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The Only Thing to Fear Is Fear Itself

By October 8, 2008No Comments

This is a scary time. That is for sure.

But how we respond to the current state of our nation says a lot about our faith. How do you react in the face of fear?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately, but not just because of the Presidential race, and not just because of the economy.

This afternoon I listened to yet another student tell me about her family’s exile from a church due to a power struggle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some version of this story–either a pastor strong-arms a congregation and ruins his opponents’ reputations in the process, or a congregation does the same to a pastor. And it always boils down to one thing–a power struggle. While some of the participants may have good intentions, their actions reveal that it’s more an issue of control. They are afraid to lose control of the Church, so they commit un-Christlike acts to keep it.

But this dynamic, this power struggle that we find in churches, is no different than the struggle we witness in the current political mud-slinging. They have the exact same root–a fear of losing control. We struggle for power because we want to be the ones calling the shots. Only when we have control will we feel safe, so we fight tooth and nail for it.

And lest you think that power struggles only transpire on bureaucratic scales, think again. They play out in every part of our lives. For instance, if you’re married or dating, how do you handle things when your significant other makes a decision you don’t agree with? What do you do when they work on a project that you secretly think you could do better? How do you respond? Do you always have to lend your two cents?

Or how about at work? Do you micro-manage the people under you? Are you afraid to let anyone do a job without giving your own important input?

Or if you have kids, are you a helicopter mom who feels the urge to protect your child from EVERYTHING? I recently heard that some day care centers won’t allow their workers to color with the kids. Why? Because the adult might draw a rainbow that’s better than the child’s rainbow, which will result in the child having low self-esteem. Seriously?? That, right there, is a fear or losing control if I’ve ever seen it!

Every day we face various fears–our future, the future of our families, the future of our jobs, the future of our economy and the future of our nation. We are afraid of the unexpected, and we fear losing control.

But at the heart of these fears we find something much darker and far more sinister–we find a deeply rooted idolatry. Our fears reveal our true saviors–what we are really trusting in for security and peace. 

Most of the time, that idol is us.

We trust in our own ability to make things happen, to get things done, and to keep us safe. Which is why we are terrified at the thought of losing control, and why we will do almost anything to keep it. All of the greatest atrocities in human history have been done in the name of maintaining power. 

That’s why President Franklin Roosevelt was so wise in warning us that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” When our security is threatened and when our power is contested, we LASH OUT! Churches divide, spouses battle, bosses berate their employees, friends step on other friends to maintain their status in the in-crowd, and Christians fight with other Christians over secular politics. Even just this week, a man in Caifornia committed suicide and then killed his whole family because of the recent economic crisis.

That is the power of fear. It can destroy you, and everyone around you.

So in the face of these fears, we need to stop and take a deep breath before it escalates to a fever pitch. At times like these fear is dangerous, if not fatal, but fear is not found in national crises alone. In addition to keeping fear at bay in the face of extreme societal swings, we must rein in our fears daily. Every single day of our lives, our fears impact the decisions we make and the way that we treat people.

If we let it, fear will be our guiding compass.

If you don’t fight fear daily, then you will most certainly succumb to fear when the economy falters or your Presidential favorite doesn’t win. It can get much uglier if you don’t guard your fear now, so fight your fears!

God is not the author of fear, so resolve to do NOTHING based on fear. Christ died on a cross so that we have to be afraid no more. Don’t crawl back into the cage from which you’ve been set free! Don’t feed into the political and economic frenzies, and don’t allow fear to dictate your daily decisions and relationships with people.

So the question is, what are you afraid of, and how does it impact your life? Remember that people are watching you, and what you fear reveals a lot about your true savior, regardless of how much you tell people otherwise. When we feed into fear, we negate the Gospel we profess. And when it comes to fear and Christ, the two simply aren’t compatible.

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