Is there anything more debilitating than fear? I don’t think there is. And, friends, we need to find a cure for fear and fast!
Fear can stop us in our tracks physically, causing us to freeze up like a deer in the headlights. Fear can cause us to loop into unhelpful cycles of thinking and feeling that keep us from reaching our potentials. And fear can kill us spiritually by preventing us from fully accepting the love of God.
And perhaps most importantly, fear can prevent us from obeying the Greatest Commandment(s) (to love God and others) and the Great Commission (making disciples) by causing us to discount and judge people before we ever get to know them.
So what’s the answer? What’s the cure for fear?
The Causes of Fear
Before we can talk about a cure for fear, we have to wrap our minds around the things that cause us fear in the first place. What’s so scary out there?
A recent blog on Psychology Today’s website highlights the five fears that we all have. Here they are:
- Extinction – This is the fear of death an it’s like a program that runs in the background of our minds. When we get a little too close to something that could possibly cause us to die, this fear alerts us. Most of us have a pretty reasonable threshold. While it’s true that there’s a chance (however small) that germs on a door handle could kill us, most of us don’t run away from door handles kicking and screaming! Others of us have a much lower threshold for this kind of fear. We fear almost everything that could potentially harm us, including people (and especially people different than us whom we have a hard time understanding and identifying with).
- Mutilation – This is the fear of serious but not deadly bodily harm. Here’s a great example: when my wife was young, her brother broke his arm while riding his bike. Since this caused her great fear, she put off learning to ride a bike until she was in her 30s! This fear of mutilation can immobilize us altogether because there’s always something or someone that could harm us, especially when we are surrounded by places, things, and people that are new and different.
- Loss of Autonomy – This fear rests on the natural human desire to be in control. And the loss of autonomy here could be physical (such as becoming paralyzed) or non-physical (such as being demoted from a position with freedoms at work to one without them). This fear can cause us to be defensive and very selective about what we do and who we surround ourselves with. We begin to view everything and everyone as a threat to our freedoms, and more so if we are unfamiliar with them.
- Separation – This is the fear that we’ll lose contact with the people and things (but especially people) that we love. We’re scared that they’ll die and we’ll be left alone. We’re afraid that they’ll find out our deepest, darkest secrets and hate us for them. We’re afraid that they’ll find people who are better than us and leave us for them. This can cause us to try too hard to keep the people and things we love, turning us into Scrooges. Or, rather sadly, this fear can cause us to prematurely push everyone and everything away so that we are the ones who control the separation and it doesn’t come as a surprise. And, this fear can cause us to shelter people whom we love from others because we don’t want them to get hurt (which can be especially true with regard to our children and spouses).
- Ego-death – Lastly is the fear of shame and humiliation. This is the fear that who we are on the inside, in the most secret place, will be snuffed out through the bullying of others, our own self doubts and depression, or the guilt and pain that we carry into our present from the past. We’re scared that we’ll lose who we are, our identity. Maybe we’ll get subsumed into someone else. Maybe will get squashed. Maybe we’ll be found out. Pick your poison, the result is the same — this fear can cause us to become shells of who we’re meant to be!
And these fears trip us up in any number of ways. I’ve written about a few of those ways before, so I won’t do so here. But suffice it to say that fear can really put a hamper on our ability to live well, to be meaningful people to others, and to follow Jesus well in the real world. We need a cure for fear!
by: Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images; accessed at LATimes.com
A Cure for Fear
At his last National Prayer Breakfast, on February 4, 2016, President Barack Obama talked about how damaging fear can be and said this:
Fear does funny things. Fear can lead us to lash out against those who are different. Or lead us to try to get some sinister other under control. Faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear. [SOURCE]
President Obama, like him or leave him, made a great point here. Fear can cause us to do things we wouldn’t do otherwise. Think about the types of fears we listed above. Each one of them can lead us to hurt ourselves or others. Each one of them cause us to distance ourselves from the “sinister other,” to quote the President.
The President’s words are self-evident. All we have to do is look into our own lives and analyze, even briefly, some of the choices we’ve made. Many times those choices have been heavily influenced by fear and as a result we and others were likely hurt.
And this need for a cure for fear is evident in our public discourse as well. Think back to a little while ago when the Syrian refugee crisis first hit the news. A little boy drowned as his family tried to escape their war-torn country and all of our hearts were ripped in two.
Then a little while after that fear took over.
Paris was attacked by a terror group and then San Bernadino, CA a short time after that. The fear that these two terror attacks created made us lose our minds in the United States! Our broken hearts over the little Syrian boy who drowned became dark with fear-induced hate, causing us to say all sorts of crazy and untrue things about the Syrian refugees. I mean, just look at some of the comments on this post of mine on Facebook and judge for yourself! The fearful hate is palpable.
Fear causes us all kinds of problems, including saying and doing hateful things to the very people God may be calling us to be and share the good news with!
We need a cure for fear!
I like how the President ended his quote above: “Faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear.” While I agree in principle with him, I will quibble just a bit. Here’s how I would say it:
Jesus and the ways of Jesus are the best cure for ear. While faith, generally speaking, is a good cure for fear.
What we need now, especially those of us who follow Jesus, is to emulate Jesus and his ways. If we want a cure for fear, we have it! It’s called love. And not the love that we think we should share and to whom we think we should share it. No!
It’s the love that Jesus had, a love that extended to the most vulnerable and to the privileged. It’ the love that, as Paul puts it in Philippians 2, always puts the interest of the other before our own.
The cure for fear is Jesus and his ways. And Jesus and his ways are best encapsulated by one word: LOVE. 1 John 4.18 says this:
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Love and fear are like oil and water, they just don’t mix well.
But let’s be honest for a second — we all still have fear and our fears cause us harm and move us to harm others. This is a continual problem for us all. Fear is something that will be with us until we shuffle off this mortal coil.
So what do we do?
Well, since we’ll always need the cure for fear, namely love as expressed by Jesus, then we’ll always need to reapply this cure for fear by constantly re-exposing ourselves to Jesus and his gospel. I talk some more about this need for persistent exposure to the gospel in this the New Wine Podcast #016; give it a listen!
What do you think? How big of a deal is fear? And what’s the cure for fear? Let me know in the comments below!