Fighting Fearfulness

Terrorists attack, politicians say outrageous things, and the world sells sex. Isn’t this world terrifying for a Christian? I mean that rhetorically, of course it is! God, speaking through Paul, in II Timothy 1:7 says “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind.” I love this verse; it is one of my favorites. I often have used this verse to help me get by in trying and difficult circumstances. Today, I’d like to break down this verse and talk about how it can help combat the anxiety and fear that often plagues the Christian.

First off, I think it’s worth noting that this verse doesn’t say that we don’t have a spirit of fear. It doesn’t tell us that spirit of fear doesn’t exist in our hearts. What it tells us is that God hasn’t given us that spirit. I think it’s fair to say, then, that we do often experience fearfulness, but we must keep in mind that it is not given from God. Although God is the Author and Creator of our whole lives, He is not the one who feeds into our minds anxiety and worry. Instead He gives us spirits of power, love, and a sound mind in order to fight fear.

Power.  Power is something that everyone lusts after in one form or another. A businessman chases after power in the workplace, an athlete drives towards physical power, and a young woman desires power in her emotional life. We all want power. God gives the most important power to us, the power of doctrine and spirituality. It would not be possible to combat or overcome the spirit of fear if we were not given the spirit of power by God. With this spirit we have the strength to obtain victory over the fear that we often want to despair in. We have the power to resist the urge of sexual sins in our youth, young men are given the power to balance work and home life, and young women are given the power to raise children in this fallen world. All of these things can strike fear in our hearts if it weren’t for the power of God!

Love. Love also helps us fight fear. I don’t mean love in the sense that the world uses it. Love doesn’t mean that we sit back and let our friends and family do whatever they want, regardless of right or wrong. Love means that we care about one another enough to help them follow the laws of God, and to do our best to follow those laws ourselves as well. If we really understand love, it becomes clear why love drives out fear. If we love God first and foremost, and therefore love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we have nothing to fear! Our love for God teaches us that he holds us in His hand, and in His hand no fear can lay hold on us. With the spirit of love, we can also conquer fear.

A sound mind. Fears of this life often cause us to feel anxious or even depressed. When we focus on God, we receive from Him soundness of mind; a peace that quiets our souls and drives worries from our hearts. If you or someone you know has struggled with anxiety or depression, you probably understand what an unsettled mind looks like, and the fear that plagues it. With our focus on things heavenly, our minds become clear or sound. Often anxiety and depression causes us to ask the whys: “Why me,” “Why now,” “Why this?” But a sound mind throws fearfulness to the curb and looks with an uplifted face saying “God has not given me this spirit of fear! He has instead given me a sound mind!” And that is an incredible and beautiful feeling.

In the context surrounding this verse, Paul encourages Timothy not to be ashamed of the Gospel, since that is what fear does to us- it makes us ashamed to be children of God. With the power, love and soundness of mind that God gives us to fight the spirit of fear, we can boldly and bravely face this terrifying world in all its danger, immorality and impurity. With this power, love and soundness of mind we walk through this life without fear, but with courage to be Christians living lives of antithesis to the world around us.

Suzie Kuiper

Peace, be still

I know it’s been a while, but I had a moment this summer that really got me thinking. It was back in late July, and I was driving home from a campground late at night. There was a pretty powerful storm coming towards me, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to beat it home, or if I’d have to drive for a while in the torrential rain (or what qualifies as “torrential” in Michigan). Well, I had to drive through the storm for most of the way. Trees were blowing like toothpicks, rain was pelting my car’s windshield, and I was basically scared I was going to wind up in a ditch or hitting another car. I could even see the few streetlights I passed on this country road flicker from the wind and rain.

So I had a thought. This is, for Michigan, a pretty bad storm! It was genuinely scary to be out in. But I could only imagine the sailors who direct boats through this for a living, how they must be incredibly courageous and competent in their abilities to keep the boat afloat and upright. It impressed me. I thought of how bad of a storm it would take to scare the men who spend their lives on the ocean in storms that are much more dangerous than the Michigan thunderstorm I was so afraid to drive in. It would, no doubt, take a terrifying storm to scare those sailors.

Well, Jesus’ disciples were some of those sailors. They were fishermen of the Old Testament, and for many of them, their lives were spent at sea. They were experienced, capable sailors. But as we read in Mark 4:35ff, they too had moments of fear. After Jesus had preached many of his parables (including the many types of ground that seed fell on) he and his disciples had decided to continue the ministry on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. So, after Jesus had finished his preaching, they got into a small ship and began their trip. It was at this time that Jesus went into the back part of the ship and fell asleep (here, we are reminded that our Lord really was flesh!).  He was awoken, not by the severe storm, but by his disciples calling to him in fear, asking whether he even cared that they were going to die. That’s when the incredible happened, Jesus arose and simply rebuked the wind and sea with the phrase “Peace, be still,” and the wind and sea was still. In fact, Mark describes it as “a great calm.”

So, back to my little Michigan thunderstorm.  As I drove, I tried to imagine what it’d be like to have the storm just instantly stop dead in its tracks, as if it were never there. I truly couldn’t picture it. Surely the storm the disciples experienced in this passage was many times worse than the one I was driving through, and Jesus calmed that storm with three simple words. It’s no wonder the disciples spoke in awe, saying “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41). It would’ve made me afraid too, had the storm I was driving in instantly stopped with the words of a man (even a man as renowned and powerful as Jesus).

There’s a lesson for us here. It isn’t that if we pray, we can control the weather. One of the lessons we can take away from this passage is that our savior is mighty beyond imagination! I said earlier that I couldn’t even imagine such a powerful storm stopping in a split second, as if it were never there, but that exact scenario happened many years ago to the disciples.  Truly beyond imagination.

Each of us struggle with things in our personal lives that create in us a storm of emotions. Sometimes we think that we can’t be calmed. We can’t feel happy, as if the hurt never even happened. But that isn’t true. Our faith must be strong in Christ! He can (and will!) prevent us from being overcome by our trials and fears. I also have experienced hurt that seems to be beyond repair, even recently, and so many of God’s people feel indescribable hurt every day. But God can calm the storm in us, and while he may use appropriate means to do so (such as friends, family, or Christian therapy), he certainly doesn’t need those means. All he needs is to whisper three powerful, efficacious words to our souls, the same words he uttered to the storm in the Old Testement.

“Peace, Be Still!”

 

Suzie Kuiper