If there’s any single topic I am convinced I can speak with authority on, it’s fear.
I’ve battled fear for as long as I can remember. It colors my childhood memories. The struggle was given a name as a teenager when it became known as panic attacks.
Much of my life has been spent trying to avoid situations that could trigger bouts of panic. It’s only within the last several years that I’ve started to feel peace and the absence of a sense of foreboding dogging me every day.
I know fear very well, and it’s with this intimate knowledge that I can confidently say it is the single largest problem in America today.
Most Americans are riddled by fear and don’t even recognize it.
Fear is central in our politics: liberals are afraid of conservatives, and conservatives are afraid of liberals – each terrified that the other’s agenda will destroy the country.
We’re afraid of terrorist attacks; of diseases; of immigrants taking our jobs; of our way of life changing; of Muslims; of Christians; of global warming.
And the sadly ironic fact is I’m pretty sure the most fearful group of people in the country are those who should have no fear at all: Christians, though specifically those of the evangelical variety.
“Do not be afraid” is the most commonly repeated phrase in scripture. As well it should be – God emphasizes throughout that, no matter appearances, God is in charge and will ultimately make all things right. We are taught the vital necessity of trust – faith and hope being two of the most important virtues along with love – in every aspect of life. We are assured that the final outcome is set, and that love wins when it’s all over.
If I know what the end result is and that I only need to do what I can with the time I am given, I have absolutely nothing to fear.
I. Have. Nothing. To fear.
So stop living your life in fear and manifesting that fear as actions that debase the Gospel and harm fellow people.
We must learn to radically trust God, or, as Brennan Manning puts it, ruthlessly trust. There is no other option for the Christian life than ruthless trust; anything else is not full submission to God as God, ruler of all things.
Anything less results in us reacting out of fear in ways detrimental to ourselves, others, and God. A life lived in fear is a life spent in a type of bunker mentality, which is not a life lived set free by God to be who we are meant to be.
In a bunker mentality, we begin to care only about ourselves and those in our group, which is the opposite of living out love the way Jesus explained and demonstrated it. We begin to defend moral compromise and believe more frequently that the ends justify the means.
If left unchecked, very slowly and insidiously, it can result in the dehumanization of those who disagree with us or those we identify as the source of our problems. It’s happened before in history; there’s no reason it can’t happen again.
The meaning behind the phrase “do not be afraid” assumes the truth that this command can be lived out because, truly, there is nothing to be afraid of. Therefore, believe that truth: you have nothing to fear.
Live out your life accordingly, personifying faith, hope and love.