Musings on Christianity 26

Musings on Christianity 26

Should We Be Afraid?

I gave some thought to this chapter and how to go about it. As with most of my non-fiction, especially with this particular project, it usually becomes a free-flowing process. Where to start and what I’m trying to say are the only main issues of consideration.

In this chapter, I start with frightening news. As I type this, I am in the middle of a fourteen-day quarantine, as I had (or thought I had) been exposed to the Corona virus.

All those teenagers and young men and women refusing to practice social distancing or stay inside reflect my very own thoughts maybe as little as three years ago. I’ve been blessed to have a fairly illness-free life thus far, and, not too long ago, I was quite alright with the risk of being sick.

Now I have a wife. Now I have three children. I’d endure any illness. I’d happily welcome any misfortune if it kept my family safe. But how do I keep them safe from me? Also consider my family history. The very idea that I’m a threat to those I love harkens my own mind back to a life of an abusive biological father and an oath to never be a threat to my children. Now, this is different. I might be sick. I’m not in myself the threat, but I carry the threat in me. There’s something there perhaps to consider, but I set that thought aside to stay on the main point.

Believe me when I confess I have been afraid. Believe me when I say I was worried. But where does fear actually come from? Psychologists have studied this far more than I have, but whatever dictionary you use, that emotion is based by a danger or threat.

Non-believers can have every reason to be afraid. Their lives and their possessions are all they have. I would appreciate and sympathize with a non-believer who is afraid of dying or losing his wealth or getting sick. This is because the threat of the things a non-believer has represents the loss of something critical.

But Christians have something greater than all of those things. Does that mean that the things we have don’t matter or that they aren’t dear to us? Absolutely not. However, the first thing a Christian knows is that no possession, or person is more important than God. Here is where people might balk or lash out. Here is where people become indignant.

We need to refer back to the most important law:  “‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4-6).’”

One may argue intellectually that love is infinite. It is. You can love many things all at once. But Jesus expanded on that command in Luke Chapter 14 verses 26-27.

“‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Readers, that is the line drawn in the sand. The choice to step over and stand with Christ is one I leave to you, but that is the line.

“Hate?” you may ask in outrage. “What sort of God wants me to hate at all?”

That word is a problem of translation. You see, the Greeks had three words for love. A better meaning (though less word-for-word literal) would be “Whoever doesn’t love Me more than … ”

Again, I would understand any parent saying, “I’ll never love anything more than my child!”

Again, readers, understand I’m not telling you what to do. I am, however, showing you the mindset of a true Christian, based on the word of God.

An angry parent may be angry because while I say “more than,” the parent hears “instead of.” Please review these words and realize that is not the case.

Indeed, we are to love others as we would love ourselves. That is the other half of the law Christ gave as the most important. So we are to love others sacrificially. Love endlessly. However, when we love, we love God most.   

I have to express this thought because I can’t show you why you have no reason to fear if you still value things more than God. The love of God, valuing Him more than anything or anyone is the reason we have nothing to fear.

Neither I nor God’s word are telling you not to love anyone. But when you love God most and value Him most, you’ve placed God, the infinite, all powerful, and unchanging source of all things, on His proper throne.

And if you have Him, nothing can harm you.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword (Romans 8:31-35)?”

Again, fear comes when something important to you is threatened. But what happens when the most important thing in your life is the infinite, immortal, unchanging God? What’s anyone going to do to Him?

“What about our Earthly things?” you may ask. “They matter to me?” Of course they do. I love my family. I love all the wonderful gifts God’s given me. I love my life. I love my home. I love my job. I love my health (more on that later). But these are the gifts, and I’ll never put them (any of them) above the one who gave them to me.

Again, you may balk at this. You may have this mental image of me shunning my children and my wife. But to do so would violate the law of God. I can’t frustrate my children or be unloving to my wife for God’s sake without violating that very same God’s commandment. If you read these words in outrage and indignation, it’s only because you see these words as an either-or situation.

I want to give my children to God. Not in a psychopathic heretical sense, but in the same Christian, holy sense I and my wife have given ourselves to God. If I’m doing anything I’m giving the children I love to Him just as He gave up His son only son for me. I don’t want my children to worship me any more than I’m not going to start worshiping them. And that is what one does if they make the child the center of their universe.

