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.