What are you afraid of? I mean REALLY afraid of? What keeps you up at night with fear? If we are honest, we’re all afraid of something. Some of us are afraid of spiders, or the dark. Some of us are afraid of heights, or flying, or snakes. If we’re still being honest, most of us are afraid of death. Still, even if you are afraid of all these things, it’s unlikely they are keeping you up at night. If they did, you wouldn’t be able to function.
Some fear is healthy, keeping us safe, sort of like an internal guardrail. It works as a sort of warning bell that danger is near. On the other hand, many of the things we are afraid of border on the irrational.
I can remember playing in our basement with our 3 older children, who were 6, 4 & 3 at the time. We are a “wrestle on the floor” kind of family, and even in our finished basement, when you get down on the floor, it’s even money that you might encounter a friend of the 6 to 8 legged variety.
We used to call them pill bugs, or “roly polys” when I was younger. My daughters call them “daddy kill it!”
Now roly polys are maybe the least scary bug on the planet other than maybe fireflies, which are cool basically because they are fun to chase at night. The number of people who have been attacked by, or killed by a rolly poly is exactly the same as the number of people who have been to Mars. Zero. More people are harmed each year opening Diet Coke cans. Seriously, that's true.
Of course, none of that matters to my daughters, who are mortally afraid every time there is a roly poly sighting in our home. The fear is paralyzing. It keeps them from enjoying life in any meaningful way because all they can think about is the tiny little 6-legge ball over in the corner.
Fear does that. Fear takes over and everything else shuts down. Instead of looking at reality, all we see is danger - whether it’s real or not. All we see is the worst-case scenario, and our emotions respond as if that worst-case scenario is reality, not just some degree of possibility. We begin to act out of fear, making choices to avoid danger at all cost, whether the danger is actually real or not.
I lived most of a decade in fear. Every single day, my heart and mind were gripped by fear. I woke up in the morning afraid. By mid-afternoon the stress and fear had given me a migraine. At night I would lie in the darkness while my spirit trailed inside me. Most nights I would have to listen to music or Netflix just to distract my mind long enough to fall asleep.
I wasn’t afraid of snakes, or heights, or even death. Okay, I am afraid of heights - like really afraid of heights. But heights are not what kept me up at night.
When I would lie in the darkness of our bedroom, the thoughts that would overwhelm me were much deeper fears. I was afraid I wasn’t good enough - for my family, for my wife, for my friends, for my clients. I was afraid that people would find out that the successful, put-together, confident image I worked so hard to craft was just that - an image.
I was afraid that if anyone knew how broken I was, if they knew how much of a failure I was - that they would give up on me. I was afraid of losing my business, my marriage, my family, my status, my reputation, and my life as I knew it.
Life was spinning quickly out of control, and I was honestly afraid that my wife and my children would end up hating me if they knew that I was fraud - a fake copy of what I thought the world said I was supposed to be.
Fear drove me to live according to the darkest parts of my soul, the parts inhabited by shame and pride, instead of according to faith. Fear does that. It drives you places you never meant to go and motivates you to do things you never meant to do. And then it leaves you there. All alone in your fear.
I was afraid of the unknown. I was afraid of being alone, and not being in control. And those fears drove me to almost destroy my family and my life. Don't misunderstand me - it wasn't fear's fault. It was mine. Fear was the motivation, but all of the action was mine. I acted on my fear, instead of my faith.
The Bible says a lot about fear, or rather it says a lot about what we should not fear. In fact, it tells us to “fear not,” or “do not be afraid,” a little over 100 times. I think this is because God knows something about fear that we don't. I think it's because God knows that fear paralyzes us, and robs of of participating in His plan for our lives. It causes us to make decisions that move us further into doubt and anxiety and further away from faith.
I also think that the Bible says a lot about fear because God has given us an alternative. I think it's because God gives us the antidote to fear. Love. His love. He invites us to walk not in fear, but in His love. His perfect love.
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18
You see, the reason perfect love drives out fear is because the love of God through Jesus Christ drives away all shame, judgement and condemnation. It's already been wiped away. You've been set free from the bondage they have held on your life. So you can stop letting it drive you places you never meant to go. You can stop letting it control who you are and what you do. It doesn't mean that you won't face some things, but you are loved by a God who will never leave you nor forsake you. (DEUT 31:8). He will never leave you alone.
Jesus calls us to trust in Him. Completely. He invites us to take Him at His word - which is what faith means by the way. When we do, there's no room left for fear to drive us because though we don't know all of the unknown, we know that the God who is leading us loves us perfectly.
So, what are you afraid of?