Fear strikes us all in different ways. Fear can make us run and hide. Fear can make us lash out. Fear can enslave us to live in overwhelming anxiety. Fear is not a sin – for fear can be a gift that protects us from hot stoves, from dangerous currents in a river, or from making a bad purchase. While fear is not a sin in and of itself – it can definitely lead us to sin.
I’m beginning to learn that my (our) greatest weapon against fear – is the gospel. This is because the gospel brings the light of God’s truth and presence to bear on the darkness that accompanies fear. Let me give you one example of how the gospel (Jesus and His finished work) is affecting how I live with fear.
When I am experiencing fear – I usually have one of two responses. The first is to hide or avoid thinking about the situation that is causing the fear. Like a child, I curl up in a ball, pull the covers over my head, and hope the scary monster goes away. For me this means I bury myself in the TV or a book for hours or days. My second response to fear is my “go to” move – I work. What do I mean? How do I try to cope with this fear?
Fear makes me feel weak. It makes me feel like a child (not a great feeling for any adult). It makes me want to hide (and as I said above, sometimes I do). Feeling weak – is humiliating and so my natural response is to do something that will make me not feel weak. Work is that response for me. When I plow into work in the midst of fear – I begin to feel strong. I begin to sense that I’m not weak – I can be strong. Great! Problem solved! Well, not really.
While the anxiety and fear may go away for a few days or weeks, the same fear eventually returns with greater teeth and a louder roar. “Saving myself” from my fear – is a false salvation from a “broken religion”. But, there is hope in a true and pure courage I have been learning to experience through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When I am experiencing fear and I hide or run, at some point my “self salvation” fails and Jesus whispers – “come to me all who are heavy burdened.” I have never heard his voice audibly but I hear it in the midst of my fear through the word, through my wife, and through many of you who turn me toward the gospel. How does the gospel bring real courage?
1st – It reminds me the courage I find in my work is false. Self-salvation is a false and worthless gospel.
2nd – It tells me weakness is not childish – but it is where I most powerfully and beautifully taste and experience the power of Christ in me.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. II Corinthians 12:9
3rd – When I see I cannot save myself – that is I cannot give myself courage, comfort, or wisdom to make the anxiety go away – I see how hopeless my efforts are. Even more – when God shows me that in trying to save myself that I am replacing Jesus as my Savior – I see how great a sinner I am and how great a SAVIOR I really need. Yes, I need a Savior who can give me courage – but even more, I need a Savior who can truly deal with my great SIN.
4th – Jesus, came and lived a completely pleasing life to God and died in my place – pleasing God for my sin. This is a GREAT SAVIOR. When I turn to Him in my fear, I am reminded – that God is fully “pleased” with me. He is not pleased because I am weak and certainly not because I try and replace Him when I am scared. I am pleasing … because the perfect pleasing life of Jesus lives in me. So because I am pleasing – I run to Him IN my fear.
5th – Here is the best thing I get when I run to Jesus in my fear – His presence! He never left me – but somehow in my fear – I forget? I don’t know – but what I do know is I’m often not aware he is there. When I run to Him IN my fear and hear – “pleasing” – I always experience His presence that brings courage, comfort, and wisdom.
Fear still comes … and often I still try and save myself from this fear. But I’m learning to hear His whisper sooner – run to him quicker – and rest in His work – not mine – that gives me real courage, real comfort and real wisdom in my fear.