On a down day, I think my whole life has been one long battle against fear.
There are so many things to be afraid of. My grandson is apprehensive of spiders. At least one of my daughters has inherited my fear of heights. The funny thing is how each of us is terrified of different things. The first time I entered a public speaking contest, my twelve-year old knees were shaking. I won the contest in spite of it, and now it doesn’t bother me at all to stand up in front of a crowd of people. While I’m fine about public speaking, when it came to swimming, I was scared stiff. It took me months of lessons to make it into the deep end of the pool without panic setting in. A friend said to me, “What are you afraid of? It’s only a swimming pool.” Yeah, that’s the problem!
Almost everyone worries about money. My dad was one of the few people I know who never did. Few things rob us more of our peace. And then of course there’s fear of sickness. My mum was always afraid of cancer, and yet at 97 has never experienced it.
Fear is a slippery thing. The problem is that while most things we fear don’t happen, any of them might happen.
The Bible clearly identifies the devil as the author of all fear. Through fear, and ultimately fear of death, the devil holds people in lifelong slavery (Hebrews 2). Once this fear is instilled in us, all sorts of other fears, big and small, tag along and make life miserable for us. Every so often, he throws a whole bunch of fears against us one after the other, and we begin to crumple.
Then we fall into another nightmare - anxiety. Anxiety is the vague feeling of fear that dominates us moment by moment even when we aren’t sure what we’re anxious about. If you haven’t experienced anxiety, you don’t know how awful it is. I’ve had just enough experience of it to give me great compassion for those whose lives are plagued by it. Don’t ever dismiss a person who’s suffering from anxiety because to you, logically, there is no reason for them to be afraid. Anxiety just is. Graham, my psychologist friend, tells me you may never know the root cause. At best, you can identify the triggers and develop means of dealing with it.
So is there an answer? Thank God, the Bible contains this amazing statement: perfect love casts out fear. It tells us fear is rooted in punishment, which refers to alienation or separation from God. Fear is in fact a demonic vacuum. It can be temporarily masked or helped by medication or other therapies, but there is only one real answer. The vacuum must be filled with the love of Jesus.
Let me underline one thing. Overcoming fear is a battle. You don’t simply command it to leave, think yourself better, pray for a minute and expect it to disappear. You have to be prepared to fight.
The other day I told someone to call on the name of the Lord when fear came. We have to learn to cry out to Jesus. His continuing presence is the only true antidote to fear.
Here’s one secret I’ve found. You can begin to win the battle against fear by turning your fear into dependency. Dependency on a great and faithful God. I am a weak man. I will never be strong. But I know someone who is.
To finish, let me go back to where I began. My whole life may have involved struggles with fear, but it’s often not a bad thing to face our fears. Casting myself on God in dependency when fear comes has enabled me to break through a lot of barriers and do a lot of things I could never have done otherwise. If I hadn’t entered that public speaking contest, I’d never have been able to preach and I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
To put it the way the Bible does, in my weakness I find his strength. And in the end, even if that’s all I have, it’s all I need.