A thing I’ve learned over the years is you can’t worship the child. Are love and worship synonyms?  Only in as far as you elevate one thing you love above another. I love cookies, but I’d never eat a cookie again if I had to choose between them and my sons. However, if my sons demanded to have only cookies for every meal, I could obey them if I choose to worship them. However, I love them, and I don’t want them to die of some sugar-related malady. The love I have for my children does not mean they control my actions.

However, the love I have for God means He does have control of my actions. This is the distinction to loving Him more than my family. There may even be some times when a choice may have to be made, but that would distract from the point of this chapter, and it’s just so much more rare a situation than one need consider when it comes to reasons for fear.

So at this point, you can choose to accept my words or (more importantly) the words of the Bible or not. I had to explain them in order to provide the comfort God brings.

If I give my life, my family, my home, my well being, over to God, then I am His. He can (and will) do whatever He wants to me.

The reasons that means I have no need to fear are many:

God is good (1 Chronicles 16:34).

God is merciful, gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth (Exodus 34:6).

God is upright (Psalm 25:8).

God is righteous (Psalm 92:15).

God is a stronghold in times of trouble (Nahum 1:7).

God is mighty (Deuteronomy 10:17).

God is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9)

God is love (1 John 4:7).

What need is there to fear when God is in control of your life?

You see, Christ himself told us to be anxious for nothing; don’t be afraid of anything (Matthew 6:25-34).

God will always provide. We’ll never fail to get what we need (Psalm 23).

Yet even knowing this in my flesh, there are times when I fear. This is the subject I discussed with my children the day before I typed this very chapter. I spoke to my children about the faithfulness of God.

When we fear, believers have God to turn to. This, is comfort.

It’s comfort because I know the almighty, all-knowing, loving God of the universe is in charge, and His plan is perfect. Yes, I will be sad, but I can take comfort in knowing what happens is part of his plan.

Yes, readers, even this disease is part of His plan. Whether He sent this virus in his Holy judgement or He’s using Satan’s attempt to thwart that plan, it’s all part of that plan. I’m not particularly enjoying this part of the plan, but I trust it.

So my sons and I sat down and read several Psalms. I let them find chapters that speak about God’s faithfulness. They chose Psalm 2, 3, and 18. They read those chapters, and we talked about what they mean. We didn’t ask, “what do you think that means?”  I hesitate to endorse that sort of self-centered reading. Rather, we considered the literal meaning of the words (this is basic hermeneutics).

After discussing it, I asked my sons what they’re afraid of. They each gave a list (they were very worried their Dad had COVID-19). Then, we used those Psalms as examples. 

I asked my sons, “What do Christians do when the are afraid.”

They answered, “Go to God.”

“How?” I asked.

After a moment or two of thought, they said, “Pray!”

So we prayed together. Each son named his fear and asked God for help.

Minutes later, I got a text. The individual who I had come in contact with and been exposed to COVID-19, had just got his test results back. Negative.

Just like that, more than a week of concern and worry melted away. We’re still going to complete the fourteen-day quarantine as an added measure, but I sometimes marvel at how quickly God works in my life.

I don’t expect God to immediately give me whatever I pray for. I prayed for some 20-something years before I met Julie. God answers in His time in accordance to His plan.

However, in this tiny, glorious example, I offer this to you to say that we can always have faith and trust. We need not fear.

But what if that test came back positive? What if I get sick tomorrow?

My faith isn’t based on God giving me what I want. My faith is based on the list I gave above. I trust God. If I face death, I face it knowing I’m returning home to Him. If I face hardship, I face it knowing he’ll provide for me. And when I feel fear approach, I know I have God to turn to. I can tell him my fears and (as those Psalms all did) praise Him, reminding myself of his characteristics.

Does this mean I’m going to go licking toilets or jumping off buildings? No! Why? Because there’s a big difference between faith and challenge. We’re commanded not to put the LORD our God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16). 

What it does mean is I can obediently (in accordance to his command) do as I should and have courage because I know He is with me, and He is with you too if you are indeed among his redeemed.

For our panel: What verses do you turn to when you are afraid? What are some distinctions between lack fear and lack of wisdom? How would you explain loving God most? How would you describe fear? What scripture would you have someone turn to if they were struggling with fear?