It seems to be the case now more than at any time in memory that the real risks in life and the phony ones have congealed into an undifferentiated glob of uncertainty. …most people today live in a state of perpetual, low-grade confusion about much that goes on in the world. In terms of knowing what to believe and what not to believe, what’s real and what’s only sort of real, these are very strange times. —Daniel Henninger, The Wall Street Journal, 23/may/2003
Last week I gave the Red Cross a pint of my blood. The needle-nurse gave me that I’ve-seen-it-all-before look. But when I filled my bag in less than five minutes, she knew she was in the presence of greatness. I come from a long line of world-class bleeders and I’m proud of it!
Afterwards, while signing autographs and munching on a Fig Newton, it occurred to me that the most time-consuming part of the entire process had been the twenty-minute screening before I was allowed to donate. The interview is designed to keep the blood supply free from nasty diseases, so it serves a good purpose.
Truthfully, though, it’s a bit creepy, and I’m not an especially fearful person. There are a truck-load of insidious, bad-news bugs out there just looking for a healthy body. I always come out of the interview feeling like I’ve dodged a bullet.
SARS. West Nile virus. HIV. Ebola. Mad-cow disease. Toxic mold. Killer bees. Fire ants. Tornados. Earthquakes. Genetically-altered foods. Carcinogenic chemicals. Mercury in shellfish. Arsenic in drinking water. Second-hand smoke. SUVs. al-Qaeda. Homeland security alerts. Anthrax. Sarin. Islamic fundamentalists. Christian fundamentalists.
There’s a lot to be afraid of! The front page trumpets one big scare after another, and even when the newspapers aren’t selling panic, a thousand smaller worries tie us in knots. We’re afraid of rejection, afraid of being alone, afraid of being hurt, afraid of failure, afraid of commitment, afraid of intimacy. We worry about our children: are they doing drugs, having sex, hanging out with the wrong people? We fret about the economy: is my job secure, will I have enough money to retire? I know people who are wracked by panic attacks and crippling phobias. And then, there’s the ultimate fear, the biggest enchilada of them all: DEATH.
Something inside of us cries out, “The world is crazy! It shouldn’t be like this!”
Exactly. God never intended us to live in fear. There was no fear in the Garden of Eden. Can you imagine what that might have been like? No fear, and I don’t mean some whistling-in-the-dark t-shirt slogan.
So how did we get from there to here?
Sin. When sin crashed God’s party, fear tagged along. Fear alienates us from God, it creates rifts and worries in our relationships, it sows terror and sorrow and hurt where God intended there to be peace. Sin and fear have made us a people saddled with anxieties, neuroses, insecurities and paranoias, some of them the fantastical products of our unquiet minds, some of them quite real, arising from the evil that men and women so willingly inflict on each other.
Christianity teaches that God does not want fear running roughshod over our lives.
Christ came into the world to restore peace. His love puts the fear of God into fear. As the apostle John says: Love contains no fear—indeed fully-developed love expels every particle of fear, for fear always contains some of the torture of feeling guilty. This means that the person who lives in fear has not yet had his love perfected. —1 John 4:18, JB Phillips.
Peace is the antidote to fear. When the peace of Christ is coursing through our veins, we can stand our ground in frightening circumstances, confident that God is standing with us.
I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world. —John 16:33, The Message, (Jesus speaking)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind. —2 Timothy 1:7, JB Phillips
Life is a deadly business. Being frightened by the horrific events of our times is perfectly normal. But God does not want us to be ruled by tyrants like fear and anxiety. When we live in his love and in the strength of the faith he gives us, the grip of fear on our actions and relationships and hopes and dreams is loosened. As our confidence in the love of Christ grows, fear will gradually slink away and look for another victim to harass.
No fear: it’s not just a slogan; it’s a promise.