, perfect love, and perfect love casts out fear.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. —1 John 4:18
I think about Jesus talking to His disciples at the Last Supper and the fear of the unknown that they must have felt at that time. Jesus is explaining to them that He is leaving, but that He will prepare a place for them and He will come back and take them with Him. He says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” (John 14:1) From reading the gospel accounts, I can feel the confusion and fear they had.
Simon Peter pleads with Jesus, asking why he can’t go with Him (Luke 22:33). Thomas wonders out loud, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5) The disciples are having a hard time understanding. They are afraid. They are unsure about what is going to happen. But Jesus knows. He explains to them that when He leaves the Holy Spirit will come to them, and be with them forever, and teach them everything they need to know. And then he says this:
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
Jesus is reminding the disciples, and us today, that we do not have to fear. We do not have to be anxious. Because we have the power of Christ alive in us. Always. Forever. If we are in Christ, then we have nothing to fear.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? —Psalm 118:6
Faith in God is a choice. It is not forced on us. We do not have to believe. God gives us free will to respond to his Truth as we choose. However, once we truly believe, once we have the power of Christ at work in us, then something glorious occurs. We don’t have to fear anything anymore. We can respond to our fears with faith. Faith will always be bigger than our fears. Does this mean that we will never be shaken? No. Does this mean that fear will never raise its ugly head in our lives? No. But it does mean, as Epictetus explained, that we have a choice in how we respond to that feeling of fear. We can let it consume us, or we can turn it over to God and accept His free gift of peace.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:6-7