I know what it means to live in fear. Not the rational fear, produced by an imminent and visible danger, like when a poisonous serpent slithers up the path in our direction. We recognize that fear easily enough. Then, we evaluate. We decide. We act. But, there is another fear. One that lies under the surface, often, not so easily recognized. This is the fear of imagined outcomes, of dangers that may or may not someday exist.
For much of my life, I lived with an underlying fear of “what if?” What if people respond to me in fear or anger because of what they see when they look at me? What if for that reason, they speak harshly or attempt to do me harm. Though I never voiced it, I acted on that fear practically every day of my life.
When I refused to turn around in someone’s driveway, preferring to drive an extra mile or two, I was avoiding a risk. What if someone questioned my presence? What if they yelled at me or threatened violence? Sounds irrational, maybe even unbelievable, but my wife can testify. To her great frustration, it happened not once or twice, but anytime I missed a turn. In the moment, I could not identify my fear, but it literally drove me the extra mile. No amount of arguing or disappointment could overcome it.
In these days of pandemic and political uncertainty, I see the same category of fear in many people. Such fear might manifest itself in different ways, but it comes from the same root and seeks to rob us of the experience of life. We know that God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). We also know that the devil attempts to steal the freedom and life that Jesus intends for us (John 10:10).
Are you afraid of sickness and death? Are you afraid of losing privileges and even rights? Do you fear being manipulated or controlled? Some things are and will be, but should we allow the fear of them to push us to extremes? The Bible speaks of death in a broken and decaying world(Romans 5:12-14, Romans 8:20-22). It speaks of persecution for those who would follow Jesus (2 Timothy 3:11-12). It even speaks of rulers who dominated their populations. Jesus never promised freedom from such hardships. But, He did promise peace in the midst of them. Jesus never told us to fight against any and every eventuality, but He did tell us to trust Him in all things (John 14:1,27).
If you find yourself being angered by the thought of those who wear masks or those who don’t; if talk of vaccinations makes your blood boil; or if you are unable to lay down your political banner and join hands with a brother or sister for the good of all, then maybe you need to check your heart for fear. You are meant for something much greater.
Over the past few years, I have experienced tremendous transformation in my life. That transformation has flowed out of simply making space to be with Jesus, allowing Him to walk with me through my story and inviting a few others to join me on the journey. Today, I no longer fear turning around in a driveway. That irrational fear of “what if”, at least in this area, has been replaced by trust and freedom.