Note: Today is my birthday so I’m not going to have a chance to put the finishing touches on a new article. Instead, I’m posting an article I wrote a few years before starting my blog. Those of you who used to read my “notes” on Facebook might remember it. For the rest of you, it’s new to you :-). Be blessed – Jonathan
It’s not a very popular topic. It’s really not even something that most of us want to discuss. That’s interesting, considering that fear is able to fester when it can remain hidden. By avoiding discussions about it we are actually increasing its power to affect our behavior and impact our lives. On the other hand when we talk about fear, when we discuss it openly, we expose it to truth and light. Fear cannot dwell in truth and light because it is exposed for all it truly is, nothing.
Fear is an emotion, the same as love, joy, hate, embarrassment and others. It’s a feeling that has the ability to generate a physical reaction in your body and dominate your thoughts. Many emotions have the same power. When you are face to face with a person you love your eyes begin to dialate slightly while your lips take on a redder hue. At the same time when you are apart from the person or people that you love, many times you can’t stop thinking about them. Hate works similarly, except the physical changes are inverted, with your eyes narrowing and your lips pulling tight. We don’t control these things intentionally, they are natural reactions driven by emotion.
Just like all other strong emotions fear will lead to physical changes. A person’s heart begins to beat faster, adrenaline begins to pump through your body, enhancing your strength and reaction time while your senses are magnified to see or hear the slightest change in the environment. Emotionally fear has the power to paralyze us, even when the body is working to give us the energy we need to fight or get away. A person’s imagination runs wild and they can begin to see mental pictures of the things that the person is scared of. It begins to run in a loop, like a CD on repeat, with the object of fear getting progressively worse every time it starts again.
It sucks doesn’t it?
Many books and preachers say “Fear is of the Devil!” In a sense I think they are right. The devil does use fear to accomplish his goals and cause problems in your life. But I don’t believe that fear is really “of the devil”. In fact, as a normal emotion, fear is actually a gift from God.
Stay with me, I promise it’s not blasphemy. For all intents and purposes it is nothing but common sense. The fact is, God gave us all of our emotions. It is through emotions that our lives have been splashed in color and given meaning. Without our emotions we would never experience the thrill of a roller coaster or a kiss. Without our emotions we would never stand up for a principle, take a risk or make a sacrifice. In fact, without emotion we would probably have never made it past the very beginning of the roots of our civilization. No one would have experienced the pride of building something or the discomfort and disappointment with the status quo or abject failure. Without emotion there is no motivation at all.
I know, I know – all of those things are great, but what’s the upside of fear? The upside of fear is simple, it keeps us alive. When fear is kept at its normal, healthy proportions it is one of the primary things that keeps us from doing things that will get us hurt or killed. This healthy fear is a powerful tool. Most importantly it isn’t paralyzing. Healthy fear can help you make decisions but it can still be overwhelmed by the strength of other emotions.
Let me give an example. I am scared of being burned (no shock there right?). I’ve been burned before and I can tell you that it hurts. My fear of being burned helps me to be very careful when dealing with an open flame or even with the oven and stove in the house. Someone else’s fear of being burned motivated them to invent tongs, pokers and other tools that can be used to manipulate fire or food cooking on a fire. From those examples we can see how fear can be useful.
Let’s take the example a step further. If I’m scared of being burned then it stands to reason that I wouldn’t run into a burning house right? I don’t care if my most prized possessions are going to be burned up, I say let the burn and I’ll replace them later. But, what if it was my wife or child who was in the burning house and needed help? All of a sudden my fear of burning is forced to the side due to two more powerful emotions, my love for my family and my fear of losing them. Those emotions run so strong that I can actually feel my adrenaline pumping right now as a result of thinking about it.
So that’s important to remember, fear isn’t all bad. God didn’t make a mistake by putting it in us when he created man. Yet, “Fear is of the Devil” still echoes in my heart. I’ve always been a person with strong emotions. Love, Hate, Pride and any other emotion you can think of, I experienced them strongly and had to learn how to rein them in so that I didn’t hurt myself and others. Fear is no different; I’ve been terrified to the point of being unreasonable (and unreasoning).
As a matter of fact, that’s the reason I’m writing this article. My mother visited us last week (no, I’m not scared of her) and we had an interesting discussion over lunch on Thursday. During that discussion I realized how far I’ve come when I had a chance to vocalize my current thoughts on fear. The conversation started innocently enough. I don’t even remember what we were talking about at first, but somehow we got onto the topic of the end of the world. She asked me if I thought we were drawing close to it. I started off with my normal answer, which is that there is no reason to think so. People have pointed to the things happening in the world around them and declared that they were signs that the apocalypse was near in every generation since Christ. In fact, the fathers of the early church thought that it would occur in their own lifetimes. The Bible tells us that we won’t expect it. So it just doesn’t make sense to think that it will coincide with any of the ancient prophecies that the Mayans or someone like Nostradamus made.
