Fear. Worry. Anxiety. Or, the more upwardly mobile, socially acceptable forms of these things: Stress. Catastrophic Thinking, as my counselor calls it; projecting the worst case scenario onto any of your own future circumstances, reassuring yourself that it’s going to be bad-really bad- and there’s never going to be enough time, enough energy, enough resources, enough money, to meet the crushing demands.
Our society seems to thrive on fear. We talk of “healthy fear”. As in, I want to give my kids a healthy fear of traffic. This is absolutely valid, and I speak as an experienced mother of a boy who seemed to want to meet a car grill-to-face for the first five years of life.
But what about the kind of fear that becomes unhealthy? The kind that stems from a deep place of wanting to control all of the external circumstances that are within our reach? This kind of fear shows up in all kinds of ways.
It manifests it’s ugliness in our relationships. If I fear losing control of my sought-after orderly environment, I sacrifice time spent with people in order to clean, re-organize, and keep things exactly as I feel I need them, in order to have inner peace. Or worse, I become angry and mean, bossing everyone around in order to conform them to my agenda that will deliver my result of a well-ordered environment.
It can manifest itself in how we view people who are different than us. If “they” have a reputation for having a bad seed among them, then I can’t let any of “them” close to me in case they threaten my way of life or my safety. Nevermind the fact that at any given time I could be living next door to a serial killer or a child-pornographer or a lying thief, all of whom appear to share my way of life, and never be the wiser. “Those other people” have a much higher likelihood of bringing harm to me than the people who look like me, talk like me, and live like me. So I let fear determine my response to “them”. Build a wall, register the wrongly-religious, screen by race, pretend I don’t see them and walk right past to my group of friends who validate my boxed-in existence.
The last thing I read before going to bed last night was about this horrible shooting in the airport at Fort Lauderdale. Most of the victims were on their way to various vacations, and they looked like they could be my parents or grandparents. So far there has been no motive, no cause identified. This leaves us feeling frantic doesn’t it? At least if there is a motive we can punish and try to prevent the same sick motive from grabbing a gun in the future. But if there’s nothing? We are left unknowing. Always wondering where and when the next random killer might pop up. Will it happen on my next trip? Maybe when I’m at the mall with my kids? Maybe when we are at a well-attended event or festival?
There is no worldly antidote for this kind of fear. There are not enough preventions, not enough legislation, not enough mental health care, not enough safe-guards.
So if we can’t protect ourselves from terror and tragedy, what do we do? Hunker down? Buy more guns? Medicate the anxiety away? Attempt a national purge of anyone and anything that may threaten?
Or what if we all come to terms with the fact that we were never created to live in crippling fear? We have a good God who sees that our world is broken, and for a time is being ravaged by evil, but he offers a way through it all, even in the midst of the most crazy, terrifying things happening. And make no mistake, someday he will abolish all evil. He is patiently waiting though now, for all who would turn from their own path and come to Him.
Whether or not we like to think about it, we all have a shelf life. Most of us would like to exit earth in our sleep, in old age, as painless as possible, but we don’t have that as a guarantee. The thought of suffering or dying in a scary way is very disturbing to me. That’s why when I read this psalm this morning I was so thankful for the reminder that, no matter what happens, death really can’t even touch me. Fear has no hold of me. In the midst of this very unsafe world, I’m actually 100% safe.
Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.
The wicked will see and be vexed,
they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.
Psalm 112: 6-10 (emphasis mine)