Monday, September 28, 2009

What Are You Afraid Of?

"Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear." (Job 41:33)

I read somewhere, "Some of us are defined by our fears." I considered this to be a discerning observation at first. Then I realized, all of us are defined by our fears in one way or another, depending on our response. According to this verse, there was only one creature on earth completely devoid of fear: something called "leviathan." And if you read the chapter, you'll understand why! All the rest of us, says the Psalmist, are subject to the foul feeling of fear.

The only exception to its negativity is the fear of righteous judgment, whether from a human instrument (Rom.13; Heb.12:9) or Divine edict (Psl.33:8); and the healthy fear of pain or harm that keeps us from doing foolish things like putting our hand on a hot stove. But either way, good or bad, fear is a given with all of us.

Individual fears are part of our default setting. Not our temperament, but our tendency; our immediate response to sudden or threatening circumstances. Some fears fall into the category of phobias, but that's not where I'm going here. To me, fears do not have to be unreasonable to be intolerable. They come in all shapes and sizes, and carry their own personal legitimacy for us. Here are a few of the more subtle ones:

Fear of failure ~ This is the dread that keeps us from trying something new or difficult. I've seen it in all ages; and undealt with, it only becomes more pronounced with age. In its modified version, it gives up after one or two tries at anything, assuming further attempts are too risky. We could say, it is an indication of poor self-esteem; but in the case of a child of God with all the power of God Himself at his or her disposal, it looks more like poor God-esteem. Everyone fails at some things. It's simply a matter of trying—really trying—till we find the thing or things in which we can excel. But fear of failure will rob us of this achievement every time.

Fear of embarrassment ~ This probably goes along with fear of failure, because if one has an overinflated idea of success, failure can seem unbearable. But the truth is, embarrassment is relative. What may cause me untold chagrin might only bring a good-natured chuckle from you. In today's permissive society, what made our grandparents blush is sometimes considered only natural. What made Ezra blush—iniquity—hardly draws a headshake (Ezra 9:6). Still, when you or I respond awkwardly, or commit a social blunder, or appear inept, it is easy to choose not to speak or act at all. This keeps many of us from speaking out against wrong or sharing our Faith with others. But we should realize that sometimes it's a matter of choosing whether we want to be ashamed before this world or ashamed before God (1 John 2:28).

Fear of rejection ~ This is an especially devastating fear because it strangles and sometimes even excludes relationships. Tennyson wrote, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." But this concept would be foreign to an individual whose confidence is dependent upon the acceptance of others. It can manifest itself in different ways, such as refusal to engage in conversation with someone we are unsure of, suspicion of being snubbed, or a constant need for reassurance. But if we can grasp the concept of our unconditional acceptance by God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, surely the prospect of real, or only imagined, rejection by anyone else will cause us little concern.

There are more I could mention, and some fear(s) of your own will come to mind, no doubt. The point is, debilitating fears like these are all prime prospects for 1 John 4:18. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." When you and I suffer inordinately from fears like the ones mentioned, it's not because we're emotionally deficient; it's because we're spiritually deficient, when it comes to love. When we are more fearful of how we look before others or how accepting they are of us, we are unconsciously saying to God that their regard is more important to us than His.

We sometimes say of someone who seems to show few signs of these irksome fears that he or she is "comfortable in their own skin"; but in the case of the Believer, it can be said they're confidence lies far beyond their skin and goes all the way to their souls. They have learned to bask in the assurance of God's love and are allowing Him to perfect their own love.

I want to be "made perfect in love," because I agree with the apostle; fear is an awful torment. I speak from experience.


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  2. Thank you for your encouraging words. They keep me writing in the dark times. God bless you!