Jasper is creeping up on 17 months old. The exact same age Eden was three years ago when she was diagnosed with stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma. And unless you have had a child who has had some life threatening illness or injury, you can probably only imagine the kind of fear that tries to creep into my psyche. Mental torment is not an exaggeration. To top it off, Eden and Jasper were both born the exact time of year, so at this very moment three years ago, the Spaeth family was having what I thought at the time the BEST summer, yet. And then, just like that, we weren’t. So I’ve been thinking about fear. A lot.
You probably haven’t thought about it much (or maybe you have), but fear plays a huge role in our culture, our paradigm, our human existence. Simple searches on the web created an overview of how often we talk about, walk into, and come face to face with fear. Any of these sound familiar?
Phrases: wild with Fear, my worst Fear, frozen with Fear, conquer your Fear, face your Fear, Fear of failure, Fear of commitment, Fear of what others think, Fear for my life, Fear of tomorrow, Fear of change, Fear of the unknown
Movie (and Book) Titles: Cape Fear, Sudden Fear, Primal Fear, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Sum of All Fears, The Fear Inside, Fear Dot Com, The Summer of Fear, Fear
Song Titles: Fearless, Fearless Love, Fear is the Key, Fears of the Father, Fear of Flying, Fear of the Dark
And one wildly popular TV Show a few years back called Fear Factor, where people competed against each other while facing “frightful” (not to mention often disgusting) obstacles.
Quotes: “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”
There are 530 documented phobias. To name a few I found interesting: Ablutophobia- Fear of washing or bathing, Chaetophobia- Fear of hair, Cheimatophobia- Fear of cold, Geliophobia- Fear of laughter, Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia- Fear of the number 666 (I want to know who came up with that one), Ideophobia- Fear of ideas, Lilapsophobia- Fear of tornadoes and hurricanes, Necrophobia- Fear of death or dead things, Phobophobia- Fear of phobias, Soceraphobia- Fear of parents-in-law (Calling Dr. Phil…), and Tonitrophobia- Fear of thunder (Go, OKC!).
And that is JUST the word “fear”. What about all the words we use every single day that are basically just synonyms?
Worry is fear. Fear that I would look like an idiot when I shaved my head for St. Baldrick’s.
Concern is fear. Fear that my oldest child will grow up to be the messiest adult alive. Seriously. I’m concerned.
Stress is fear. Fear that my sanity might not survive this Wal-Mart trip with a cranky 16 month old who really wants that bag of candy in the checkout aisle.
Insecurity is fear. Fear that I’m not skinny enough, funny enough, pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough….
PTSD is fear. Anxiety is fear. Dread is fear. Doubt is fear. Timidity is fear. Apprehension is fear. Hate is fear. ALL fear.
Fear paralyzes, distorts, hinders, lies, blinds, steals, and kills.
And, yet, we pay hard-earned money to skydive, hang glide, deep sea dive, cliff climb, bungee jump, zip line, run the rapids, and roll the coasters. We pay to sit in the dark, on the edge of our seats, waiting to be served up a heart attack at any moment. We willingly walk through houses filled with horrors every fall just for the thrill. Can you say love/hate?
From another perspective, not all fear is bad, right? I’m sure many a caveman lived to see another day because he feared leaving his cave after dark. It’s called survival, and God equipped us with an amygdala, an almond shaped mass of nuclei located deep within our brain that triggers our survival instincts upon facing fear and distress. Interesting. It’s like God knew we’d need it. Sometimes fear is wisdom, like locking our homes and vehicles and not letting our children play in the street. Sometimes fear is awe and reverence to the most powerful.
I think that it is reasonably safe to say that we have all felt and reacted to fear. We parent out of fear. Love out of fear. Hate out of fear. Control out of fear. React out of fear. Befriend out of fear. Say “yes” out of fear. Say “no” out of fear. Even the Son of God was afraid once. HE. SWEAT. BLOOD. When was the last time you were that stressed? Fear is simply part of the human condition.