Then I stopped and pointed out that she didn’t ask the right question. She asked what I meant and I said that the timing of the event was irrelevant. The real question is “are you scared/are you ready?” That’s really the point of the whole thing to begin with. The reason that people are fascinated with predicting the end of the world is that it’s a scary topic. People all over the world are scared of dying, and the end of the world means nothing more than being faced with our own mortality. I pointed out that the likelihood of dying because of Armageddon was astronomically small. The fact is that billions of people have died since the death of Jesus. None of them were ever killed as a result of the end of the world. As such, doesn’t it make since to be more afraid of dying for other reasons than the end of the world? Statistically the odds are well over a billion to 1 against the end of the world being the cause of your death.
So the real question that a person considering this should think of is “are you afraid of dying”. It’s a tough question for almost everyone. I can say honestly that I’m scared of dying with a significant amount of pain attached to it. I don’t want to suffer. But is death scary for any other reason than that? Not anymore. I’ve finally come accept the fact that I will die at some point, and more importantly I understand that I will go to heaven when it happens. When it’s time for my judgment I’m afraid God isn’t going to dance around for me. He might tell me that I was a big pain in the butt for a few years in my 20’s and he may tell me that I got in by the skin of my teeth, but the point is simple, I’m in.
There is a great benefit to this stage that I’m finding myself in. This faith in God unto death helps to diminish fear and increase courage. When push comes to shove and I need to defend my home or my family I won’t be sneaking out of the back door. I’m going to be charging to the front. If you kill me then you’ll kill me and I’ll get to heaven early. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If someone tries to take my life before God is done with me then I have faith that he’ll keep me around. There isn’t a bullet that God can’t deflect. There isn’t an injury that he can’t heal and there isn’t a thing that he can’t do. My fear is diminished and eliminated due to my faith. In fact, I have to amend my earlier statement. Fear cannot stand truth, light AND faith. Those are our weapons.
My pastor made an interesting point on Sunday that fits in well so well with these thoughts that I have to share it. He said it in passing, but I think it was one of the most important things he said all morning. He said that you gain a different perspective when you finally accept the fact that you are an eternal being. If you’ve never thought about that before then now is a good time to sit back and meditate on it. Your soul is going to live forever regardless of where you end up. I’m not talking about some unfeeling ghost. When your soul is released from your body I believe that you will know who you are and what you’ve been though. You’re going to be just as much you as you are today. And then we will all find ourselves at judgment day. This will come much too quickly for some. As soon as they are out of their body and get a good stretch all of a sudden they realize that they are being held accountable for the choices that they’ve made during their lives.
I hope you all know by now that I’m not some fire and brimstone kind of guy. If you’ve read this far then I have to assume that you’ve been listening and thinking calmly about what I’m saying. If you don’t know for sure that you are saved and going to heaven then I’m writing this for you. I’m afraid for you. I can face death right now, but I fear for you to do the same. I say that because my pastor is right. We are all eternal beings. We are all either going to heaven or going to hell. Even if you don’t believe that hell is as horrible as it is made out to be, there is no reason to take that risk. Going to hell is something that it makes sense to be afraid of. It’s scarier than every horror movie, every animal, and every torture. It’s worse than anything you can imagine.
So there it is, laid out for you. I didn’t realize where this article was going when I started it, but it sure makes sense to me to finish it there. There’s only one thing left. If you’ve been reading this and your thinking to yourself that you don’t want to go to hell. That’s one big thing that you can check off of the “Afraid of” list that will lead to the removal of most of the rest. If you want to move to the next phase of your life then it’s as simple as praying the following words:
-God, I believe in you and acknowledge that you are the one true God. I know that I’m a sinner by nature and that I need your help to break free of that nature. I believe that your son Jesus came down to earth as a man and died for my sins on the cross. I believe that he rose again from the dead and can hear me now. I believe that he’s redeemed my life with his sacrifice. God I invite you into my heart and make you Lord of my life. I thank you for your mercy Lord and I love you.-
You don’t have to do it in front of anyone, but if you said that prayer I would recommend that you tell a Christian friend about it. I would then recommend finding a good church and telling their ministers about your prayer and ask them to help you along your journey. You don’t have to start out perfect on this thing, I know I didn’t. But you do have to start out sincere.
I hope this made a difference in someone’s life. I’ll end this article with one of my favorite benedictions.
-May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.-