A few months ago, I reconnected with a colleague from the Netherlands. We both worked in Rwanda but hadn’t seen each other in 15 years.
Over the course of our conversation, he looked at me soberly and stated, “Right now, the overarching narrative in our world, and especially in the USA, is one of fear.”
Is he right? Is the narrative informing our decision-making and understanding of our world truly driven by fear?
In some form, we are all intimately acquainted with fear. It starts small. When I was a kid, the sounds of our furnace made my young imagination run wild with images of what might be lurking in the dark corners of our basement.
As I got a little older, I valiantly conquered my furnace fears only to succumb to the terror of needles. To this day, I battle a dramatic needle phobia and have made an unfortunate habit of passing out at the sight of them. On not one, not two, but three flights (most recently this past week), simply viewing medical television shows prompted me to pass out right into my food, nearly causing an emergency landing in Germany.
As a young dad, I feared for my kids’ safety and worked to kidproof everything. As they grew, I did my best to ensure every bike ride was accompanied with helmet and kneepads before they ventured out into the dangerous world of concrete cul-de-sacs and slippery sand patches.
More than basements, needles, and bike crashes, this world gives of plenty of reasons to be afraid. We fear cancer. We fear senseless gun violence. We fear the next presidential election. We fear the unknown.
We all battle fear.
If we’re not vigilant, the siren song of fear causes us to orchestrate our lives to become as safe and comfortable as possible. Fear causes us to protect ourselves more than we trust in God. Fear tells us to avoid bold risks, give up when motivation wanes, love conveniently, and settle for quiet complacency.
Fear is an agent of paralysis. It’s a powerful tool the enemy employs to debilitate us and keep us from taking risks for what matters most. Fear causes us to:
- Isolate ourselves. We slip into our numb cocoons, and allow Netflix and a half-gallon of Breyer’s ice cream to become our best friends.
- Fear causes us to take refuge in ideas. We talk about theories of loving our neighbors instead of putting these ideas into practice. It’s easy to discuss the refugee crisis and use passionate hashtags on twitter, yet never even meet a refugee. It’s easy to quote verses on our Biblical mandate to care for those in poverty, and never to meet our impoverished neighbors minutes from our front doors. Fear allows us to show up at conferences without ever showing up in broken places.
- Often, fear causes us to distract ourselves with our hobbies – because when we’re really busy training for our next marathon or burying our noses in the latest John Grisham novel, we don’t have time to take the risk of caring for others.
The good news is we can wage war on our fear. There is something that drives out fear – love. Bold, risky, and powerful, this love is not fluffy emotionalism, but gritty and true.
People who understand the power of Christ’s love refuse to give in to fear and drift into indifference. Rather, the love of Christ drives them into places of great risk and immense reliance on God. We step out believing that “God did not give you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-discipline” (1 Tim 1:7).
If we are to look anything like the God we claim to follow, giving in to fear is simply not an option. Loving others only when it’s convenient or comfortable isn’t an option. Jesus himself modeled this by entering into our pain. The power of Christ transforms our fearful hearts, and replaces them with His heart. May we refuse to be a people of fear as we love boldly and serve courageously.