You and I live in a culture saturated by fear. Self-preservation calls out to us as the ultimate good. Our friendly neighborhood advertisers promote fears of germs, ridicule, and loss to sell us solutions to the problems they create. And that’s before we get to legitimate fears showing up on the nightly news and the internet – things like crime, disease, war, and death. We’re soaking in it all of the time.
Like a physical toxin causes our bodies to malfunction, fear can permeate our spirits and cause them to malfunction. When you think about it, fear is actually a very self-centered emotion. Everything becomes about “me” and saving “myself” pain, trouble, and inconvenience. Even our fears about our loved ones turn back on ourselves, as we protect the ones we care about so that our hearts won’t break. “Self” gets put on the throne of our lives, leaving little to no room for God.
Fear is actually the opposite of faith. Every time we face a fear and decide to act on it, we wrestle control from God and insist we know what is best for us. There’s no room for the promises of God to work all things out for our good (Romans 8:28), to provide for us what we need and show that He is faithful. I’m not saying that the emotion of fear is a sin. Emotions aren’t sinful in and of themselves. But fear is often a temptation to sin. And when we act on and dwell in fear (also known as worrying), we sin against our God.
Our fears will often point out our idols, too. For example, if I’m terrified that my friends will abandon me, I may be relying on them for the love and acceptance that only God can give. If I’m scared to death that I will get cancer, then perhaps my security is in my health and not my Lord. See how that works? Fear tempts us to worship at an idol instead of exercising faith and looking to God. What could be more toxic than that?
The Bible teaches us how to deal with our fears. The well-known story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is one example. These three godly men were violently ripped from their homes and taken to a kingdom that didn’t speak their language or worship their God. When faced with orders to worship a ninety-foot golden statue, they knew from personal experience their master wouldn’t hesitate to kill them if they refused. I can’t imagine that fear didn’t cross their minds – they were human beings after all. But rather than avoid their fear, they chose to trust in God. That choice didn’t result in them avoiding the worst. Far from it. They were cast right into that fiery furnace anyway… and found “a son of the gods” waiting for them there. Most theologians believe the three young men walked and talked in the fire with none other than the Son of God Himself. And they emerged from the flames unscathed.
For me, my fears are most obvious when I’m playing the “what if” game. Anytime I find myself starting a sentence with the words, “What if…,” that’s my red flag that a fear is lurking nearby. It’s a silly game most of the time. “What if I splash spaghetti sauce on my white skirt?” “What if someone sees that typo in my report?” Sometimes, it’s not so silly. “What if my husband leaves me?” “What if the cancer comes back?”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego teach me that I can ask a different question. Change the game. “What would God do if….?” For them, the question wasn’t “What if we are thrown into the fiery furnace?” but “What will God do when we are?” They answered it clearly in their conversation with the king.
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,” they said, “the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver usfrom Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18 NIV). And deliver God did! He didn’t save them FROM their fear but saved them IN their fear.
So I’m detoxing my spirit from fear, and changing the game. I’m training myself to look for God in the middle of my worst case scenarios rather than requiring Him to save me from them. I’m naming, confessing and then casting aside the idols that my fears reveal. And I’m hoping you’ll do the same.
(“Detox” is the current series in the R.E.A.L. Women’s ABF, meeting in CLC 208 at 9:30 am on Sunday mornings. Our topic this Sunday is envy. Anyone is welcome to join us.)