Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dirty Words Part 1 - The "F-Word"

I woke up this morning and quickly found myself feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  I have a list of "to do's" that I am dreading, and if they don't go well and get done properly, well, at worst I could have a real crisis on my hands.  As I lay in bed wishing I could just stay there all day and sleep my way through it, a good strong fear settled in.

As I was driving to work, I thought about the fear that was riding shotgun with me there. It made me think of how often I have heard people in the church say "Fear is the opposite of faith." And I thought about the guilt and condemnation that Christian cliche brings with it.  Then I thought about how many times I wanted to call "bullshit" when I heard it said. Excuse my language, but "hogwash" doesn't quite capture the intensity behind my feeling on this matter.  "Fear" isn't the "F Word" of the Christian faith.

Yes, the Bible tells us 365 times "Fear not."  But, it occurs to me, maybe it has to be said enough times it could be repeated daily throughout the year, it's not because we Christians AREN'T afraid, but it's because we ARE.

But my fear doesn't cancel out my faith.  Quite the contrary, it's when I am pressing through my fear that my faith is being exercised the most. I'm not saying there is any sort of wisdom in embracing our fear - I for one would prefer to break it off completely with my dark companion, but I don't believe there is any value in denying it. 

Fear isn't all bad.  Fear of getting burned keeps me from sticking my hand in a fire.  Fear of the IRS keeps me filing my taxes every year. Fear of a car accident keeps me driving within the posted speed limits on the road.  I even use fear in my parenting to teach my children to make wise choices.  For goodness sake's the Bible even says it;s the FEAR of God that is the beginning of wisdom!  And if THAT doesn't prove that fear and faith can actually have a valuable relationship, then I don't know what does!

There is a lot to fear in this world, if you are a parent the reasons to fear seem to increase exponentially.

A favorite "anti-fear" verse comes from the 4th chapter of Philippians. (v.6) "Be anxious for nothing..." Paul said.  And someone somewhere along the line turned it into the same kind of command as "Do not murder" or "Don't commit adultery."  And then they threw the emotional response of fear into the same "sin pile" as stealing money from somebody else's wallet. Next thing you know you've got good Christian folks walking around feeling like failures because they think their fear means they have no faith.

A good place to start would be for the "No fear! Christians" to learn, memorize and repeat the rest of Paul's admonition to not be anxious in life. "...but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God..."  The fear (anxiety) isn't considered the antithesis for faith, but rather it's to be a catalyst for it.

Fear is a warning signal that something is amiss. It could legitimately be something clearly defined like the "burn" of a fire, or consequence of an action, or it could be something INTERNAL, a warning singal about the heart and mind, and where they are that they don't belong, i.e., dwelling on life's worst case scenarios, or stepping carelessly toward faith's true opposite, unbelief. 

Fear isn't something that defines us, or our faith, but rather it is something that demands a response and needs to be addressed in our lives. It certainly isn't something that we ought to allow, or worse condemn, us as bad Christians, weak in our faith.  Instead, stand up to the fear, grab hold of the Lord, face it WITH Him, and you just might find it proves to you that your faith is actually that much stronger than you ever even dared to imagine! 

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