Tag Archives: fear

I Am Not Afraid

Words of Grace

I am not afraid.

But I am!  I am afraid of lots of things: the future, driving, tests, failure as a parent, getting mugged, health problems, death.  Sometimes my fear stops me from doing anything.  Sometimes it just occupies my thoughts and takes away my joy.  But, to be honest, it’s almost always there.  How can I not be afraid?

When someone tells us not to be afraid, as though it were a simple thing to do, they either miss the point of what’s happening in our hearts or they don’t care.  Emotions are difficult to turn on and off, particularly negative ones.  It isn’t as though we want to be afraid.

I think this is why the Scripture talks so much about living in the light.  The darkness holds our fears.  Not knowing, or knowing just part of the truth or believing lies—those are the things that give strength to our fears.  When the light shines on our situation, we often find that there really was nothing to fear.

We all know that turning the light on in the room chases away the things that seem to lurk in the shadows.  But what if we turn on the light and something really scary is standing there?  We understand that many of the fears that trouble us are not real.  They are fantasies or misunderstandings or lies.  But not everything that frightens us is false.  We do face financial difficulties, health problems, relationship stresses, and more.  These things are real and challenging.  The pain and trouble they bring to us are things we would certainly like to avoid.

But do we need to be afraid of them?  That’s the question.

And the answer is, “No!”

Most of us have a healthy fear of pain, but we understand it and accept it as part of our lives.  The same is true with most of our minor fears.  But the biggest fear we face is damage or change to our identity.  “Will I be the same after x happens?”  Losing a job or a loved one or a home—what we fear most in these things is the change in us.  Will weakness steal my security or joy or confidence?  Will I have to become a different person?

That’s why I like to teach about identity.  As long as my identity is based on what I do or my life situation, then my identity is always at risk.  When my identity is secure in Jesus, it will not change.  I will not change because He who is my life will not change.  Minor changes will happen, of course, but who I am in Christ will never change.

Everything in this world is outside my relationship with Jesus.  Inside that relationship there is security and peace forever.  He is my strength.  He is my hope.  He is my peace.

I will not be afraid of what people can do to me or of what the world around me can do.  I will not be afraid of the changes time will bring.  I will not be afraid of my weaknesses.  I will look to Him and remember my peace.

Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.  Psalm 46:2-3 (NKJV)

 

I am not afraid.

I know that He is with me.

I will look to Him and find my peace.

Nothing can change who I am in Him.

I am not afraid.

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Identity in Relationship

Grace 101

 

Identity is formed in relationship.  If you were the only person you could experience, you would think that the whole world was about you.  As it is, it can be difficult to remember that others have valid lives and needs.  We see only through our own eyes, hear only through our own ears, and experience life only from our own perspective.  It can be challenging to stop and think of others.

I think this is why we are raised in families, so that we are forced to see others and to see ourselves through their eyes.  Each person adds a little more to the picture we learn of ourselves.  If things worked right, we would grow strong and healthy and happy as we see our place and role in the group around us.

But things are not working right, are they?  We live among sinners in a world filled with sin.  Everyone is afraid.  Everyone fights for a place of value and respect.  Instead of caring for and supporting others, we use each other to get what we want.  That’s what sin does.  This is especially true in times of trauma.  It is natural for us to withdraw into ourselves for our protection.  So, when we are afraid or stressed, we tend to think more about ourselves.  And, in the world of sin, trauma or potential trauma are always around us.

The Christian context reveals that there are two types of identity.  The most obvious is the one shared by all people: Who I am in relation to others.  I learn that I am good at certain things, that other things make me afraid, or that I desire to grow in certain areas.  These things distinguish me from others.  Some are athletic.  Some are cerebral.  Some are practical.  Some are social.  The combinations of these and other characteristics give definition to us.

Much of this is learned when we are very young.  When the family relationship is dysfunctional, identity within human relationship can seriously suffer.  If I fail to adequately learn who I am, or if I form a negative perspective of who I am, then my relationships throughout my life may suffer.  This is the experience of too many people.

But there is another level of identity.  After a time, most people begin to ask a deeper question.  Life is more than being able to do something.  I am more than my vocation and there is more to me than the fact that I like some things others do not.  Sometimes we go through life changes that force us into other roles or we have to give up things we like.  The role we have played among others becomes unavailable and we wonder if there is something more.

After times of loss or times of deep introspection, we begin to ask about our place in the world as a whole, not just among our friends and family.  “Who am I” becomes “What am I.”  Why am I here and what is my real purpose?  The search for those answers changes everything.

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What I know about you. . .

. . . you are safe!

 

What if I lose my job?  What if this strange feeling is cancer?  What if I said the wrong thing and she’s mad at me?  What if I forgot to pay a bill?  What if the car has problems?  What if I bomb this test?  What if he is seeing someone else?  What if I have an accident?

Life is full of what-if’s.  Worry, anxiety, is the expression of the flesh’s fear of not being self-sufficient.  We simply are not smart enough, strong enough, or influential enough to control everything in our lives.  We feel unsafe because we aren’t in control.

Some people compensate for their fear by setting up all kinds of rules and standards and contracts in their lives.  Others become aggressive or narcissistic.  Still others go through their lives dependent on someone else, who also is not able to control life.  And some just live in fear almost every day.

But we were never made to be self-sufficient.  The Lord created us to be dependent on Him.  If He were a normal person, you might think that was a bad thing because normal people are undependable and self-serving.  But the Lord is faithful and gracious.  He really does care about us and He will protect us and deliver us.

In fact, the plan from the beginning is that we would live our lives in close relationship with Him.  He would provide for us and we would have a life without fear and worry.  Sin took that life away from us, but Jesus gives it back.

The normal life of the believer is one of safety and assurance.  I know that we often view our circumstances out of our flesh, the system of living we designed when we were apart from the Lord, but the flesh doesn’t see the truth.  The flesh is always afraid because it doesn’t trust anyone but itself and knows that it is unable to control everything.  But when, in the Spirit, we are able to look at the Lord and see reality, we understand that nothing can hurt us.

The Bible is full of little stories designed to give us encouragement.  In 2 Kings we read the story of a great army from Syria that had come to capture Elisha.  Elisha’s servant was very much afraid.  But Elisha knew the truth.

And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.   2 Kings 6:15-17

The army of the Lord surrounded Elisha to protect him.  There was no danger.  (You might want to read the rest of the story for yourself.  Some impressive faith!)

What if you and I could see the Lord’s protection or provision gathered around us?  What if we could see that check coming that would bail us out just at the last moment?  What if we could see the angels of the Lord surrounding our home or our car?  What if the Lord opened our eyes to what He does on our behalf?  What would happen to our fear?

Yes, I understand that bad things happen.  Actually I have to qualify that.  I understand that things come into our lives that are uncomfortable and don’t fit with our plans. The things that come into our lives, however evil they may be, are only the ones the Lord allows for good in our lives.

How can cancer or job loss or physical abuse be good for us?  That is a very reasonable question and it is hard to answer from the outside.  But I have seen too many people in the midst or in the aftermath of terrible suffering who sing praises and give thanks to the Lord.  Those who suffer find that there is One who stands with them and loves them.  And the love of the Lord is greater than their pain.

The bottom line is that the people of God are safe.  If you lose your job or have an accident or get sick, the Lord will walk through it with you and, if you let Him, He will bring much good even through the suffering.  You can trust Him.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

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