It’s easy to be scared. Fear is a basic instinct. Fear is also the tool of the enemy. Fear, once inside, will gnaw away at love, hope, kindness, gentleness, self-control. Fear will lie to you and tell you there is no goodness, or not enough goodness to make up for the evil. Fear will trick you and trap you. And once fear turns you, fear will use you.
You will find yourself no longer just carrying it within yourself, but also spreading it, causing it, finding some perverse satisfaction in turning others away from the light.
Fear disguises itself respectably, logically, practically. Fear is smart enough to know how to reel you in. Fear studies you until it finds your weakness, and then it strikes. Fear promises safety, comfort, security. Fear is a liar.
Let me repeat that: Fear Is A LIAR.
You will have to choose – fear or love, fear or life, fear or hope, fear or faith, fear or freedom. You can not have both fear and love. You can not have both fear and life. You can not have both fear and hope. You can not have both fear and faith. You can not have both fear and freedom. You will have to choose. You will have to choose over and over and over.
I was sixteen when a boy followed me around the store and then asked to walk me to my car. I declined the offer. Once at my car, there was a man leaning into the backseat of his SUV, parked beside mine. He greeted me, I returned the greeting. Then he yanked my purse and jumped in the back of the SUV. The purse caught on my wrist. I held on, digging my heels into the ground, trying to scream. The driver started to pull away, I finally let go. My wrist was sore, and there was gravel from the pavement in my palms from falling when I let go of the purse. My car keys were on the ground.
My entire world shifted in less than a minute. Now, who do I trust? Now, what do I do? Was that boy with the guys in the SUV? I was obviously targeted, they parked beside my car, facing in the opposite direction so the back seat of their vehicle lined up with the front seat of the driver’s side, where I would be getting in. Were they going to take me?
Fear came in for the kill. For a year, I was terrified to be alone, even in my own bathroom. How can I trust anyone, anything? Nothing, no one, felt safe. Faith felt flimsy – and fear was a portal into a world different than the one I was used to. All of the sudden I saw all the hurt and all the horrible things that happened everywhere. I began doubting all the things I thought were true. What is this life? What is the point? What good can the good do in the face of the bad? How can I trust God to be good? What is God even doing? Not enough it seemed, not enough.
One day I confessed my fear to my boyfriend. He read me Psalm 23 and said it helped him when he felt afraid. I heard the words, but they meant nothing. They fell flat. I wanted to tell him that this fear wouldn’t dissipate with Bible verses, but I didn’t. I said thank you. I pretended it helped.
It’s not that I stopped believing in God, it’s that I started doubting God loved me, or any of us, with the way things were going in the world as I saw it. Where was redemption? Where was hope? Where were the heroes? Where were the miracles?
The truth is this: a world dominated by fear has no redemption, has no hope, has no heroes, has no miracles. A world run by fear is godless. A life run by fear is hopeless. That is exactly what fear wants for us, that is exactly what the enemy is calling us towards.
As I wrestled with what I used to believe and what I had begun to believe and what I wanted to believe, I felt God tell me I had to choose: faith or fear, light or dark, hope or hopelessness. I had to choose what life I wanted. We all have to choose.
Fear is only one lens, one perspective. There are other ways to look at the world, there are other ways to see things.
We know only what we know, we don’t know the unknown, and so, we must make our choices more based on what we want our life to be and less of what we think life is, because we don’t really know.
So I chose. And so I choose again and again and again. Every time fear tries to get in, I have to choose again.
Fear is busy tempting us right now. Tempting us with the idea that we must fear the “other” people: the other religions, the other political parties, the other nationalities, the other ethnicities, the other gender identity, the other people around us who are becoming activists for movements that make us uncomfortable. Fear is calling us to divide so fear can conquer. Fear is calling us to seek our comfort and safety above the comfort and safety of our neighbors. Fear is telling us our neighbors aren’t worthy of comfort and safety if they look or think or pray differently than us. Fear is telling us to keep the others out of our lives and our liberties and our country. Fear is saying that it can keep us safe if we pledge allegiance to it. Fear is working with us to justify our anger and our hate and our prejudice with things that sound like religion. Fear is working fiercely to claim us as it’s own and to destroy any kingdom work we have done in the name of heaven, in the name of love.
If we want to see heaven at work in us and in the world around us, we have to deny fear. If we want to be the light of the world, we have to let the light into us and reject the call of the dark. If we want to see heroes, we have to be willing to stand with the heroes, or even be the heroes. If we want to see redemption at work, we must seek redemption in our lives. If we want love to win, we have to stop giving fear any power, any room, any attention. We have to choose to believe that good triumphs over evil, always, anyways. If we want to be free, we can’t live in fear. We must put off the idea that our safety, comfort, and feelings about people who are different than us are more important than the kingdom work of loving the unloved, helping the needy, and bringing justice to those who have been denied it. We must value grace and mercy over rules and laws. We must value love and kindness over power and maintaining the status quo. We must value what Heaven values, not what will make us most comfortable or safe.
If you are afraid right now of not having enough, of not being enough, of not knowing enough – put off that fear.
If you are afraid right now of violence, of predators, of evil men who seek only to harm others – put off that fear.
If you are afraid right now of change, of being different, of seeming strange – put off that fear.
If you are afraid right now of losing something important to you – your job, your family, your status, your money – put off that fear.
If you are afraid right now of your own thoughts, your own desires, your own weaknesses – put off that fear.
If you are afraid right now of the unknown, the things out of your control, the future – put off that fear.
If you are afraid of who you’ve been, of what you’ve seen, of what you’ve done – put off that fear.
If you are afraid – put off that fear.
Put off the fear that the enemy has cast on you and claim your freedom in faith. Not the kind of faith that people use to hurt or shame or reject others, but the kind of faith that grants mercy and kindness, and welcomes the stranger. Claim your place as the beloved son or daughter of the Creator of the Universe. Claim the power of love manifest in you. Claim hope, claim joy, claim peace. Claim the light.
Strip fear of it’s power – choose faith. Over and over, choose faith so that with your life you bear witness not only to the heartache, but also to the healing that comes with a life lived in the light. Choose faith so that when someone looks at you, at your life, they see another way, a way with freedom and grace and goodness, a way out of the dark, out of the fear. Be the light that beckons the fearful to put off their fear. In the light, fear is seen for what it is, a liar. All fear’s promises are false. Fear’s only intent is harm and destruction. Leave fear defeated. Deny the enemy any room, any stronghold.
What can be done with people who are unafraid? What can be done with people who refuse to let fear manipulate them into complacency? What can be done with people who will not let fear turn them to hatred, anger, dissension? What can be done with people who are not afraid of who they used to be or of who they could be? What can be done with people who are not afraid of what may come? What can be done with people who walk in freedom, in love, in faith, in hope, in kindness, in goodness, in mercy, in self-control even though the mountains fall into the sea and the earth shakes?
Don’t you want to?