The world has become such a scary place!
The world has never been an easy place. It is the dominion of the prince of the power of the air and as a consequence it is filled with unrest, hostility, hatred and sorrow. And the social and political events of the last few decades have increased the intensity of our sense of insecurity and vulnerability to unprecedented levels. Researchers indicate this has resulted in major changes in culture around the world.
But it's not just the ever escalating threat of physical harm, natural disaster, or economic and social upheaval that makes life scary. For many of us, dealing with a constant sense of uncertainty and insecurity infuses a component of fear and anxiety into every aspect of our daily life.
This kind of fear and anxiety is not generally about the big things in life. Rather it is like a steady background noise to life that never gets shut out or shut off. It is the subtle -- or sometimes not too subtle -- continual companion that on our best days we try and minimize or suppress. And on our worst days it dominates and defeats us.
Regardless of the front we put up, or the techniques we use to hold those feelings at bay, at the end of the day we are living scared.
Living scared is:
- constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, believing that blessing is just the precursor to hard times.
- doing to be rather than being to do.
- being convinced that who I am and what I have to offer is never enough.
- living behind a mask that insists 'everything is fine'-- even when my whole world is falling apart.
- believing 'different' is always a threat and dangerous.
- judging and criticizing first to prevent the inevitable rejection that comes when I'm really known.
- resenting the insecurity and uncertainty while risking nothing to make a change.
- assuming that alone is always a 'safer' option than together.
- living out of scarcity, fearfully trying to husband and protect my time, talents, treasure and heart.
- believing that every new challenge is an occasion for exposure and failure.
- buying the lie that "the cross that saved me is not sufficient to solve me." (John Lynch)
Bottom line...living scared is living MISERABLE.
And if we were truly honest about the subject, living scared, at least in some measure, is how a vast majority of us live.
We live uncertain and insecure about the future.
We live without a clear understanding of who we are in Christ.
We live without a full appreciation of the treasure of others.
We live hoping for 'promised' riches in the coming kingdom without embracing the present riches of the kingdom within us.
We live without the liberating abandonment of love.
Love is the active answer for living scared!
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. I John 4:18
Please note that love is an active answer to fear. It does not passively resist fear -- it drives it out!
This means that where love is, there is no room for fear, doubt and anxiety. And no reason to live in the fearful shadow of expected punishment!
Safely embraced by the love of God, and responding in love myself, I am absolved from everything that could in the slightest way leave me open to punishment! And therefore "...we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?"(Hebrews 13:6)
Living in love liberates me from the fear of my natural inadequacies and insufficiencies, from the harm that man can do to me and to the uncertainities of this present system of things. It is the all-encompassing answer for living scared.
Living in love is:
- being confident that the cross that saved me is sufficient to solve me.
- understanding that I am sufficient and complete in Christ, lacking nothing for life and godliness.
- living without a mask -- trusting that honesty, openness and vulnerability are worth the risk.
- believing that the fellowship of others is the only safe place.
- embracing every challenge as God's schoolroom to prepare me for the priviledges and joys of an eternity of creative collaboration with Him.
- expressing that even when I have nothing at all, I have everything I need.
- being convinced that "our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
- a settled confidence in the goodness of God and His intentions.
So how do we get from fear to love?
Not long ago I had a long conversation with a friend of mine about how to deal with my lifelong struggle with anxiety. Normally you get an encouragement to look up all the verses about peace and joy, etc. and meditate on them. Or you get a prayer, or prayers, you can pray when you feel overwhelmed. And in some cases you get the mantra you can repeat to help diffuse the fear and anxiety. But in this case Rob made a most profound suggestion...
"What if you got interested in peace?"
Frankly that thought hit me like a thunderbolt. It was so totally unexpected and so incredibly simple.
He went on to explain that I didn't have to force it, just become aware of the various ways that God was seeking to introduce me to peace.
And over time I have become more and more aware of peace. Peace in the scriptures. Peace in the life of Jesus. Peace in the lives of His people. Peace in circumstances where anxiety used to reign. Peace in our garden. Peace on my drive to work. Peace, peace, peace -- I was beginning to see it everywhere.
And so I would suggest the same approach to love...just get interested in love.
Begin to be aware of when you sense the love of God in your life. Hold onto that moment. Reflect on it. Give thanks for it. See how your appreciation for it expands and unfolds.
Get interested in how the love of God is being expressed in and through others. (No value in being critical or judgemental here. The value is in the expression of love, not the lack of it.) Hold onto the moment. Reflect on it. See how it expands and unfolds.
Notice the references to love in the scriptures and the expressions of love in other things you are reading or hearing. Embrace those expressions. Reflect on them. Fill your heart with those thoughts and insights. Enjoy the continuous unfolding of God's affection and care.
As you 'think on these things', you will be amazed at how the love of God increasingly begins to fill your life, i.e. love being perfected in you!
And as a consequence, fear and anxiety begins to be driven out! And that means we are no longer living scared. Instead, we are living out of the super-abounding, fear-busting, anxiety-dispersing love of God -- something that other believers and the world desparately needs to see!