Two simple words — of which some variation appears some 366 times in Scripture. That’s one for every day of the year — plus leap year! 125 of them appear in the gospels, imperatives of Christ Himself.
As a child I was afraid of the usual things: the dark . . . the shadows in the night . . . the monsters under the bed. It seems kind of silly now, but those were really things that could make my hair stand on end. As an adult, I’ve found that fear never really goes away; rather, we tend to transfer it to other situations. I’m still afraid of heights to some extent. And I hate roller coasters. I don’t particularly like to fly either, although the latter two examples are probably more rooted in the loss of control experienced.
However, some of you know that in recent years I have learned what it is to suffer the effects of anxiety in my own life. For many years I counseled individuals with regard to anxiety and phobias, but it was not until I experienced it for myself that I could truly empathize. The heart palpitations. The profuse sweating. The overwhelming sense of impending doom. Not fun at all!
Truly there are so many things in today’s world that give way to some legitimate anxiety. Our 24-hour news stream sounds a lot like Matthew 24, does it not? Wars and rumors of wars. Earthquakes. Famines. And on and on and on.
During the recent AACC conference, Dr. Ken Nichols of ALIVE Ministries presented a talk on the subject of fear. He pointed out that the message we receive from the media is clear: “Be afraid. Be very afraid!” And even if you think the sky isn’t falling, realize that it will. Just keep watching, it will!
In my own life I find that my anxiety level is directly related to the amount of news and information I allow to come into my mind. The reality is that all of us would do well to limit our intake of negativity — and let’s face it: that means shutting off a good chunk of the news. The late ABC newsman Peter Jennings was once asked why the news coverage seemed so overwhelmingly tipped in favor of bad news. In his suave Canadian accent, he quickly offered what I found to be a most candid and thought-provoking reply: “We must report on the planes that crash — not the ones that land safely.”
Nichols in his talk on Friday pointed out several facts about fear that I believe bear repeating in this space:
- Fear is absolutely unavoidable.
- Fear is a normal part of our everyday life.
- Fear is not sin.
- Fear is always temporary.
- Fear can be a healthy source of motivation.
- Fear is used by God to grow us in our faith.
- Fear is used by Satan to defeat us.
Nichols says that the major challenge for believers is to learn “how to transform fear into faith.” He says that when we really dig into Scripture we can face our storms of life with an eternal perspective. Nichols writes, “We can experience calm not confusion; poise not panic; relaxed not restless; composed not controlled; peace not pain; faith not fear.”
Nichols says there is a direct relationship between fear and faith:
That is why there are hundreds of reminders of the need to be strong, take courage, stand fast, and don’t be afraid. I believe that God ordains fearful circumstances in life as an excellent opportunity to cultivate a deeper quality of faith. Our human experience is not fear or faith . . . it is fear and faith.”
When you get right down to it, there are three primary areas from which most of our fears radiate:
- The Unknown
- The Unexpected
- The Unbearable
I don’t know about you, but I have some things even this week that could really drive me toward anxiety and fear. To be honest, since that’s the way I naturally seem to gravitate, I have to work extra hard to make sure I’m grounding myself in the promises of God’s Word. I’m incredibly blessed to have a team of prayer warriors who lift me up daily. These are men and women I trust with details that I simply can’t make available to just everyone. In times of weakness, I find strength in the care, concern, and prayers of others.
Perhaps you’re going through something right now that has you anxious and afraid. If so, let God help you make the transition from fear to faith. If you’ve never come to a place in your life where you reached out to Him, then you can do that right now — no matter where you are or what you’re facing. Discover new life today. And find the peace that only He can give to see you through the inevitable storms of life.
IT’S YOUR TURN!
In which areas of life do you experience the most fear or anxiety? How do you cope with that?