Sunday, October 12, 2014

Be. Not. Afraid.

There are wars and rumors of wars. There are hurting people who can't find any way to deal with their pain except to hurt others. There are natural disasters. There are evil dictators. There is hate. There is chaos. There is jealousy, zealously misplaced religious fervor, anger, and leaders who will do anything to maintain or gain control. There are tests that come back positive. There is incurable disease. There are tragic accidents. There are feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and fear. The world does not always feel like a safe and happy place. And yet, in the darkness, a small voice whispers, "Be not afraid."

Recently I have been reminded of the freedom that comes from letting go of fear. I am a closet (and sometimes not-so-closet) worrier. I can worry about just about anything and turn the best of times into anxiety-laden experiences. Really healthy, I know. And in the midst of finding hundreds of things to fear, some valid and some not so much, I have been finding as of late that I don't want to be afraid anymore. I'm seeing all the ways fear has hijacked my life and really, I'm over it. Too often fear has sneakily reworked itself into something less concrete...a need for control, overbearing love, perfectionism...but these masks are just as stifling as flat-out fearfulness, and often I don't even see them for what they are. In fact, at times I convince myself that these fears are actually a thing to be proud of. How many times have I disguised fear for my child or my marriage or my finances as me being "diligent"? Diligence is important, but what is my motive? Am I acting out of wisdom or am I acting out of fear?

I love the verse in Matthew 10:28 when Jesus is getting ready to send his disciples out on their own. He knows they may encounter some pretty serious animosity and he doesn't try to sugarcoat what's going to happen. Instead, he says this: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." I get that this verse can sound a little, well, daunting (what with the whole foreboding hell talk and all), but I don't think this verse is supposed to be taken as a threat. Rather, I believe Jesus is using it as an encouragement that no matter what happens in this crazy world there is one thing that cannot be taken away from his disciples, or from us. Even in the most terrifying of circumstances our hope doesn't lie in this unsteady world. Our hope lies in Jesus. Therefore, when we boil it all down, who do we have to fear but God?

When I imagine living an unrestrained life of fearlessness it puts new breath into my lungs. The things I would do! The adventures that would find me! The people I would meet! Can you imagine?! I think Yann Martel had it right when he wrote: "I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary...It goes for your weakest spot." (Life of Pi) How many times have I let fear defeat my life? I'm not sure what it all means, but I am determined to walk the path laid before me and, Lord-willing, become the brave, selfless, courageous person that God intends for me to be. I may never skydive or intentionally lie down in a pit of spiders (I mean, I want to be courageous, not crazy!) but I can, with God's help, become a person who fears Him alone.

Join me on this journey if you will. If anxiety or distress or any of fear's various forms hold you hostage, you are not alone. What is it you need to let go of so that you can grab a hold of what God has set before you?

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