Thursday, July 21, 2016

Living on the Edge of Fear

The recent police shootings in Dallas on July 7th and Baton Rouge on July 17th—for a tragic total of eight officer fatalities—have taken their toll on our collective consciousness. We live in dangerous and tumultuous times.

In the not-so-distant past, terrorist bombings in Belgium and Turkey have shaken us up globally. Real ongoing threats from Islamic fanatical groups like ISIS and suicide bombers keep us on-edge. Traveling abroad is becoming increasingly iffy and nerve-wracking. It feels like we’re taking our lives in our own hands every time we leave home.

The June 12th terrorist attack, called a “hate crime,” carried out by Omar Mateen inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, which resulted in the deaths of 49 people and 53 additional casualties, left us reeling in shock as well as deep mourning.

Then the Zika virus and the drug resistant “super bacteria” in the waters of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, merely weeks before the start of the summer Olympic games, is disquieting to say the least.

If that’s not enough, the current turbulent political situation in our country and the unrest surrounding the presidential race doesn’t foster a sense of confidence or stability in us either. If we’re honest, it’s pretty discouraging and daunting to predict what the future holds in the U.S. and the world at large. Feelings of uncertainty and insecurity loom large everywhere.

When we continue to get worse news piled upon already bad news, it might make us want to retreat to the safety of a cave and hide out there indefinitely. Not without good Wi-Fi that is!

Simply put, the world no longer feels like a safe place.

Unmitigated fear and constant chaos wields that type of incapacitating effect on us. It makes us jittery—always on edge.

Are you living in a constant state of fear? Is your stomach tied up in knots? Are you on the verge of pushing the proverbial “panic button”? If so, please don’t lose it—not yet anyway!

I think that ongoing trepidation, fear, and persistent anxiety are part and parcel of our society and the global village as a whole. And it makes logical sense that it would be in light of the unpredictable and unsafe environment in which we live. Without a doubt, it’s trying and exhausting living this way.

So how should we as Christians faithfully and healthfully respond to fear within and around us?

The Bible gives us some sound advice and solid principles to follow …

1.    Don’t worry about tomorrow.

In Matthew 6:34, Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (ESV).

2.    Don’t fear those who can destroy our body.

Jesus, in Matthew 10:28 (ESV), states, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

3.    Trust in the Lord for strength and wisdom.

The apostle Paul told the young, fearful Timothy, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7, ESV).

God’s Spirit empowers our spirit to be strong and courageous in the face of life’s trials and terrifying hardships. But we must learn to rely upon the Lord more and more.

4.    Rely upon your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sometimes we try to go it alone, rather than leaning upon fellow believers for mutual encouragement and shared peace. We are called in Galatians 6:2 to “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (ESV).

5.    Keep you eyes focused on Jesus.

When we grow weary and worried about the storm brewing around us, we can learn from Peter’s example of what-not-to-do when he sunk into a sea of fear and desperation because he took his eyes off Jesus when walking on the water.

Hebrews 12:1b-2 (ESV) states, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Paul said, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13, ESV).

6.    Remember that to live is Christ and to die gain.

Sometimes we forget that this life and the world we live in is fleeting—just a stopover on our journey to eternity. We cling too tightly to our earthly, temporal existence forgetting that it was never meant to last indefinitely. Our true citizenship and home for the soul is in heaven.

Paul, in facing the reality of his impending martyrdom stated, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21, ESV). We’ve got to keep our perspective and priorities in the proper place, and not fall into the trap of losing sight of what’s most important.

7.    Remember that you’re never alone: God is always with you.

One of the great promises in Scripture that is truly good news to Christians is that we always have the abiding presence of Christ in our lives. No matter what—come hell or high water—God will never abandon us, never leave us in a lurch. God assures us in Hebrews 13:5b (ESV) by saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Immediately before his ascension into heaven, Jesus promised his disciples, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20b, ESV).

When we turn our hearts and lives over to God, he surrounds us with his love and spiritual protection. This doesn’t mean that nothing bad ever happens to believers, but it does mean that God has promised to see us through come what may.