Fear is a lot like mold. It thrives in complete darkness, or in areas of little light. It can survive in many harsh environments. So much so that you will think you've completely rid yourself of it, only to have it reappear when the conditions are right. Without warning it can make you sick, leaving you with no trace of the cause of your misery. Although it won't usually kill you, it will make you vulnerable to stuff that can.
You may be thinking: "I don't have any fear! I killed two snakes in my backyard this past summer, and I just recently told my impossible neighbor where to get off." Or maybe you're thinking: "I don't have any fear. Just last week I stood up to my boss when he was being a real tyrant to my staff. And I've had three kids by natural childbirth!"
But I'm not talking about the obvious; I'm not talking about the times we just push through in spite of the pounding in our chest. I am talking about that insidious breath down the backs of our necks always hinting, "Something bad is going to happen." And no amount of pleasure or busyness can seem to make it go away.
So whether you're a disabled veteran, an unemployed carpenter, a college professor, a sixth-grade teacher, a professional bull rider, or a single mom raising six kids in the ghetto—whoever you are and whatever you do—I want to expose fear (and all its offspring) for what it really is. I want to show you what it's doing to you, and how you can make it stop.
My challenge over the next few articles is to take the mystery out of fear—not to help you just cope with it but to help you destroy all its power over you. As you study these articles you will become sensitive to the presence of fear in all its subtle forms. You'll learn how to sniff it out no matter where it's hiding, and you'll learn how to quickly take all the bite out of it.
When you make the decision to no longer tolerate fear in any form, you will begin to experience change in your life you didn't think possible. You will quickly become one of the world's wealthiest human beings—wealthy, that is, if you put a value on freedom.
Obviously, I'm focusing on the kind of fear that hurts us. But is there a kind of fear that helps us? Certainly, if fear stops us from running a red light, it's a good thing—right? We can easily agree that if fear stops us from going into any dangerous situation, then it's a good thing.
We think of fear as healthy if it keeps us from harm—such as a reluctance to mess with bare electrical wires. And we think of fear as harmful if it keeps us from doing what we need to do—such as a reluctance to face the boss after we've made a mistake. But one man's fear is another man's courage. And this inconsistency causes problems—big problems.
Spiders don't bother me, but mice make my skin crawl. A young man I know had the guts to stitch up his own leg after injuring himself, but he's terrified of snakes. Sherrel has jumped out of our car in the middle of traffic, screaming at the victim of an accident, "In Jesus' name, you will live and not die!" and yet she is so nervous riding with me in heavy traffic that she turns her head to the side and refuses to look ahead.
Wouldn't it be great if we had standardized lists of both healthy fear and unhealthy fear? Wouldn't it be great if anything that was a legitimate fear was labeled "Be Fearful" like dangerous chemicals are labeled "Poison"? Then we wouldn't have to be so irrational when it comes to fear.
But we are irrational when it comes to fear. In fact, we don't think at all. However we respond to a situation is, as far as we are concerned, the only response possible—as if we have no other choice. Sure, we push our way through some things because we know we have to, but most of our fear just stops us in our tracks and keeps us from our future. It is a problem when fear shuts us out of our future—a much bigger problem than we realize.
At Moses' death, God gave Joshua the responsibility for leading as many as 2.5 million people (per some scholars' estimates). This entire mass of people lived as nomads in a desolate land.
Have you ever seen a tent city filled with a few dozen of the homeless? Blow that image up in your mind by about twenty-five thousand percent; now add all the Israelites' animals and other possessions and you'll have some idea of what Joshua was facing. And don't forget the time period; he couldn't communicate with the people by TV, email, cell phone…he didn't even have a battery-powered bullhorn.
He was vulnerable. To be sure, he was surrounded by a number of men who would risk their own lives for his safety, but he was also surrounded by a far greater mass of stiff-necked people who could turn on him at any time. Joshua didn't have a Federal Reserve, a worldwide food distribution network, or a department of social services to help him govern. He had to depend upon a God that he couldn't even see. Talk about a setup for fear….
What would you say to Joshua? I can't even begin to think of what I could say to him that would be anything other than totally lame. So what did the Creator of all of us and all of them have to say?
God told Joshua in no uncertain terms, "This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9 NLT)." Yeah…. Right…. This is just an over-the-top understatement to the human mind. But if we will push ourselves to experience God in His words to Joshua, we will find an unexpected freedom.
Try to find the time to read Joshua chapter one before we continue with this subject tomorrow. It's an easy read.
Have a good day,