There are moments in my life when I can become consumed with fear. Sometimes this is more severe than others. When I allow myself to remember and reflect I realize this battle with fear is as old as I am.
I was afraid a lot as a child. I was afraid of the dark. I was afraid to go upstairs alone at night. I was afraid to go next door to the church on a Sunday night when my dad would remember that he left something in his office and would ask or tell me to go get it. I would do it but I also remember the gripping fear of walking in that church building alone. I would switch on every light in the breaker box just to the left of the front doors of the buildling. That was still creepy but the ten feet between the breaker box and the front door after switching them all off was the worst.
I feared hell. The preaching in the 60’s and 70’s left little doubt in my mind that I would ever graduate from high school let alone get married or live an adult life. The Lord was coming back any moment based on the sinfulness of our society. Can’t imagine what those same preachers would say today in this society and with the condition of much of the church in North America. I was terrified when I would get separated from my mother at the store which seemed to happen a lot. Frantically I would search aisle by aisle looking for her. Often I would conclude that Jesus had returned and that I had been “left behind.” Total panic would set in until finally I would spot her.
As I grew up the fears changed. In my teen years I certainly became less afraid of the dark but fear was a constant companion. Some of it was just normal teen angst. Afraid to not fit in. Afraid of pimples coming out on my face. Afraid that the gentler sex might not find me attractive. And then there was the fear of not being “right with God.” I took care of that one between my junior and senior year of high school.
Moving into young adulthood produced other fears. Fears of failing in marriage, (meaning never measuring up) Fears of failing as a parent, having no clue what to do or how to truly parent. I feared for my kids and bringing them into this world. Looking back I did fail in so many areas as a dad. Thankfully they somehow turned out pretty amazing.
Life took over and for thirty plus years life happened. Good things, great things some things not so good. Life is hard and you have to work at it. There came a point in my last few years that I was overcome with the fear of being alone. I’ve addressed that whole “alone” thing in an earlier blog but suffice it to say that to this day I still fear being alone. The last three years especially I have feared this. Much of it was brought on by the changes in relationships and friendships that I thought were rock solid. I have since learned they are not. I guess it is not accurate to say that I fear being alone as much as it is to say I don’t like it or desire it.
I know I am loved daily by my wife and family. That is a source of great comfort. I want to finish out this life with healthy relationships based on love and even unconditional love. Of course only God really loves unconditionally (and maybe the dog) but I have felt that from a few friends as well. My actions did not drive them away. The disappointments I caused were not friendship breakers. When I needed them the most they didn’t walk away . . . they stayed. They kept talking to me even when I am sure it was difficult.
I still have fears. I still don’t like being alone or the feeling that I could wind up alone one day. I fear my retirement years. Church (Nazarene in particular) retirement is notoriously horrible and so as I listen to the people I now work with talk about their state retirements and what they will make I am beyond fearful. I honestly don’t know what I will do. I guess pray for good health and just keep on working. I don’t fear hard work but I pray that I will always be healthy and able to work a long time. Retirement is not on my horizon. I can’t even allow myself to think about it.
I don’t fear my relationship with God. While I am sure there are some that might doubt that relationship I have never been surer in my life. In my failures He came and found me and rescued me when I least deserved it. I don’t fear the truth because in spite of the innuendos, gossip and speculations some day all will be revealed and the truth will be told but I will leave that to God.
I am not paralyzed by fear but it is a reality that we all live with at times. That’s why God often said or expressed these words through others in the Bible;
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” John 14:27
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
“But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
“Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” Isaiah 35:4
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:22-26
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:7
“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
“Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” Deuteronomy 3:22
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38-39
I am learning to give Him my fears day by day. None of us are sure of anything but God.
When I was a boy I grew up hearing two godly men play their guitar and mandolin and sing a song about the three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den and other biblical characters that were in a place of fear. After telling the story in the verse they would belt out these words in the chorus: “Whatever comes, whatever goes; Just let it come from friend or foe. with the victory just sing this song. we won’t be in here long.” I will not be afraid.