Thursday, June 6, 2013

Facing Our Fears by Greg York

Facing Our Fears

I heard an interview with Stephen King recently.  Stephen King has the ability to scare people out of their wits, whether you’re reading his novels or watching one of the many, many film adaptations.  Scaring people is what he does.  But in the interview, he was asked what scared him.  He responded by saying that the movie that had really scared him in the last few years began this way:  There’s a seated woman writing the line “the branches creaked in the…”  She stops and asks her husband, “What are those tall things in the backyard?  Birds land in the branches…”  And her husband says, “Why, Iris, those are trees.”  “Trees, yes, that’s it!”  And she continues to write and the movie begins.  The movie is Iris, the story of Oxford writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch and her battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.


Stephen King, master of horror, a man who makes his living (a good living) assisting people in feeling fear, says that what scares him most is the thought of losing his mind.  That is his boogeyman.


What is your boogeyman?  What is it that you fear the most?  Maybe another way to put it is this: What is the thing that you would absolutely not want to happen under any circumstances?


Maybe it’s cancer.  Maybe it’s that something will happen to your kids or your grandchildren. Maybe it’s financial ruin.  Maybe it’s that someone will find out about what you did that time.  Maybe it’s that you’ll lose your job or your car or your house.  Maybe it’s that you’ll be a victim of a terrorist attack.  Maybe it’s that you’ll have to live in constant pain.  Maybe it’s that your spouse will leave you.  Maybe it’s that you’ll be lonely.


Maybe, like Stephen King, it’s that you might spend the last years of your life not in your right mind and utterly dependent on others.  (This may be one of the only ways Stephen King and I are alike.)


Or, maybe you are one of those folks for whom there’s a revolving set of “greatest fears”—this one today, another one tomorrow…plenty to go around.


Here are a couple of thoughts to keep in mind:


That one thing, or all of those things, you fear the most might, in fact, happen sometime.


That one thing, or all of those things, you fear the most, will, in fact, probably not happen.


(Some of you don’t believe that last line, but my concern going forward is not to convince of that…so, we move on…because…)


Here is a bigger thought to keep in mind:


Whether that thing you fear the most—or all of them, at once—ever happens, on one level, it doesn’t matter.


Not if you are a child of God.  (I know that is easier said than lived, being myself perhaps not a professional, but at least an accomplished amateur worrier.)  But it is a truth to go back to as a touchstone over and over.


So, Greg, what does this have to do with learning life in Christ?  Isn’t that supposed to be the point of this blog?


John says that “perfect love casts out fear” (see 1 John 4.18).  Perhaps the flip side of that is true, as well: perhaps fear can cast out of our hearts our awareness of God’s perfect love.  Or, maybe I’m the only one that finds it to be true that when I’m focusing on my fear concern du jour, my trust is God is pretty much non-existent.  And you can’t live for him when you don’t trust him.


Here’s a lesson a lot of the folks in the Bible learned: in the facing of our deepest fears, God’s presence is found.


Think Abraham and the call to sacrifice Isaac.  Think Moses the fugitive going back to Egypt. Think Esther going to see the king (as Dale pointed out in his sermon a couple of Sundays ago).  Think Jesus in the Garden and then going on to the cross.


Or, consider the prophet Habakkuk, who is not happy with the behavior of the people, wants God to do something about it.  But then he is upset with God, confused and fearful when he finds out that God’s plan is for the Chaldeans to destroy Jerusalem and take the people into exile.  But after God gives him some information and some time to think, Habakkuk concludes:

Though the fig tree does not blossom,
   and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
   and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
   and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
   I will exult in the God of my salvation
(Habakkuk 3.17-18).

(Translation: “If the worst possible happens and life falls completely apart, I’ll still rely on God.”)


Or, consider the early preacher/missionary Paul, with all he endured to do that proclaiming about Jesus (there’s a handy listing of his troubles in 2 Corinthians 11.23-29).  And yet, what is his core conviction?  I think he states it quite eloquently in Romans 8.35, 37-39:


Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?      No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Translation: “Nothing that I might fear will ever be powerful enough to take me away from God.”)


Some of our fears may, in fact, come true.  (Most will not, thanks be to God.)  But whether they happen or not, we can rest assured that God is with us, even there, in the fear, and he will see us through.  Whatever you fear the most is not as powerful as God.  Every now and then, I need that reminder.

No comments:

Post a Comment