Everyone fears something and those fears don’t need to be rational. Zombies and Clowns? –Really America, really? And that is the thing about fear; it is not rational. It is hardwired into to us ever since the fall.
Before the fall there was no such thing as fear. Why? There was no reason for it. There was no danger to worry about. We lived in perfect unity with creation and God. Yet, tragically, “The Fall” changed all of that.
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”[iii]
Fear is spiritual and fear is emotional. Fear is even physical, a biochemical, seemingly uncontrollable, response of living in a broken, and now dangerous, world. Man was not meant to live in a dangerous world. Man was not meant to have to think about his own survival.
According to the mental health website Very Well Mind, “Fear is a natural emotion and a survival mechanism. When we confront a perceived threat, our bodies respond in specific ways.”[iv]We begin to sweat, our heart rate races, pupils dilate, the bronchi dilate,[v] both the amygdala the hippocampus activate, and adrenaline levels spike putting us in “fight or flight mode.” In essence, your body overrides all your mind’s default settings to do whatever is needed to survive! If it means a fight to the death or to flee to ensure you remain, the auto-response can be so powerful that it shuts out higher critical thinking.
Imagine Adam, who just the other day cuddled up to the Lion as a pillow, now one day after the fall has now become today’s dinner menu for that same Lion! This is not the time for critical thinking or a pause for theologically pondering of what his sin has caused in the world. It is time to be scared, run for your life, and live to ponder another day! It is a good thing fear causes us to flee danger rather than explore it. Had Adam stopped to ponder the sudden anger of his furry pillow- friend you would not be here reading this blog! Fear has its proper place! Dread, terror, and angst, all belong because the world has fallen and the danger is real! Angst exists to make to dread what could now be.
Sin robbed us of security. Sin robbed us of safety. Sin robbed us of always having control of our higher functions. In some ways sin has made us slaves to our base emotions, if not at all times, at least as a new default setting. We are cowards because, in this world, there are a lot of very good reasons to be cowards!
Maybe that is why the Bible tells us a whopping 365 times, “Do Not Fear!” That is at least once for every day of the year! God knows fallen man’s default emotion and biological wiring is to fear. And God’s call on our life is that through his promises we can live above and beyond our default lower settings!
The Apostle of Love, John the Beloved, takes the issue full, HD, 4k high definition for us when he declares,
“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.”[vi]
Perfect love cast out fear. Sure, we still need to run from lions. However, if you have not thought it out yet, let me help you. The average lion runs at the speed of 80km per hour (50mph)[vii] while the average human runs at 44.72 km (28mph) [viii]. That means the speed of Grace is G= 50-28mph! Hahaha! Run as fast as you can! But you are only going to make it because God loves you! If this was math we’d say, solve for love, L=Surviving the Lions of your Life!
Fallen men cannot overcome their base fears. Sin has hard-wired him to “fight or flight” responses. However, when we live out of the perfect love of God’s Grace we can live in God inspired Courage!
Moses charged Joshua;
“Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”[ix]
It was by faith in the perfect love of God that;
David had the courage to slay Goliath!
Daniel had the courage to spend the night in the lion’s den!
Moses had the courage to die on the mountain never having been in the Promised Land!
Esther had the courage to go boldly into the King’s throne room unannounced!
Elijah had the courage to stand against the pagan priests of Baal!
John the Baptist had the courage to baptize Jews in defiance of the Sanhedrin!
Nicodemus and Joseph had the courage to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus!
Paul had the courage to push on to get to Rome even at the cost of his very life!
“But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”[x] Because they know they cannot walk or run fast enough, on their own, and it is only God’s perfect love, and grace, that lifts them up on Eagle’s wings and makes up the difference (Grace=Lion Speed-Human Speed). Courage means understanding, even before you come face to face with your fear, God’s love protects you, watches over you, and puts you where you need to be. Because, only God’s Grace can do what the amygdala the hippocampus, adrenaline spikes cannot complete!
Having courage means, daily placing your salvation in the hands of God, not at the feet of fear.
I use to have a Pastoral mentoring group I attended monthly as a young, new pastor. The older, well-seasoned wise pastor, who was our mentor, often choose to communicate throughout the month, via emails. I never got an email from that mentor, not even once, where the signature line right about his name was not a charge to us younger Pastors to have Courage![xi] As a young pastor facing new, scary challenges all the time. I felt like Joshua hearing Moses tell him, no matter what you face on the other side of the river of ministry, “Be strong and courageous… The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged!”
Dear readers, I say to you, God loves you, perfect love casts out fear…