Nov 30, 2007

you asked for it: fear factor

Robert was wondering "How do you let go of fear when it seems like it just wont go away no matter what you do and is fear both a thought and a feeling??"

I'm guessing that those questions probably come from a very personal place... there have been seasons of my life when I've known this all to well.

Fear can be a huge deal and cripple someone. I've felt deep seasons of fear, from the fear of losing my job to the fear of losing my life. It's one of those things that can motivate us to do irrational things, believe the worst in people, and create emotional guards around our hearts that we never needed to create. In all of those instances, the idea of "letting go of fear" makes about as much sense to that person as telling an alcoholic "just quit drinking."

On the other hand, fear isn't always a bad thing when the appropriate context is available. The Bible reveals that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10) because it leads to understanding-beyond-us (an oxymoron) of how infinite God is and finite we are. Then there is protective fear we become aware of when we stare down over a ledge and consider the possibility of falling.. Sometimes fear can create appropriate motivations in us to do the right thing.

The difference between those two is simple... in the first category (the negative fear), fear believes that the absolute worst will happen, but in the second category (the positive fear) fear believes that the absolute worst can happen.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." (Romans 8:15)

Faith, on the other hand, believes that the absolute best can happen (and will happen, if God so allows it to).

Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. (1 Peter 1:17)

In light of this, fear is obviously a choice... even if it's a hard choice to make. Granted, it is often triggered by things on the outside as well as the inside, but ultimately we have the choice to engage it or not.

I like what John McCain said about this in his book Why Courage Matters:

"We are taught to understand, correctly, that courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity for action despite our fears."
I read those words a few years ago when I was in quite the pit of fear. While I'd always known that through God I didn't have to live this way, there was something about how this was worded that it stuck with me. Suddenly I went from doing whatever I could to please my boss (out of fear of losing my job - the bad fear) to doing whatever I could to please my Lord (out of fear of losing myself - the good fear).

So I won't presume to give you any advice because I don't know your situation. I do know this, though - that fear is always a factor...

  • Relationally: Should I get close to this person? How much should I forgive? Is this relationship worth my time?

  • Spiritually: What would happen if I gave God 100% of the steering wheel instead of 90%? Am I being responsible for what I've learned? Who am I helping spur on spiritually?

  • Physically: If I see the doctor, will he tell me bad news or good news? Why won't my muscles heal the way they used to? Is this food bad for me?

  • (and so on)

So fear is a factor, but...

it doesn't need to be the only factor.

Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17)


Robert said...

homerun brother!!!! Thank you tony you have given me avenues which I need to walk down in regard to this I have a few posts i made in my archives regarding choice and force seems fear definitely forces us to choose God is above and beyond all fears very solid stuff brother!!

Smitty said...

I found your blog via Roberts. Your post made me think. Right now I find myself most days paralyzed by fear. You're exactly right in your post...negative fear is thinking bad things will happen. I guess my question is, I know I live in fear (not necessarily the good kind) everyday, so how can I live in a fear that honors the Lord, not one that scares me to death?

Tony Myles said...

Well, there are some great books I'd refer you to - "The Barbarian Way" and "Chasing Daylight" (both by Erwin McManus).

But maybe it's as simple/hard as admitting your fear. but admitting it to God. This makes you fear less about a period at the end of the sentence and more of a comma... because we remember that although the fear is big God is way bigger.

Robert said...

hey tony- can you make a post adding a lil more on how to realize God is bigger than fear?? A lil about Him being Spirit and always present because as smitty said sometimes the fear smothers like a blanket and makes it seem/feel like it blocks God or somehow makes us feel like we cannot see Him above the fear hope this makes sense ty brother!!

Heather said...

Great perspective on the difference on the two fears. I like how you didn't try to take away from the fact that it's still fear.
I think people try to minimalize that. It's not really fear, it's respect.
No, when the Israelites, God's chosen people, shook with fear at the bottom of Mt. Sinai, that's fear.
Of course, it didn't last long, and pretty soon they were up to no good!
When God gets involved in our lives, it's messy and dangerous.

Tony Myles said...

Robert - I don't know that you can just "realize" God is bigger than fear... you can certainly stimulate such an understanding through Bible study and hanging out with people who "get it." Otherwise, the only other way I've found we realize anything like this is when we get slammed - life catches us off guard or a choice we've made backfires. Suddenly we recognize God's presence... it may take longer for some than others, especially if your ideas about the world seem right for a while. One day, though, things will be revealed for what they are - at the very least, when we die... which is perhaps why "every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord" on that day.

Heather - God messes up our lives in the best way possible, though, doesn't He?