Seth this is stellar. The nanosecond news cycles we live in with cable television pundits and shock radio mavens shouting out fear as a way to create an audience so as to sell more advertising makes me sick. The Jesus you follow along with others of us in a sometimes lonely tribe once penned “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love…power and a sound mind.” Pax Christi friend.
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.
Seth, this is great! As believers we need to truly “get this” and understand what it means to “Fear Not”
May we all resolve to face into our fears rather than tip toeing around them!
Robert – you walked this out so well on the race. Thanks for continuing to preach to your generation this radical gospel.
You are welcome Seth. We need to figure out a way for you to do a TED video piece. You always have something rich and provocative to say.
Seth, I agree with Butch, a TED talk for sure…fear has become palpable. But think of the opportunity! To be calm in a time when the world is unravelling and place our hope in one who is unseen is so counter cultural that sooner or later people will start to notice. We wear the cloak of perfect love that casts out fear and seek to share that garment, not fear, as our clothing of choice.
One of the things I have on my heart is to craft ways to leverage Seth’s content (written and spoken) with the conviction that in addition to the programs AIM executes (doing “things’) he is an oracle to the nations in helping to precipitate a “ministry movement” where radical discipleship, gospel driven efforts to meet the physical needs of the hurting and encouraging a revolution of love all come together. There isn’t anything that is “cookie cutter” about AIM. And by definition it is global and monogrammed. In the next dispensation of ministry growth I think a key new development will be to elevate Seth’s personal platform for the sake of the cause. Anyway that’s my rant….
Thanks for the encouragement, Butch and Kathy. We all need help overcoming the stuff that keeps us from trusting God at the next level – me included.
I always need encouragement in this area. Thanks!
If one of your children was on the race today, would you allow them to travel through Africa? It’s not that they will go from a US airport and be dropped at their final destination, they will travel through the continent on many types of vehicles. Unlike the US, there are no travel restrictions to move from country to counry.
FAITHFUL but concerned
My son has traveled places that no parent would be comfortable with, alone, on all forms of transportation among diseased people and unsanitary places. Recently through an area that the boarders were being guarded because of malaria and HIV. How do you know when a tsunami will strike or a hurricane? Jesus did not fear a leper colony.
As a parent, I have to check my fear at the foot of the cross. And I have to do it often. My all powerful, all knowing Father is Daniel’s protector. But no Fear could ever outweigh the beauty of the joy and fulfillment shining from his face. I believe every parents ultimate hope for their child is to find him deeply involved and committed to the leading of our Lord,
In saying that, I am also in full support of diligence in discerning safe areas for our young missionaries. I believe that the AIM staff has this as a first priority. We continue to lift them up asking for wisdom and discernment as they lead this mighty army.
Dave – those are fair questions! Especially for children who are 21 and younger.
I have released all of our 5 children to do exactly that in places more dangerous than subSahara Africa right now. I worried as parents do. And I blogged about how I dealt with it – see below.
There are three main issues here:
1. Actual Risk
We monitor it daily and are aggressively cautious concerning Ebola. We pulled out of East Africa until we could better manage the malaria risk. We no longer go to West Africa. I’m committed that we will not put racers in situations where the risk is too great (a subjective assessment, granted, but we have been doing this for 25 years). We are backed by a top insurance company that partners with us in a sophisticated risk management process.
This young man has a good perspective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzBoL0NHTek
2. Our Worry
I say it best here: https://www.sethbarnes.com/?filename=dealing-with-worry-as-a-parent
Philosophically, we knew that we’re just temporary stewards of these kiddos. God loves them more than we do – releasing them to his care is no risk at all. We believe that we’re to disciple our kids to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and to do the sorts of things he did. I like what Peggy said. And her son Daniel is one of our best logistics people now dealing with these issues daily.
3. Training our Kids to be Adults
Children 21 and older (is that an oxymoron?) need to know how to navigate the world as adults, so we have to balance that task against our assessment of whether they are in fact ready to make their own decisions. We also have to acknowledge whether they are inviting us into their decision-making process. If they are not, then it may be a moot point. If they are, then teaching them how to make a wise decision is the goal.
Many of us as parents have lost the influence that our children may need because we were over-cautious at a time when they needed to be learning experientially. We need to acknowledge why our children may lack the experience they may need to navigate a dangerous world.
This issue is very much in the news. Witness this article this past week: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-margaret-rutherford/when-you-empty-your-nest-_b_5702479.html
Seth your answer here is thorough, measured and solid on many levels. Growing up listening to missionary stories created a sense of “faith as an adventure” and with invariable missteps in life I’m glad I was taught to sometimes “bungee jump” not knowing the relative difference between the length of the cord and the ground rushing up to greet me.
You are an AWESOME mother and wife. I don’t know how you do it. Screaming and yelling is normal and even necessary behavior. As is the humility that allows for recalibration once everyone has settled down. Be encouraged!
One of the greatest things of these last 10-15 years is that the Lord has worked on the fear in my life. Many, if not most, of my own decisions were fear based until I was in my 40s. I would claim I was just being “wise” but I was actually being fearful. “Wise” just put a nice, but untrue, spin on it.
I was raised by a fearful mother – and I didn’t know how to push back against that. But before I could make brave decisions for myself, I determined that I would not raise my own children that way. And I made decisions – in spite of fear – related to them. For example, I put my son on a flight to Africa for a mission trip when he was 15 when I had a persistent sense that I wouldn’t see him again but knew that I had no compelling reason to keep him at home. (He came home safe and sound and that was 14 years ago.) And facing the fears for my kids – to give them a start I didn’t have – actually bore fruit in my own battle against fear.
Here’s something I wrote about 2-1/2 years ago, a few months into a huge leap of faith for me. Looking back at it now I realize how much I would have missed out on if I had not figured out how to move through fear. This season of my life is rich and full and abundant in ways i could never have imagined. http://bettymeans.myadventures.org/?filename=how-did-i-get-here
What a great testimony, Betty. Thanks.
Seth, thank you for sharing these challenging thoughts about fear. Our daughter is in Africa right now on the World Race and we firmly believe that she is the safest place in the world: in God’s will for her life and in His more-than-capable hands. We are so humbled and thankful for seeing the answers to prayers we began to pray for her before she was born: that she would be a young woman with a sincere heart for following Jesus Christ as her primary passion. And we are determined to continue to seek Him as our own life’s purpose even in the second half of life!
Good to hear from you. And thanks for trusting God with your precious daughter. Isn’t it wonderful to see him answering your prayers?
Sitting here at this moment journeling about my fear of failure in an area when the Holy Spirit whispered to check out your blog this morning. Thank you for cheering me on today. He is whispering to me that in His hands, He uses even my failures to bring about His perfect plans in and through me. Who am I to think that my failures and weaknesses could stop a God who carried the shame of my weakness and failure so I could LIVE! It does mean that my reputation, my desire to be viewed as strong and sucessful has to keep dying so HE CAN LIVE THROUGH ME. In my case as a mom trying to lead my kids toward God, there are so many opportunities to fail and fail I did this morning. As I screamed and yelled at them for fighting over I am not even sure what, I crawled into bed, put the covers over my head and began to bask in my failure. His grace initiates to us, inviting us to pull back the covers and hear what HE has to say about our situations. Just because I fail, doesn’t make me a failure. News flash…I WILL FAIL MY KIDS…My job is to point them to the one who’s love NEVER FAILS. Trying to be the perfect mom only keeps them dysfunctionaly dependant on me and will keep them living in my basement and single for a long time. (no offense to all you still living in your parents basement at 40, however, you may want to take re evaluate:)