Yesterday I wrote about how our identity in Christ allows us to be real about the baggage we carry, and be real about confronting our fears. Today I want to unpack it a little more. If you want to watch the sermons, here are the links:
July 9th – Confronting Fears – Identity
July 16th – Confronting Fears
July 23rd – Confronting Fears – Freedom
Confronting Common Fears
There are some fears that are common. Of those, I’d like to address rational fears. I have a fear of spiders – that’s an irrational fear. In college I was bitten by a brown recluse, one of the most poisonous spiders, but, sadly, my fear pre-dated this encounter. It’s irrational because it’s largely based on the number of legs (though, curiously, this fear does not extend to crabs, lobsters or scorpions) and their penchant for appearing suddenly. And webs. I hate their webs.
There are fears that rational, however. Here are a few common ones:
In our metric driven society everything is measured. Your degrees, income, weight, height, church attendance, house size and location, your Facebook friends and more. We judge by the external and superficial all the time. Most of it is beyond our control. I am six feet tall and can run a 6 minute mile. I also have DNA that decided it’s good to convert Testosterone into DHT and destroy the hair on my head. I control neither the good (tall and fast) nor the bad (bald). I control some aspects of it: I love to run and I have shaved my head in response. But I don’t control most of it.
And it’s this constant measuring that drives us crazy. It helps drive a fear of failure.
What if I don’t measure up? What if my church never grows (and maybe I’m a terrible pastor?)? What if say the wrong thing, at the wrong time? What if…
Social media seems to worsen this. Recent studies link Facebook to depression and this article on Forbes cites a study which “finds that not only do Facebook and depressive symptoms go hand-in-hand, but the mediating factor seems to be a well-established psychological phenomenon: ‘Social comparison.’”
Failure is not only a fear of not succeeding, it’s a fear of falling short in comparison to others.
Of course failure does have benefits. It teaches. That’s huge. But I still fear it and avoid it. Who enters any endeavor and thinks “I hope this works, but if not I’ll learn?” We know the benefits of failure but still want to avoid it.
I’m an off the scale extrovert. I love meeting and talking to people. I get my energy from being around others. I get tired when I’m alone. I don’t like being alone.
I’m talking about a deeper sense of loneliness though.
Most people wonder if others really care. King David once cried out “Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress.” (Psalm 25:15)
The irony is that we’re more connected than ever. I have more than 1300 friends on Facebook. But are they really “friends?” Far from connecting and blessing others, Facebook, social media, texting and other modern forms of communication seem to be creating more superficial forms of communication.
Many fear being alone. Relationally, or by not having family, or losing a loved one, or simply by being disliked at work or school.
Loneliness is a common and understandable fear.
When I deployed to Iraq, I can’t say that I feared death itself. I believe that life continues after death. What I feared is what goes along with it:
- The method (I’d rather not suffer)
- The effects on my Family (especially when the Army came to tell them)
- The loss of control
Most people I know have some belief in heaven or an afterlife. Yet it’s rare to meet someone in a rush to get there.
We fear the manner and time of our death. We also fear sickness or disability in this life. Some of you reading this are dealing with tremendous difficulty and disability. You know your struggles – and are probably much stronger than anyone realizes.
Most people fear the loss of control and the helplessness of aging and sickness. Fear of sickness and death has its roots in fear of losing control.
We fear that which we don’t know or understand, especially our own futures.
As I think back over my life, many of the situations that have produced anxiety are much easier in hindsight. My personality is such that I tend to rush into things without worrying much about the consequences. That’s been good and bad.
While the other fears affect me more than this one, it can cripple people. Fear of the unknown can freeze decision making. You might spend endless hours going through possible outcomes while hesitating to simply make a decision.
People don’t like the unknown because it takes away any sense of control.
How do we respond to those fears? It isn’t to dig deeper and try and overcome them by trying harder. If that worked, we wouldn’t need Jesus.
Instead, consider these words from the apostle Paul to the young minister Timothy:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Read the whole first chapter of 2 Timothy to understand the context and then jump back to the rest of the article.
Paul encourages Timothy right after those words, saying “never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.” Fear, shame, guilt… all come from a similar place. They are feelings of inadequacy.
The solution is not to try and talk yourself into “feeling” better, but to put your trust in the One who will never fail you, who will never leave you alone, who holds the key to eternal life and who guides you through the unknown.
That is: cast your fears onto God.
He has given us a spirit of power, love and self-control. We didn’t do that. It doesn’t come from us.
Instead, trust Him. Speak your fears to Him in prayer. Ask Him to overcome what you have not. Be specific.
He doesn’t promise to take away the source of our fears. You might still fail. A relationship may fail. You will eventually die. And you won’t know the future.
He will give us strength and peace as we face these challenges. That peace passes all human understanding.