December 14, 2011

Vicious Fear

Fortunately, fear, as I think of it, is not a common emotion to me. To retrieve how fear feels, I would have to reach pretty far back in my memory. I would have to remember being a child who slept facing the window beside my bed and used Papa Bear, my security toy, to guard my back. I would have to remember listening to the pounding of my heartbeat which I mistook for the sound of a giant’s footsteps, indicating impending nightmares. I would have to remember that eventually I developed a technique to wake myself up from bad dreams before the nightly torment came to an end. Since then, I haven’t been confronted with much fear. I am very blessed to be spared from the intense feeling so many people know intimately.

Most of us know we should defy fear when we recognize it because fear is from the devil. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” To experience fear is to acknowledge that the devil is taking a swing at you.

A quick search on the phrase “fear not” in the King James version of the Bible yields 63 proclamations of the command. Jesus said to his disciples, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26). God expects us to combat fear with faith. It is a no-brainer to respond in the face of fear, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me” (Matthew 16:23).

To combat fear with faith means that we trust God to move and work though our circumstances, come hardships or victories. We are called to be brave, to rely on His intervention and believe in the good which He always orchestrates. All things are safe under God’s care, even if we don’t enjoy the process. He promises us this security, therefore expects us to cast off fear.

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love."

Knowing to attack fear with scripture as it arises, I am surprised to discover that fear in subtle forms has reigned in me without my permission. The devil attacks as subtly as he can, and he is really good at camouflaging fear so that we will not rebuke it. Fear hides itself under the disguise of many other emotions and rationalizations. It has a silent victory when we do not notice its power is in effect. We should examine ourselves for inflexibility in addition to fear. Inflexibility is often fear with sugar on top.

To explain, I will give some examples of the fear I am beginning to recognize in my own life which I have previously accepted as permissible norms.

Fear of Straying from the Routine –

We all have a routine. We find something which works for us and we repeat it blindly. A routine takes the thought out of decision making. I go to work, come home, attend to the dogs, catch up on emails and news articles of interest, mentally forecast my to-do list and errands, contemplate working out or actually work out, maybe return a phone call, and then goof off for the last remaining hours of the evening. This routine works for me. Should an opportunity present itself to participate in an activity outside of my routine, I almost immediately decline it. The rationale is: “I would have to give something up in order to stray from my routine and my routine is sacred, isn’t it? I designed this routine to do the thinking for me, so other options don’t even register for consideration. If I make an exception to my routine, will that alteration degrade the structure I’ve established for my personal life? Would this additional act be the first step to an over-commitment which I am doomed to regret?” I recognize fear in straying from the routine.

Fear of Being Uncomfortable –

Rationale: “What if I step outside my routine and attend this suggested event but I don’t have fun? What if I forsake a couple hours of pajama-lounging, book-reading, doggie cuddle time for an awkward social situation? It is easier to prioritize my own comfort than to risk it. I mean, my comfort is sacred too, isn’t it? No one will protect it but me. There is absolutely no security in whether the investment of my time and the sacrifice of my routine will pay off.” There is a fear in risking my comfort.

Fear of the Unknown –

When a fear of the unknown is at work, then the negative possibilities which could come from a situation are alot more worrisome than the good which could await. Rationale: “I may waste my time. I might look unattractive. I might get into trouble or meet someone who brings temptation into my life. I can't predict if I’ll say something I shouldn’t or how my listener will perceive me. Isn’t it smart to spare myself from all this unknown? I mean, controlling my universe is valuable, isn’t it? I have to keep my universe small if I want to keep control of it. If I lose control, I may open myself up to heartache.” Fear of heartache is another one.

Fear of Heartache –

Heartbreak hurts, so like a reflex you build protective walls around your heart in order to protect yourself from further pain. (I once wrote a blog titled, “Written for the Wounded Heart” which addresses this topic. I will repost it following this one.) This fear encompasses fear of loss, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of betrayal, as well as its opposite; fear of attaining your heart’s desire only to discover that reality disappoints. You can’t embrace any of these relationship fears and still attain God’s blessing. God has not sent the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:17); therefore if permitted, fear will interfere in a relationship which God has ordained. Fear works discretely to steal, kill and destroy relationship potential (John 10:10). It must be identified as a pollutant and purged.

Fear of Failure –

The fear of failure rests on expectations. To let your expectations get ahead of God’s disclosed will opens the door to this fear. If I could go about life aiming at the stars, but accept that I have lost nothing if I don’t reach them, then I would conquer this fear. An attitude of gratitude is an effective weapon against the fear of failure. It sets appreciation on the present and helps manage expectations. Aspire, work, invest and plan, but stifle the fear of failure by recognizing just how “okay” you will be if the aspiration doesn’t work out. We don’t need to fear the loss of what never existed. With this mindset, goals are only opportunities for benefit so there is nothing to fear.

Human nature embraces fear, sometimes without even knowing it. Divine nature condemns fear and demands we cast it off. Faith is the antidote.

Satan’s deceives us into thinking that we are not living in fear, when there are many currents of hesitation coursing through our lives. I have addressed only a handful of mine. These behaviors are so subtle and normal that I have never called any of them out as fears. Now that I see them through fear-revealing glasses, I have a responsibility to defeat them.

What causes you to hesitate? Do you have knee-jerk reactions to options and opportunities? Would you admit to having hang-ups? Is that hesitation, knee-jerk reaction or hang-up actually fear at work restraining you from giving God liberty to perform a greater will? If there is fear at work, then there is interference to God’s will in place.

It is crucial that we:

(1) Call out fear – identify it as from the devil

(2) Defy fear - no longer permit it to reign, proclaim “Get thee behind me Satan!”

(3) Become offensive against fear - Aspire to be brave, come what may, realizing that God ordains bravery because God requires faith.

Exercise bravery! Battle your hesitations and take wise risks! Don’t stiff-arm God’s will by loving your own security more. Love God’s will enough to risk yourself, your routine, comfort, control, heartache, and disappointment for it. Let go of decision-making tactics which revolve around controlling the end result. Focus on the means and let go of the ends. Let go and be blessed!

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