I’m noticing more and more how many people live in fear over things that to me seem not worthy of the emotional energy spent.
For example, last night a neighbor told us of a middle-of-the-night phone call. It was definitely odd and seemed to be a threat to their son. However, no names were mentioned and my first thought was that this was a wrong number. The mother who answered the phone couldn’t sleep all night. She was wide-eyed and emotional even in retelling the story. She used the word “fear” over and over and felt helpless against this supposed threat.
Years ago I went to visit a relative who lived in a quiet neighborhood of a small city. It was after supper but by no means late. She was so anxious when I got to her door. “Aren’t you afraid to go out at night? You could be assaulted or robbed. There are so many dangerous people around.” Her fear baffled me.
I have another relative deeply involved in a religious cult (although he would not call it that) and who is terribly afraid of dying. His eyes and words say that he is not sure of what will happen to him after death, and even though he hates the injustices and wrongs of this life, he’d rather stay alive than face that great unknown beyond it.
This morning I’m reading again in Recalling the Hope of Glory. The author writes about pure worship that celebrates a covenant made with the sovereign God of history and the anticipation of His worshipers for the fulfillment of all His promises at the end of this age. I’m thinking that all of that will all be mine at the end of this life—wow!
My book reminds me that I worship the one true and living God and that He will gain ultimate victory over all spiritual and physical forces—another wow!
Then the book says, “This aspect of the faith clearly trumpets the temporary nature of false worship, which from antiquity has been so preoccupied with securing the recurring cycle of life that it has provided no solution to the greater problems of life. It provided no way out of the struggle of life and death or of good and evil, only a continuation of these endless problems in the next life.”
That makes me sad. I’ve called this blog “Practical Faith” for a reason. I’ve hundreds of reasons for following Jesus, and this whole fear thing is near the top of the list. While I still have fear now and then, the wonderful promises of God are doing something amazing to my fears. For one thing, I can hardly relate to those who are scared of everything from dark streets after supper to late night phone calls. Even as a new Christian, I knew that God protected me. I know that He surrounds me with armies of His angels and will never let anything happen to me unless it is part of His purpose for my life.
I’ve had moments of fearing death though. We are all ‘terminal’ and everyone has to grapple with that reality. According to the Bible, “we are appointed once to die and after that the judgment.”
Some are more afraid of judgment than death itself, but I don’t fear judgment. Jesus’ death on the cross paid my penalty, so that is not an issue. He says that through His death “He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” I know that release.
But I also know that fear of dying and death drives the human race to spend billions of dollars on ways to stay young, look young, and avoid aging. When I am afraid of death, it could be my vanity; I don’t want to be old, infirm, unable to do things. Yet perhaps it is more the process of dying, not death itself, that sometimes makes me cringe.
But not always. Most of the time I celebrate the wonder of a God who makes all stages of life simply a delight. Up and down, easy and difficult; He is in all of it and brings comfort and joy to every part. Trusting in Jesus is highly practical; He chases away all those foolish fears and brings the reasonable ones into control by His power and presence.
As for those who don’t trust him, they are stuck with their lesser gods and their fears. Scripture defines these false religions in Scripture in many ways and some of the differences are easy to spot, others not. The main difference is in that quote from my book.
If a person’s religion offers them no hope, either in this life or the next, then they are not worshiping the great God of hope who offers grace, mercy and peace both here and now, and afterwards, forever.