Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Fear Not

I’ve been thinking for the past couple weeks about how much God tells us to “fear not.” I’ve heard (though I haven’t actually counted myself) that the Bible tells us not to be afraid 366 times, one for each day of the year and an extra one for leap year.

I’ve always been given to fear. When I was a child it was a crippling, demonic, oppressive fear, and if you don’t believe in such things, all I can say is that you haven’t experienced it. God helped me to break free from this fear in my mid-teens and it’s only tried to come back a couple of times. A little of what TSK calls “spiritual kung-fu” sent it packing. If that sounds mystical, I don’t know how else to say it. It was worse than regular fear, something that could only be taken away supernaturally.

In addition to this creepy, satanic kind of fear, I had many other fears. I was afraid of invading armies (Russia? China? Muslim nations? I didn’t know, but I was scared of them.), economic collapse, persecution of Christians, death by fire and drowning, illegal aliens, being kidnapped, meeting new people, and doing pretty much anything that involved even the slightest amount of risk. I had many lesser fears about small, silly things. Fear pretty much ate up my whole life. I spent lots of years planning for all the what-ifs because I was so scared of what might happen. I was so afraid of the future that I totally missed the present in many cases.

I had an epiphany right after Billy and I got engaged. Billy asked me to marry him on December 4, 1999, right in the midst of the Y2K frenzy. I was terrified that we’d be separated forever and we’d never get to marry. I even bought us matching flip calendars so that if we couldn’t communicate we’d at least be reading the same thing each day. (Of course, if the end of the world ended as we knew it, both of us would be very concerned with making sure we flipped our little calendar each day. Yeah, that would be the most important thing on our agendas. That’s sarcasm, in case you couldn’t tell.) I know it sounds silly, but it’s a good illustration of how far my irrational fear had gone.

We were sitting on the porch talking about my fears and worries one day, when Billy gently said, “You know, that’s sin.” My word! The nerve of him! I was sure steamed. For a little while anyway. Then I realized he was right. That gentle confrontation helped me start to climb out of the fear pit I’d lived in for so many years. The Bible says that whatever is not of faith is sin. Fear and worry stand in direct contrast to faith and trust.

As it turned out, Y2K didn’t happen anyway, and we were married in March and lived happily ever after.

Except that after we married I was struck with a new kind of fear. Fear for Billy. And then for our babies, as they came along. That something would happen to them. Gory images filled my mind about all the “what-ifs”. I fretted constantly.

My fear became much less as I treated it as the sin that it was, but it still tried to show up in these and other areas.

Then my sweet friend Valerie sent me the little book Mama’s Way. I don’t know if I’ve ever told her how that book changed my life. In the first chapters, the author tells of her mother’s simple, childlike faith, that if she asked God for something, He would grant it. She told how her mother rested in the goodness of God, and how peaceful her life was. She painted a picture of the kind of person I want to grow into.

I still struggle with fear, but I can say that it doesn’t rule my life. When I’m tempted to fall into patterns of fearful thought, I remember that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” If we are assaulted with fear, that is not of God. Fear doesn’t come from our Father, it comes from the father of lies, Satan, and it’s simply wrong to give into him. This is an area of growth for me. I hope that one day I’ll be free from it altogether; in the meantime, I look at it as an opportunity to become more and more like Jesus. This is part of my spiritual formation, an area in which God desires continued change. I lived in intense fear for so many years, that complete victory is taking time to achieve. Yet I’m so grateful that fear doesn’t have the stranglehold on me that it once did. Years from now I hope to look back and see how much improved I am compared to the way I am today.

A little P.S. If you struggle with fear or paranoia, do have a physical examination and research physical possibilities. Paranoia and anxiety are one symptom of hypothyroidism (and perhaps other ailments as well.) Sometimes a simple physical correction can help us become whole in emotional areas.

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