by Mike Dennis
As I write this, my very first blog, I need to confess that I’m a little afraid. I’ve resisted starting this for a long time. My blogafobia stems from 3 negative possibilities 1) I will fail to be consistent. 2) that no one will want to read what I have to say. 3) people will read it and hate me. I know, low self esteem! But I can hear it now; “Another blogger?!? That’s all we need!”. So if you are reading this at all, thanks.
Fear seems to be what characterizes the U.S. right now. It has always been lurking around backstage, but now has seemingly taken the spotlight, center-stage. America, the “Home of the Brave” has seemingly become the “Home of the Terrified”. I experienced the terror of the terrified recently when I wrote what I considered to be a kind of benign post on a social media group page. I was digitally assaulted. I’m talking like major vitriolic ICBM’s! Whatever happened to “sticks and stones”? Anyway, someone tried to explain the group’s behavior by saying, “we are all really afraid!”
First of all, I do not wish to minimize what people are feeling. I understand being afraid of the unknown. With all the uncertainty in the world we live right now it’s understandable. But I also know that fear can be like a cancer that has the power to consume a person’s life, robbing of joy and productivity. It can make people react irrationally saying and doing things they later regret. So for my first blog I want to try and skim the surface of what a fearful mindset can do.
- Fear sells! A good part of marketing actually capitalizes on people’s fears. Everything from gun sales to identity protection software to baldness cures and news networks are driven by the fear market. Fear is something that people buy into.
- Fear is a buzz killer. It’s hard to be positive about life when your days are drenched in dread. Becoming negative has a huge relational price-tag. People will eventually begin to avoid your fearful little world. “Afraid” and “happy” are never used to describe the same person at the same moment.
- Fear warps your perspective. Like the distortion knob on old Fender guitar amplifiers, fear changes our perception of reality. If you’ve ever picked up a solid-body electric guitar and played it without being plugged in, you know what I mean. But once plugged in an almost inaudible note becomes a growling, screaming version of the original tone. Fear ramps up the decibels and twists the small vibration of reality into a deafening roar of negative possibility. I’m convinced that if we could just get a quick glimpse of the source of our fear we would be like Dorothy, the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion when they saw who the Wizard of Oz actually was. The booming voice was just a smoke-screen.
- Fear can cause paralysis. No, I mean really. There is a physical paralysis induced by severe stress resultant from fear. But it can also cause emotional and mental paralysis. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “the paralysis of analysis”. Fear can cause you to become so absorbed with the possibility of tomorrow’s pending disaster that it handcuffs your ability to make rational decisions today. Possibility becomes plausibility which morphs into probability, which guides our logical choices. My mother is wonderful woman of faith but has a few interesting phobias. She has always refused to fly in an airplane. She is afraid of heights. And she has an enormous dread of, are you ready? Escalators! Yup. Moving stairs freak my mom out. As a 10-year old I was hugely embarrassed by her in a Sears department store. After awkwardly standing at the bottom of an escalator, she finally summed up enough courage to put her foot on the bottom step as it came rising up out of the basement. But somehow she just couldn’t will the other foot to join the process. I remember being mortified as mom did the splits while being mechanically transported up to the second floor. Fear will do that. It can freeze you in mid-step.
- Fear and faith are two sides of the same coin! Real faith always has at least a little fear mixed in. I have a theory. Faith isn’t faith unless there’s a risk, and risk always carries an element of fear. King David wrote about it in that collection of ancient Jewish hymns: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3) From this we learn that fear is part of the human condition. David is one of the most heroic figures in the Bible. As a teen-ager he killed an over 9-foot tall giant with a slingshot and then decapitated him for good measure. Dude was a stud. But even he was afraid sometimes. For him fear was a visitor, but not a resident. His formula for overcoming fear was pretty simple. He tells God, “When fear shows up, I’m putting my confidence in you.”
Fear is inevitable, but panic is optional. When fear knocks on your door you have a choice to make. You can stay in the living room with God, or you can open the door and let fear in. It’s easier to deny fear entrance than serve it an eviction notice later. So here is your simple action plan; when you are afraid, put your trust in God.