But was it always? And how does God expect me to manage all of the scary stuff in this world?
Enter Strong’s Concordance. According to those geniuses, fear (or a synonym of fear) is used 400 times in 385 verses in the King James Version. God knew we would face it, He created our brain to handle it, and, yet, He gives us specific instructions to “Fear not…” numerous times. He wants us to stand in awe of Him, give Him the honor He so deserves, use His Spirit to discern dangerous situations, but He doesn’t want us to be controlled by the Spirit of Fear…..the fear that cripples us. So during my middle-of-the-night thought surges, I began to wonder when is the first time we are introduced to fear in the Bible. You can probably guess…..the Garden.
So here are Adam and Eve placed in an exquisite paradise. Everything provided for them….food, shelter, comfort, and fellowship with their Creator, even the freedom of choice. Think about it. Naked but no worries. (That just seems unnatural.) No bug bites. No sunburn. No rashes. No insecurities. Their whole existence was dependent on God’s perfect love and goodness. Remember “….Perfect love drives out fear”…..1 John 4:18. Fear could not exist in a realm where God’s character was never put into question. Then, like with all children, that freedom of choice had to go and reek havoc.
I used to wonder why God chose the eating of the apple as the first sin. Okay, God, so she ate the apple. But I’ve grown to understand that it could have been any action because in the instant that Eve chose to take that bite and pass it to her husband, she was actually making a choice to question God’s character. Was He really that perfect? Did He really have their best interests at heart? Was He really that good? It was a choice that reflected “maybe I, mere human, can do all this myself.”
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself”….. Genesis 3:8-10
Dang. Self-awareness. Self-reliance.
Then there were all kinds of reasons to be afraid. Instead of living completely dependent upon a perfect Creator, humans had to rely on their not-so-perfect selves. For food. For shelter. For clothes. For survival. Then along the line, God’s hardheaded people still couldn’t get it, and they asked for the Law. More self-reliance. All the while, God is there practically screaming, “not by power not by might, but by my Spirit (Zachariah 4:6).” He drove His point home when He sent His Son to the cross. When are we ever going to learn that it’s not about us? It’s ALL God.
The more we rely on our strengths, wrestle with our weaknesses, believe the enemy’s lies that God is less than He claims to be the more we are controlled by fear. Because let’s face it, we are human. We are imperfect. The world is imperfect. Crappy stuff happens. All. Of. The. Time. Who wouldn’t be afraid? But the minute we make the choice to believe that God is good. That He “only has plans to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11).” That He does not lie. That He loves us unconditionally. That no matter what we face His perfect love and His perfect promise to “work all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28)” holds us secure in His hand. We are free from fear.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”……1 John 4:18
To live without fear is to live solely dependent upon whom God says He is. No one said it would be easy. Not even God (remember all those “Fear nots”?). The world around us mocks us with the contrary. But if we want to live phobia free, we choose to exist without self-reliance but with God-reliance.
There is an AllState Insurance commercial that sums it up beautifully.
“There are man-eating sharks in every ocean, but we still swim. Every second somewhere in the world lightning strikes, but we still play in the rain. Poisonous snakes can be found in 49 of the 50 states, but we still go looking for adventure. A car can crash. A house can crumble. But we still drive and love coming home. Because I think deep down we know, all the bad things that can happen in life can’t stop us from making our lives good.” (Good Life)
And just as fear is an emotion engraved in our beings, there is a yearning in our souls to rely on God’s character. To know deep down that good has already conquered evil through the cross. Our only job is to trust and believe that all the bad things that can happen in life can’t stop GOD from making our lives good. It’s how I live in a world where childhood cancer exists and kills innocent lives. God is my fear insurance. And I am in good hands.
P.S. Don’t fear! There’s still time to register for the Be A Firework! glow-in-the-dark 5k. Register early to guarantee your t-shirt and glow stuff! Click on the link below!!! You know you want to…..
5K Flyer 2
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