On Fear

I am constantly beset by fears.  When I was 10-years-old, at the height of the early-90s AIDS scare, I once stayed up all night because there was a mosquito in my room, and I was convinced this meant I would get bitten and die from AIDS.

© Copyright John Kerstholt  and licensed for reuse at Wikimedia.

© Copyright John Kerstholt and licensed for reuse at Wikimedia.

Yes, seriously.

My fears are equally unsophisticated today.  They are always irrational, improbable, and completely petrifying.  Occasionally, I can cloak them in some semblance of culturally-acceptable palatability.

Of course mothers worry about their childrens’ well-being. That’s my job. 

Of course I should worry about health problems.  Perfect health is my birthright. 

Of course I should worry about my financial future.  To do otherwise is irresponsible.  After all, it’s the American way.

But whether my fears are tolerable or ridiculous, they all are grounded in one base lie: God is not good.  He is not trustworthy.  He might accidentally permit something horrible.

I need to be vigilant so that the unspeakable doesn’t find me.  He will not really protect me, provide for me, love me.  Sound familiar?  Doubting the goodness of God is the original sin, the core of all our brokenness and woundedness and bentness.  It is our root problem.

Perhaps you are like me.  Perhaps you can toe the line theologically and intellectually.  I believe that God is good.  I know that the incarnation is the supreme evidence of this.  I genuinely confess his goodness and pray for grace to live into it.  I assent to his love and care.  But my soul is in love-less agony. 

What does it mean that God loves you?  How do you receive and feed on that truth? And can it seep into every corner of your soul, thus transforming your life?

Scripture says yes.  The Bible teaches us that nothing can separate us from his love.  In fact, over and over, we are commanded not to fear. The worst we can imagine: death, suffering, pain, loss; it doesn’t matter.  His love is with us.

It flows in and through us.  His love is never content to be held at arm’s length.  It is consuming and inexorable.  The current of his life can wash all the festering wounds and sweep away the toxic disease and sin of our unbelief.  Cleansing, life-giving streams can flood our inner person.  He promises to do this with each of us.

© Copyright Dirk Beyer  and licensed for reuse at Wikimedia.

© Copyright Dirk Beyer and licensed for reuse at Wikimedia.

In my prayer closet, I can receive this.  Many days I wish I could live in my prayer closet.  It’s when I come out that things get hard.  The anxiety creeps back.  My old places of woundedness and fear come knocking at the door of my soul.  My enemy prowls around digging his claws into the sore spots and twisting hard.

When the reality of loss and grief, of sin and injustice, of evil slaps you in the face, how can you regain your breath?  How can you put the first foot forward?

Most days, I don’t know.   I hold tight to the promise that He gives abundant life.  That He delights in our well-being.  That He is love.  And in that place of miniscule belief, I declare, “I believe that you are love.  And anything that comes from your hand, I will accept with gratitude.”

This, for me, is the gate out of fear.  This is tiny faith that stands up and walks around in the love of God.

It’s not a fatalistic agreement that what will be, will be, thank you very much.  Accepting what God alone gives in turn renounces anything that doesn’t come from God’s hand.

It looks to him, who sustains all of creation by the power of his ever-present Word, the Word who knows what it’s like to be us.  Because when God opens his hand to satisfy the desire of every living thing, that’s what he gives us.  Christ himself, the bread of life.  And, in the midst of my fear, I pray for grace to look up and see Jesus himself alone.


Image Credit: Mepkin Abbey