Rev. Karen Gibson: The hidden deceiver: Fear

Franklin Delano Roosevelt reassured Americans that “we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

I do not know whether he was basing his quote on the facts of the Bible or not. Last week, when the phone began ringing again, after the Christmas and New Year break was over, I told myself to face some of the unidentified callers and tell them I wanted to be taken off their calling lists.

You probably wonder why I would dread answering unknown calls so much, but I am probably not the only one who has had some past negative experiences.

Nevertheless, I realized my dread of answering the phone had to do with a fear that I had.

Fear is a natural, healthy feeling and response. It is actually a great warning mechanism that our nervous system can use for our safety or self-preservation, when we need to fight or flight.

It is a motivator to make sure we complete a project on time. Sometimes, fear will raise your blood pressure a few points or more. I wonder if we don’t create unnecessary fear in our lives sometimes that interrupts our relationship with God. I believe that we use far more time thinking, processing and “worrying” than is necessary.

Worrying about our fears seems to be non-productive.

Fear presents itself in the reaction of anxiety.

Anxiety is a fear of the unknown; we don’t know how the outcome of a situation, which is bothering us, will turn out. Even though the word anxiety is common, we usually do not recognize that we are being anxious.

I believe another word we may use that is more common for anxiety is “worry.”

Although the words fear, anxiety and worry are all related, Jesus didn’t let these emotional feelings control his life, and Jesus didn’t want fear, anxiety or worry to control the lives of his followers.

That is the wonderful example Jesus presented.

One familiar verse of reassurance about fear is from Matthew 6:34, NRSV, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

At the age of 12, Jesus was separated from his parents on the way home from the Passover in Jerusalem. After three days, when his parents found Jesus in the Temple, Mary said, “Child why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”

Luke 2: 48b Jesus reassured his mother, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them, Luke 2: 49-50, NRSV.

During Jesus’ ministry, Jesus faced the emotional challenge of Martha’s reactive response when she wanted Jesus to tell Mary, her sister, to help her. Jesus’ response surprised Martha when Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 41b-42 NRSV.

In Luke 12: 22-34, Jesus reassures the crowd to not worry. “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” Luke 12: 23.

Jesus also understood that his disciples would react with anxious behaviors.

For example, when Jesus tried to prepare his disciples in the Gospel of John 16, it was to soften the reaction that the disciples would have once they understood that their Lord would be leaving them.

Jesus understood the disciple’s fear.

It seems that Jesus was flexible and could adjust to all the different fears that the crowds or the disciples were facing, in addition to the fears that only Jesus would soon face.

And the reason Jesus could face these fears confidently was the close relationship Jesus had with his Father.

Nowadays, those who follow Jesus are reassured by Jesus to not be anxious, or worry about their fears.

As followers of Jesus, we can depend on the Word of God to help us refocus our attention away from fear (fear about anything,) and anxiety that can monopolize our time, or that we can refocus our attention upon Jesus.

I encourage those who seem to worry too much to consider what Jesus said about anxiousness, worry and fear. Take a look at your thinking and consider what Jesus would say to you.

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