A friend called me from the airport and sent the above picture of a guy wearing a surgeon’s mask and gloves who was waiting for his flight.
Not only is Ebola in the news, it is freaking out average people like the guy in the picture. So much so that the fear of catching it outweighs the silliness they feel wearing masks and gloves in public places.
Yes folks, we are literally wearing our fear these days.
Swimming upstream in a culture of fear
Animals, it’s said, can smell fear. Can you smell the fear in our society? More than a million predicted to die of Ebola in Africa. ISIS marching through Iraq and inspiring would-be terrorists elsewhere. And we are afraid.
Where is there a safe haven? Not in New York City. Not in Dallas. One fearful parent left a long, rambling diatribe on the Adventures answering machine. “Who do you think you are to ask young people to go overseas in a world like this?
Who indeed? We are disciples of a man who repeatedly spoke the words, “fear not” to those following him even as he led them into danger. There’s an oxymoron – be dangerous, but don’t fear.
If you’re going to fear anything, Psalms tells us, fear the Lord who holds you in the palm of his hand. “If the Lord had not been on our side…the raging waters would have swept us away.” (Ps. 124)
Fear is natural, but often misplaced. Watch too much CNN and you may become a fearful person. The enemy of our souls would like nothing better. Fear is his weapon of choice. He wants you to wear it like a garment.
So, what do you fear?
Jesus put it into perspective for his disciples when he threw them into journey so dangerous that he said they might be killed (re-read Matt. 10): “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God…”
Ever since then, new generations of disciples have been following Jesus into dangerous places with his words ringing in their ears telling them not to fear.
It’s normal for his followers to battle the temptation to fear. What a privilege it is to share that with a world whose knees are knocking. We have what they are looking for!
So, let me invite you to consider a few questions:
Are you afraid?
Do you wear your fear?
Do people see the fear on you?
If so and if what Jesus said about his followers dying spooks you, consider this fact: There has never been an era in the history of mankind that was safer (see this book* for the facts). People live almost twice as long as they did a hundred years ago. We live in a time of unprecedented health and comfort.
Fear missing God’s will
The bad news we read is out of all proportion to the actual risks we face in life. The Bible says that we should fear God. What we really need to fear is missing out on his will for our lives.
He has an amazing future in store for us, but we have to trust him to get there. He wants the best for us and wants to help us in places where we’re weak.
So, if we’re feeling fear, how do we keep from wearing it? How do we fight it? A good place to start is with Scripture. God tells us that “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Three steps to help you fight fear:
- Identify the thing you fear most. For many, it’s not a specific outcome, but failure that they fear. If it’s failure, then pride may be at the root of the issue. People don’t want to look bad. Ask yourself, “Should I really care that much about the opinions of others?”
- Consider the worst thing that could happen. And recognize that it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
- Going through fear, not around it, is usually the best strategy. Resolve to face into it and you de-fang its poisonous place in your imagination.
For those of you who are in a spot where just thinking about it summons up fear, I would like to pray the following prayer for you:
May you live this short life you’ve been given with great courage, feeling fear, but not wearing it. May you do what’s right in spite of fear. May you draw strength from knowing that the God of the universe has commissioned you to liberate his children who are being held captive by fear. He has your back.
* I do not endorse the author’s worldview, but I do respect his research on safety.