What are you afraid of?

What are you most afraid of?

Interesting question, wouldn’t you say? It’s one of those questions that gets you thinking? If you’re one who tends to dig deep inside your emotions, you may ask yourself this quite often. If not, then perhaps you don’t think of it or at least you don’t vocalize it too much.

We know about social phobias/fears

  • Agoraphobia (open spaces)
  • Acrophobia (fear of heights)
  • Pteromerhanophobia (fear of flying)
  • Claustrophobia (small spaces)
  • Entomophobia (insects)
  • Cynophobia (dogs)
  • Astraphobia (storms)
  • Trypanophobia (needles)

Think about the different things you were afraid of at different stages of your life: 5, 10, 15, 21, 27, 33, 39, 50, 61, etc. All different aren’t they? Some fears change with every passing year, other fears kind of stay with us for years.

Being human is to fear what might happen in the future. Animals fear things in the moment, in the present, but they don’t think about the future and all the bad (or good) things that can happen.

I recently read that most people fears may fall in these categories: failure, abandonment/rejection, intimacy, success, being broke, not being good enough. Not being good enough is possibly the root of all the others: affects relationships, work, success, future plans.

Having fear is natural, letting it stop you from moving forward is a tragedy. 

We might not think to associate fear with Easter and the resurrection. Easter is a party, a celebration, a climactic and life changing moment in history. Yet…some of the closest to Jesus experienced fear…and doubt on and beyond resurrection day.

Twice in Matthew 28 we read these words, “Don’t be afraid”. They were said by an angel and by Jesus to the women who first discovered that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb. Verses 5 & 10.

These women had the right and the reason to be afraid, yet both the angel and Jesus himself said these very powerful words, “Do not be afraid”.

How do we hear those words? Do we take them to heart? Believe them? Respond to them? Or do we stay afraid…do we remain in our fear?

In John 20, another resurrection story, we read some other words that are essentially saying the same thing.

“Peace be with you”

Not once, not twice, but three times.

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Doors are locked. Disciples are afraid. Fearful of getting arrested because of their connection to Jesus. Jesus gets through the locked doors. (a bit of a mystery) Knowing they’re scared he says “Peace be with you” and then shows them his hands and side. Why?  Because they needed comforting and assurance. This fear was in connection to the validity of what just happened. Death / Resurrection.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 

Here Jesus wants to renew their hope and devotion. He wants to ensure they’re still engaged in the mission. Jesus knows more than anyone that unafraid people are influential people. That fear holds us back, but courage moves us forward.

It’s like he’s saying, “Hey, I’m back, I’m alive, we’re back in business”

The Holy Spirit is in this text. Jesus ‘breathes’ on them. It’s like he says, “I wanna replace your fear with something greater, my Spirit.”

Then we arrive to the last section… (Thomas wasn’t with the Disciples when Jesus showed up a week ago. We find him with them a week later)

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Here Jesus is combating Thomas’s doubt. Thomas, like most of us, needs some kind of hard evidence that things are actually better. He needs to know why he shouldn’t be afraid. Jesus offers his wounds. ‘Hey Thomas, take your finger, stick it here, it’s me, this happened, I’m alive to tell the story.’

What I love about these exchanges is that Jesus addresses fear in two ways, external & internal.

  • in two of the conversations, Jesus shows his wounds as a way to help them with their fear.
  • In the middle conversation, he insists they need something in them to help them with fear (HS).

God knows exactly what we need to helps us overcome our fear.

This seems to be God’s pattern…

Way back in Isaiah (43), while Israel is in exile, homeless, waiting, growing impatient. Fear is naturally welling up. We read these amazing words…

1-4 But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze. (NIV)

1-4 But now, God’s Message,
the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Saviour. (MSG)

So many good things to consider here: let’s just narrow it down to this:

God reminds Israel who they were, who made them, who formed them and continues to form them.

He says to them and to us, ‘you don’t have to be afraid’. Why? Because you are Known, you are Named & you are Loved.

Fear plays out in so many areas of our life: our work, our relationships, our education, our work in the community. Don’t let it hinder you, acknowledge it’s there, but then hear Jesus’ words to us, PEACE, Don’t be afraid, Fear not.


Through out the Easter season, I read a little book from Walter Bruggeman, and I came across these few words about fear that wrap this up really well.

The unafraid are open to the neighbour, while the frightened are defending themselves.

The unafraid are generous, while the frightened feel the need to keep, store, and accumulate to make themselves safe.

The unafraid are compassionate and merciful, the frightened don’t notice those in need.

The unafraid are committed to helping the marginalized, the frightened only see them as threats.

The unafraid pray in the morning, care throughout the day, are thankful in the evening. While the frightened are often restless and dissatisfied.


May we be unafraid people – Making a difference wherever we go. May we see obstacles as opportunities; barriers as bridges. May we see people, not as the opposition, but as your created ones.

Remind us so deeply today that we are known by you, redeemed by you, and loved by you. May the fear inside of us be replaced by your Spirit, the spirit we invite you to breath into us.

