From The Garden Bench - Fear
Words by Bev Jones
What makes you afraid? Thunder and lightning, visits to the dentist?
Do you have a phobia that engenders fear? Spiders?
What makes you fearful? Pain, the possibility of a serious illness, a loss of control either physically or mentally?
Prior to the lockdown of the Covid-19 virus, fear was certainly a factor in the panic buying which took place and drove people’s decisions about how to cope if self-isolation was to occur for 14 days. Fear of catching the virus led to the wearing of face masks despite the scientific evidence about this. Fear also leads to compliance which might not always be the correct course of action.
Photo by Adam Nieścioruk via Unsplash
Brian Green is an eminent American physicist and in a recent interview he talked about a future fear he has; not that he will one day die but about his legacy. Brian has reached the conclusion through mathematical equations and physics that in billions of years time the earth as we know it will no longer exist because our sun will disintegrate; this is a natural phenomenon. Brian’s fear is that all his scientific discoveries explained in his books and papers will be lost and count for nothing and his life’s work will be forgotten for all time. As a scientist he simply wants to make a difference to the world which will last.
The opposite of fear is faith.
For Christians our faith is based on the life on one man who did make a difference for all time: Jesus.
Our relationship with Jesus grows our faith as we learn of His teachings and His way of life. We grow closer to God for whom our lives do have an impact on His world for all eternity as He uses us in our daily lives to bless others.
Regularly in the Bible God tells His people; Do not be afraid.
The Bible also informs us that ‘perfect love casts out all fear’ ( John’s first letter chapter 4 verse 18)
In the Bible the word ‘fear’ appears 127 times, the word ‘fearful’ is used 7 times and the word ‘afraid’ occurs 10 times. God is aware of our natural tendency to have this emotional trait in our lives; it is an emotional response button which is pressed by a variety of situation and according to our personality.
In the Bible there are 2 different types of fear;
a) being afraid as a natural response to a situation or person which causes us to become anxious, concerned, worried or afraid.
b) the fear of the Lord; not that God is a punitive God who watches our every move in order to strike our lives with a severe punishment. Rather that our perspective of this awesome God causes us to realise who we are in comparison to His personality and character; that the God who created the universe and the earth as we know it, could actually want a loving relationship with each and every one of us.
These 2 approaches to fear are perfectly evidenced in the Gospel story involving Jesus and the disciples; in Mark chapter 4 verses 35 to 41 there is the narrative of the calming of the storm. The disciples experience a rational fear of the storm; the winds, the waves and potential death. When Jesus calms the storm at one simple request, the disciples then experience the fear of the Lord as they recognise a new dimension to the character of their friend who demonstrated divine power over nature. As followers of Jesus we are not meant to live a life of fear but one of faith, hope, trust and love knowing that, no matter life throws at us, God is only a prayer away and always ready to come to our aid.
Photo by Emmanuel Phaeton via Unsplash
As Christians could our approach include the following;
a) a deep trust in God and His purposes for our lives; that all things are meant for our good.
b) a deepening faith that we are in the reliant hands of God who will never let us down nor turn us way.
c) to be able to rest in His love that never fails.
d) the ability to rely on His power to bring us through a difficult situation or experience When Jesus said to His disciples; ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’ ( John chapter 14 verse 1) He was basically saying; do not be afraid.
The following strategy may help in growing in faith and growing away from fear;
1) remember that God cares for us; ‘casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you’ (the first letter from Peter chapter 5 verse 7)
2) the practice of deliberately placing your trust in God; ‘those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you’ (Psalm 9 verse 10)
3) train your mind to respond to a difficult situation or person which might produce fear in you with a Bible verse of one of the many promises God makes in the Bible; ‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind’ (the second letter to Timothy chapter 1 verse 7)
Fear is a natural human response but not one that has to dominate our lives or our responses to difficult situations or people. Often it is much easier to theorise about the Christian approaches to eradicating fear in our lives than it is the practice, especially when a fearful situations arises, we know what our response should be but the reality is that we do not turn to God and draw upon Him.
Recommendation; next time you think you are going to be afraid, talk with God first before you respond; Fear Him, you saints, then you will have nothing to fear
You may find the following hymns useful:
All the way my Saviour leads me (Mission Praise 22) Do not be afraid ( Mission Praise 115)
You may also find the following prayer useful;
When nothing is right and we are weary and lost, when clouds dull the sky and help us to be still. When our cries are unheeded, all our efforts bear no fruit and when darkness covers the land of our lives, God help us to be still. When love is over and hope is gone, when we are fearful and cannot see ahead, help us to be still. For in being still, in refusing to panic or despair, it is then, at that moment that we shall come to know that God is there; alongside us in our anxiety, patiently helping us to see the stepping stones through the swirling waters of fear, to bring us through to His side.
God bless you
Photo by Mass Munch via Unsplash
Signing off; your local Lay-worker, David Hollows