The bedroom door creaked open slowly. I lay in bed, suddenly wide awake yet frozen in place. A whisper-soft footstep made its way across the room and the blood coursed through my head, a drumbeat pounding in my ears. I strained in the dark to see who was there but the black velvet of night obstructed the view. I could sense the presence of another. Fear clawed its way into my mind and wrapped its talons around my fast-beating heart.
Do you like to be scared?
I admit it. I like movies with suspense and some spine-tingling moments. Horror is too much for my taste, but I’m a sucker for nail-biting scenes that make my heart beat like a trip-hammer.
In real life however, fear is not welcome. At least, that’s what I claim. In reality, time and time again, I invite fear in, pull out a chair where it can rest and pour it a cup of tea. I nurture fear’s presence and welcome it like an old and dear friend.
We are sold fear at every turn.
Books, movies and TV shows are geared toward scaring us senseless. Some of you are nodding your head yes with gleeful enthusiasm at the thought of a good fright-fest, while others are shaking your heads with disapproval. You steer clear of anything that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck and have no appetite for fear. Or do you?
Fear creeps into our lives in other, less obvious ways. Social media and mainstream news exploit every real and imagined terror and hook us in, like fish on the line, profiting from our fears.
I just scrolled through my Facebook feed and in a few minutes I found a list of things we are told to fear – dementia, guns, hurricanes, robbers, dangerous drivers, rising crime rates, failure, trans people, men, sexual assault, clowns, children being injured, war, terrorists, Islam, Sharia law, Hillary Clinton, more clowns, identity theft, the election, political correctness, climate change, more hurricanes
This election cycle has ramped up the fear like never before.
The candidates and the media are peddling it like an ice cream truck peddles Good Humor bars. They ring the bell all day long while we chase story after story, panting and hungry for more.
We’ve been told that not only do we have much to dread, we are foolish or naive if we don’t. Politics are built upon this. They present us with what we should fear, so they alone can provide a solution. Fear, they would lead us to believe, is informative.
In fact, the very opposite is true.
Fear certainly serves a purpose. It’s they way our mind and body signal imminent danger, preparing us for an immediate and real threat. But over the course of time, a steady diet of fear is debilitating.
This article from Psychology Today describes how our bodies respond to fear.
“As soon as you feel fear, the amygdala (a small almond-shaped organ in the center of your brain) sends signals to your autonomic nervous system (ANS), which then has a wide range of effects. The ANS kicks in, and suddenly, your heart rate increases, your blood pressure goes up, your breathing gets quicker, and stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released. The blood flows away from the heart and out towards the extremities, preparing the arms and legs for action.
…bodily responses to fear can be detrimental, especially since the most important one is a negative one: the brain basically shuts down as the body prepares for action. The cerebral cortex, the brain’s center for reasoning and judgment, is the area that becomes impaired when the amygdala senses fear. The ability to think and reason decreases as time goes on, so thinking about the next best move in a crisis can be a hard thing to do. Some people even experience feelings of time slowing down, tunnel vision, or feeling like what is happening is not real. These dissociative symptoms can make it hard to stay grounded and logical in a dangerous situation. Essentially, the body’s response to fear or stress can be stressful in itself.”
Did you get that? Let me repeat it, in case you missed it the first time. “…bodily responses to fear can be detrimental, especially since the most important one is a negative one: the brain basically shuts down as the body prepares for action. The cerebral cortex, the brain’s center for reasoning and judgment, is the area that becomes impaired when the amygdala senses fear. The ability to think and reason decreases as time goes on…”
Yeah, that steady diet of fear, that constant stream of bad news, that endless worry about…everything, it clouds our judgment and hampers logical thought.
I know, I know. There are real threats in this world. But look back at that list I posted earlier. Unless you are currently living in Florida, in the path of a deadly hurricane, most of the threats listed above are not an immediate danger to you and those that you love or else they are things beyond your control. Do some of them require our thoughtful attention and action? Yes. Do they warrant our fear. Probably not.
Maybe you still object. You are clinging to that fear like Linus with his blankie. You are comfortable living in that place. You feel a sense of righteous indignation at the thought of letting it go. So, what does the Bible say about fear?
“Fear of man is a dangerous trap, but to trust in God means safety.” (Proverbs 29:25 TLB)
The Bible does not promise us a life free of pain and tragedy but God promises to be with us in the middle of it all. I love the way Isaiah states it. This is a beautiful promise for those in the path of a hurricane.
“Do not be afraid, because I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I’ll be with you; and through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you.
When you walk through fire you won’t be scorched, and the flame won’t set you ablaze.” Is. 43:1-2 ISV
Do we believe the Word of God or do we trust FOX News and The Huffington Post?
God wants us to be sober and mindful – NOT ruled by our fears. When the dust settles, when the hurricanes pass, when the election is over, what example will we leave, as people of faith, to the world around us?
“And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves, but we should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, “Father, Father.”” Rom 8:15 TLB
If we are hiding from our own shadows and quaking in the corner at every real and imagined terror, we are unable to administer aid to the wounded and bleeding lying there in the middle of the room.
Let’s refuse the package we are being sold, the one tainted by fear. Instead, let us keep our minds clear and our judgment sound, standing solid on the foundation of God’s faithfulness and mercy.
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident.
The one thing I ask of the Lord—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
and meditating in his Temple.
For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
he will hide me in his sanctuary.
He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Then I will hold my head high
above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
singing and praising the Lord with music.
Psalms 27:1-6 NLT