Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fear That Freezes, Fear That Frees

Moving to a new locale is a big deal. My future is filled with “what ifs”: What if I don’t like my new school? What if I think my town is boring? What if I don’t make friends? What if I don’t fit in at church? What if my relationship ends? What if I’m all alone? Fear like this often has a tendency to paralyze me. But Jesus speaks to his disciples about this fear that freezes:

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12:4-7)

The Holy Spirit has graciously reminded me of the truth of this passage (even though I’m having difficulty really grasping it and finding rest at this point). Jesus is telling his disciples—his friends—about persecution and trials that will come as they follow him. They had heard their Master speak about how the religious leaders had not only killed all of God’s previous prophets, but also that they would persecute and even kill the apostles whom Jesus would send (Luke 11:47-51). Jesus was telling them not to fear the very people who would oppose them and even put them to death!

The reason Jesus gives for confidence is odd: They should fear God alone, because only he has the power to determine eternal life and death. Upon a cursory reading, it seems that Jesus is warning his disciples that they too are in danger of hell. But what I believe he’s really saying is this: “You are my dear friends; and in me you are dear to God. No detail of your circumstances will ever slip by his notice or be dropped from his hands. He watches over flittering birds; how much more will he guard you who bear his own image! You have nothing to fear in this world except the God who loves you.”

Leaving a situation in life in which I was growing more and more comfortable and stepping out into a big Question Mark is difficult. But faith calls me to live not by what if but by what is: the reality of Christ's grace, which works its power in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). The truth is that even if all else changes, my life is not over. My path does not dead-end. Life with God is never hopeless. I am often tempted to think in despair, If all my fears above come true, this is all a loss; I will have nothing; what will I do then? But if I have God and even God alone, I have nothing less than if I were to have God and every other worldly blessing. “[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life . . . through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). Therefore I am free to take whatever may come, moving forward in hope, because I can know the Almighty, the Commander of Angel Armies,* as my caring, all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving Father who rejoices in doing good to me (Jeremiah 32:41).

*In the Old Testament God is frequently called YHWH Tsavaoth, the “LORD of hosts” (NIV “LORD Almighty”). These “hosts” are the legions of angels who fight at God’s bidding for the good of his people Israel.

1 comment:

Ted M. Gossard said...

Good words, Andrew. You remind me of myself. Sometimes we just have to cling to God and his word, when it seems we're in that fear that freezes. Then we'll certainly eventually know that good fear that frees- like you well say.

Blessings on your paths in God's good will in Jesus, for you!