May we walk out today, knowing that your perfect love drives out fear – full of courage to live the full lives you are calling us to live.


Your Story isn’t Over

I love that the scriptures, with so many of its stories, is hinting at Resurrection…or at least what is implied with the Resurrection. The Bible is always slowly, but surely, leading us to Jesus, his death for the world, his resurrection…and our identity in those two things.

If there is no Resurrection, there is no church. Sure, Jesus died for our sins, but if he stayed dead, we’re not hanging out today as a church community.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17,
“…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (NIV)
“And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever.” (MSG)

If there’s one thing you take home with you today it’s this, “The difficult story you may find yourself in, the wall you may have hit, the dark cloud over your head, is not the end. Your story is not over.”

If it means anything, resurrection means that the worst thing is not the last thing. (F. Buechner) And that wherever the cross is, the resurrection is near. (D. Bonhoeffer)

The Pope asked this question on twitter recently, “What would happen to us if God did not always give us a chance to start over?” Well, we don’t have to worry about that. He does. The Resurrection assures that.

Mark 5 has three stories that all hint at and point to the resurrection. 

The first is about a man who is being tormented in his ‘inner spirit’. Some might call him possessed, others oppressed, but one thing for sure, he is in a prison and cannot get out of it. He see’s Jesus coming from a distance and yells out, “What do you want from me”. Jesus says, and I paraphrase, “I want to make you well, I want to set you free.” The story gets kind of wild, with Jesus exorcizing a legion (lots) of demons from this man, sending them into a herd of pigs and the pigs eventually running into the lake. Is there a mystery to it? Sure. Do I get it fully? No. But Mark has a purpose with this story: Jesus helps people in need, in pain, in some kind of prison. He delivers them and us. We know one thing for sure, this man was in a dark place, a lonely place, a prison, and by the end of the story, he’s dressed and in his right mind. He’s well.

The next two stories are weaved together. Mark starts us off talking about a 12 year old girl who has become deathly ill. So much so that they’ve already pronounced her dead. Her father, Jarius, comes to beg Jesus to heal her. Seems like Mark emphasizes this as to say that Jarius was a bit skeptical of it all, but pockets his pride and asks Jesus anyways.  Wouldn’t you do the same if your daughter or son were sick and you thought that maybe someone could heal them?

This story is hijacked by another story. This one about an older woman who has been sick for 12 years. Twelve years of dealing with the same (serious) ailment. This woman figures that if she could just touch a piece of Jesus’ clothing, this would make her well. That’s a wild experiment if you ask me? But…she gets through the crowd, touches Jesus robe, and she’s well, healed, all better. If that’s not wild enough, Jesus actually knew that ‘power’ had left him. Another bit of mystery for us to ponder.

Mark quickly takes us back to the other story, about the 12 year old girl. Jesus follows Jarius to his home. He walks in, tells them that this girl is only sleeping, not dead, and then calls her to get up and start walking. Jesus calls to her saying ‘Talita Koum’. Meaning ‘Little Girl’ it’s time to get up.’  They are ordinary words you’d use with a little girl who’s sleeping (I’ve said them many times to my own daughter), but they bring this girl back to life. It’s as if Mark wants us to take note of the life giving power of God breaking into, and walking through, the ordinary details of life.

Three Stories – One take away

Every story is different.
– an oppressed man
– an older woman
– a little girl
– all dealing with different troubles

Every story is the same.
– all facing what they would see as the end or living with something they wish would end
– all encountering Jesus (in a different manner)
– all walking away with more life to live, with a new chapter to write, with a new life explore

Who are we in these stories?

  • Sometimes we feel like the walking dead…no feeling, no purpose, oppressed, depressed, in some kind of prison…just like the first man in the first story.
  • Some of us can identify with the older woman… dealing with the same issue, year after year after year, with no end in sight.
  • Some of us, like the little girl, hit a wall of sickness, or bullying, or fear, or hurt. We didn’t see it coming. Every thing was great and easy for so long, and out of no where, we’re faced with something that feels like we’re dying inside.

These stories all point to one thing: Resurrection!

Everything Jesus did was a glimpse of what was to come. Every time Jesus healed someone it pointed to Easter. And Easter tells us this very important truth. Your story is not over. The worst thing doesn’t have to be the last thing. The darkness doesn’t need to be the ending of your story. Easter changes all that. There is more to come when you trust Jesus.

Don’t let your dark days rule you or your obstacles stop you. Jesus’ story wasn’t over with death, your story is not over with your struggle. That same resurrection power is there for us. New breath to breathe, new life to live.

– – – – – – – – –

I believe in the resurrection…that God wrangles victory out of actual, physical death. The cross taught us that. You can’t have anything more dead than a three-day old dead body, and yet we serve a risen Saviour. New life is always possible…well past the moment it makes sense to still hope for it. The empty tomb taught us that. I have enough faith to live a Friday and Saturday existence right now without fear that Sunday won’t come. It will come. And I am nearly certain it will surprise me, like the sun coming up in the morning. (Jen Hatmaker)