“There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.” – The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
It seems that we live in a world that is driven by fear. The uncertainties over things like COVID, tensions in the Middle East, a government that doesn’t seem to have their “ducks in a row” (as the saying goes), etc. It’s as if the world itself is a giant volcano, and the lava that is spewing out of the top is nothing but the spirit of fear. What’s worse, this very fear is thriving in the one place people should be able to turn to and find hope and faith in times like these.
Think back to last year, 2020. With the exception of maybe a few (and I mean no more than I can count with my ten fingers), every church in the US was shut down, and sadly some still have yet to open back up. Some said in the beginning that they were “just following government guidelines” or “taking precautions,” which there was nothing wrong with. The problem? That same precaution very quickly turned into unhealthy fear and anxiety of what the future might hold. Or more specifically, what it might not.
According to clinical psychologist Zachary Sikora with Northwestern Medicine, “Fear is a natural and biological condition that we all experience. It’s important that we experience fear because it keeps us safe.” Though the first part of this statement rings true, the second part is questionable. For every human being, fear is a reaction that is legitimate. But the reaction that keeps us safe is not fear, but rather common sense. For the believing Christian, it is also the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To be guided by the Holy Spirit requires faith, but fear can so easily blind and paralyze us.
Where fear thrives, faith dies
If you are reading this and you are not a professing follower of Jesus Christ, then this next part might sound foreign to you. The Bible has a lot to say about fear. For example, when Jesus calms the storm (Mark 4:35-41). Jesus is awakened from sleep by His disciples because they found themselves in the middle of a terrifying storm (that Jesus was sleeping through). He stands up, rebukes the storm, and all returns to peaceful calm. But what He says next is key: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (NLT). These are the same disciples who, after Jesus ascended into Heaven, faced death on a daily and didn’t even bat an eye. What happened? Did they somehow become a robot and turn off the naturally occurring emotion called fear? Not exactly, but they did learn a valuable lesson that they took with them for the rest of their lives. The lesson? How to properly process and deal with fear. Fear in and of itself is not a sin, nor is it displeasing to God (He created us with the natural emotion). What is displeasing to God, however, is when that fear is what guides us rather than His voice. In Isaiah 7, the Lord tells Isaiah to give a message to King Ahaz as he is facing the threat of invasion from opposing kings. The message was in response to his fear. The Lord says, “Tell him to stop worrying. Tell him he doesn’t need to fear the fierce anger of those two burned-out embers . . .” (Isaiah 7:4 NLT). Then a few verses down, in the same message to King Ahaz, the Lord finishes with this statement: “Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.” (Isaiah 7:9b NLT). These words still hold true to this day, because the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8 NLT).
So how do we deal with fear?
For the Believer, you deal with fear by processing it with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces the fruit of peace in our lives, which is the opposite of fear. Fear brings a whole set of emotions that cause nothing but turmoil to the victim. Anxiety. Worry. They stem from the root of fear. Peace on the other hand brings calm and clarity. Soundness of mind. Fear clouds, peace clears. You cannot live in faith when you are living in fear.
For the Unbeliever, the concept of the Holy Spirit might be foreign to you, and you might not be in a place where you have decided in your heart to learn more (or even become a Believer). Though the prayer of every Believer is for you to come to the same belief, only you can decide to go that route. For the Unbeliever, navigating fear is more difficult because there is no guidance from the Spirit of Peace. The way for you to navigate fear is to keep your fear from becoming a mindset – a mindset that only leads to constant turmoil and anxiety both in your mind and in your heart. The way you think defines the way you live, whether you are conscious of it or not.
Now there are those who have major, medically diagnosed anxiety disorders. These can be tricky to navigate because they are more intense episodes than normal encounters with anxiety and fear. The statements I have written above are not directed towards these cases, though the Holy Spirit is still the best way to process this for the Believer.
So now these questions remain:
- What are you afraid of?
- How do you process this fear?
- Has your fear become a mindset?
Let me know your thoughts. All feedback is welcome, even if it is a contrary view to what is written here.