Every Wednesday we’ll post something to do with doctrine and recovery. Hope it helps.
“—fear hath torment.” - I John 4:18
While most of us remember Pearl Harbor from a safe distance, Navy veteran Lou Gore recalls the events of December 7, 1941 as an insider. Stationed aboard the USS Phoenix in Honolulu that morning, the then-18 year old was cleaning up after breakfast below deck when smoke, flames and screams converged to create a pandemonium he describes movingly in a recent interview with The Christian Science Monitor. It’s worth a read, reminding us not only of the infamous attack, but also that life in this fallen world can be lethally unpredictable. Horrific things happen out of the blue; no one’s exempt. And that’s scary.
FDR’s famous inaugural remark about fear – “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – is usually quoted with an important phrase left out. He followed the famous ‘fear itself’ line by describing it as “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Beautifully put. Times get hard financially, physically, socially, emotionally. When they do, my fears start their chant: What if it gets worse? What if I don’t have what it takes to meet the challenge? What if I’m humiliated with failure? What’s on tv? Because by now, I’m ready to zone out and binge on ice cream. Just when advance is most needed, fear calls me to retreat from it all, like the slothful man Solomon described who says “There’s a lion in the street, so I’m staying in.” (Proverbs 26:13) The efforts needed for advance do indeed get paralyzed, not only aborting the actions that need to be taken to correct the problem, but creating an emotional hell. Speaking of which, it’s interesting to notice that when John says “fear hath torment” (I John 4:18) he uses the same Greek word for “torment” that Matthew used for the damned when they face “everlasting punishment.” (Matthew 25:46) Fear brings a hellish torment, as anyone who’s suffered through it can attest.
But it doesn’t have to. Revisiting history is always instructive, and if you look at your history with God I think you’ll relate to three things I’ve been telling myself lately about my fears:
1. My fears have usually been exaggerated.
The things I feared have usually turned out to be smaller, less potent, and have passed much more quickly than I thought they would. Historically, I’ve been wrong about their size.
2. My worst fears have usually been unrealized.
My ‘What-If’s’ almost always become ‘Never-Was’ For whatever silly reason I tend to default to the worst case scenario, probably as a defensive way of avoiding disappointment. So “I have a headache” becomes “What if it’s a tumor?” needlessly, even ridiculously. But historically, my worst nightmares have always been awakened from. What I fear the most is generally the least likely to happen.
3. I’ve met my worst fears and they haven’t been so bad!
On the few occasions when what I feared most did indeed come about, strength and peace were both given to me just when they were required. I’ve been amazed, in fact, to see how I’ve breezed through things I never though I could handle, all because God wanted me to experience His power in the midst of impossibilities, upping my confidence in Him and making me less afraid next time troubles came.
No wonder, then, Paul could say so plainly that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear. (II Timothy 1:7) The Author and Finisher of our faith is also the one allowing the circumstances we cringe at, teaching us that what He’s made us to be is so much more than the trouble’s we lose sleep over. And I’ve lost enough sleep, God knows, over my fears.
Enough of that. Goodnight.