Are you afraid?
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What are you afraid of? God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (see 2 Timothy 1:7).
Fear is so prevalent that we’ve become used to its influence. We often don’t even recognize how much it’s holding us back from being all that God created us to be: how much joy, how much satisfaction, how much peace, how much purpose, and how much freedom we need to truly know God’s love and mercy and forgiveness.
Are you afraid to say no to people’s demands on you, even when you are being over-stretched? Are you afraid to say yes to God’s will for your life, even though your own will has gotten you into so many messes? Are you afraid to make a needed change in your life? Are you afraid to reach out for new friendships? Are you afraid to stay in a relationship where the problems feel overwhelming?
There are three kinds of fear:
- Fear of God, which means we are in AWE of Him because we realize that He is perfectly loving, totally good, and without Him we are neither loving nor good.
- Natural Fear, which is the common sense warning that helps us survive: “Don’t put your hand on that hot stove or it will burn!”
- Evil Fear, which blows common sense out of proportion, and which has nothing to do with God: “Don’t get within 10 feet of that hot stove or you will burn!” Evil fear harms both our relationship with God and our enjoyment of the life He has given us.
Evil (or unhealthy) fear originates with punishment. When we were children, our parents taught us to be good by punishing us when we did something bad. We obeyed our parents because we feared them. We feared their anger, or their lectures, or their spankings, or their disapproval. As an adult, examine closely what motivates you to do good? Do you perform your job well because you love the people you work for — or is there a fear of being reprimanded or losing your job? Do you help that person who is causing so many problems because you love him or because you’re afraid of his reaction if you say no? Do you go to church because of the fear of going to hell or because you love God?
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18 NIV).
Fear in your life indicates that you don’t totally believe in God’s love. We associate suffering with punishment. Our world has taught us that suffering is bad and that we must get rid of everything and everyone that causes us pain and difficulties. We think that if we’re good enough, the pain will finally end, but when we fail to stop the pain, we become convinced that God is continually disapproving of us. We believe that if God allows us to suffer — which obviously He does — He must be punishing us.
Fear always lies to us. Fear tells us: “Suffering is proof that God’s love has quit on you, or it’s insufficient to protect you.” Fear tells us that we must take matters into our own hands in order to gain happiness in our lives. Control becomes a major issue. We fear losing control or giving up control to another person, and we especially fear giving total control over to God!
The opposite of fear is trust, and it sure is hard to trust God completely! How often have you prayed for something, and when you didn’t get what you wanted fast enough or the way you wanted it, you gave up waiting on God and took care of it yourself? And how often have you later regretted it, because you couldn’t solve the problem satisfactorily anyway?
The sufferings we fear can actually bring us closer to God. Scripture says:
Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17 NIV)
Scripture also says:
The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Luke 12:40 NIV)
We do not expect Him in our sufferings. We look for Him to relieve our sufferings and usually demand it from Him! When the relief doesn’t come fast enough, fear says that He is no longer loving us, that we are not safe with Him, and that He has abandoned us. Fear blinds us from seeing Him weep with us as He stands at our side. Fear deafens us to the comfort He is offering. Fear keeps us from feeling His strong arms carrying us.
To overcome fear and enter into the fullness of God’s love for you:
- Look at the fear.
- Identify the lie it is telling you.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to help you know what the truth is.
- Figure out WHY it is true.
- Choose to believe the truth.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to believe the truth.
- Act on the truth.
Taking action is crucial to overcoming fears and living in the fullness of God’s love. We hear about the truth and we forget it. We see the truth lived out in someone else and we remember it. We DO the truth and we finally understand it.
With understanding comes a change in our beliefs. We stop believing the lies of fear and we start truly believing that God really does love us. And that is when we willingly give God our trust. That is when we are set free to live in the full power of the kingdom of God. That is when we have self-control instead of being controlled by fear. That is when love takes over and we are healed, we are strengthened, we are able to face the suffering that we still have to endure.
© 2002 by Terry A. Modica
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