Saturday, January 21, 2012

fear and fear

I am a timid chap. Always have been. Always will be.

If I was to look at the sum of all my fears, dogs and flying figure regularly in the top ten. Not without good reason, I might add. As a little newspaper-delivery boy I had an awful experience of being bitten - and I've had more than my share of bumpy flights (closing my eyes and imagining that I am in a bus on a pot-holed road in India seems to help - although most argue that the bus is more dangerous than the plane).

Last week I was in India, confronting my fears yet again, with flights and that array of rabid and rabied dogs. It seems that my fears are getting better. And I know why.

It has to do with theology.
Some years ago I stumbled across Exodus 20.20.
"Moses said to the people, 'Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning."
This verse suggests there to be two types of fear. Having watched for it as I've read, I am now convinced that the rest of the Bible agrees. We grew up on George Beverley Shea singing hymns. One LP (the great, great grandparent of iTunes) in the house was titled Sacred Songs, although I was convinced that it said Scared Songs. My Dad had me on about this for years. Those words work well here in Exodus 20.20. There is a scared fear and there is a sacred fear.

But more than naming two types of fear, this verse suggest that one fear (sacred) helps banish the other fear (scared). We could rework that supreme quote of Thomas Chalmers - 'the expulsive power of a new affection' - to read 'the expulsive power of a new fear'.

This is exactly what I do. When a fear rises up within me, I meditate on the fear of God. I practice fearing God consciously and deliberately. What do I mean? Well, I am still content with Charles Swindoll's definition of fearing God: 'taking God seriously'. So... I take God more seriously than my fear, allowing the former to expel the latter. His promises. His sovereignty. His care. His love. His justice. His mercy. His purposes. His call. I let my mind fill with all that I know about these realities. I ask God to have them take control of my life in those moments of my fear.

So when the bumps on a flight make me feel I am in a washing machine, I fear God. When I walk the plank of dogs in India, I fear God. When I drive my car to the dentist, I fear God. When I stand up to speak in an unfamiliar setting, I fear God. When I say goodbye to my son (last night!) intent as he is on being there for the people of eastern Congo, one of the toughest places on God's earth, I fear God.

It is about letting my fears get lost in the fear of God. Sadly, the converse is true. The Bible teaches that if you do not fear (sacred), there is plenty to fear (scared). That truth cannot be avoided or side-stepped.

All of this helps me with far more than my fears. It has a way of keeping God at the core of my life - and keeping my spirituality far more accurate. Afterall a fear-less spirituality, so popular today, is simply sub-biblical and therefore unChristian. As for all those fearless people out there, they miss out on some great learning opportunities, don't they?

nice chatting

Paul

2 comments:

Paul said...

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.'

Rhett said...

Really enjoyed this post, Paul.

And I'm also scared on flying. I don't know how you do it so often!