Fear (featuring MJ and Paul)
Folks, the moon is high and the spooks are nigh. This is the time to turn off our Taylor Swift and turn on our Lana Del Ray cover of “Once Upon a Dream” as we carve snaggle-toothed pumpkins that we claim to be “scary” but actually just look like pumpkins that didn’t get dental insurance.
We step outside and encounter that night breeze that chills us to the bone. We peer into the night and think about the unknown fears that lurk in the darkness. It brings the question to mind: What’s your worst fear?
When I was a young middle schooler, I remember feeling the very same chill of the night, the wind trickling up my spine in an unnatural way. I was out playing basketball, just thinking.
At first, I was just thinking. I don’t know about what, but they were pleasant thoughts about the day, I’m sure. Thoughts with no ill intentions or looming darkness present.
Then my mind started to drift. And I was taken along with the darkness: “What if there’s someone out there, behind me? What if there’s someone who’s just waiting for me in the bushes? What if he tries to kidnap me?”
It’s a wonder I didn’t hear “Somebody’s Watching Me” playing in the echoes of my mind, Michael Jackson’s sultry siren “hee hee” beckoning me to embrace the dark thoughts even more.
So here I was, shooting hoops in my driveway, and my thoughts retreated into darker and darker spaces of my mind, and I got more and more scared: “What if there’s something there?” And then,
“WAAAAA!” My dad’s voice croaked from down the driveway.
Now, I know people either have a fight-or-flight response to scary situations. For some reason, I think my brain told me to do both. I ran, but not away. I started sprinting a considerable distance toward the frightening sound, fists high and ready to pummel whatever creature (or King of Pop) dared call out to me.
And about halfway through my running, I realized it was my well-meaning dad, but the adrenaline in my body kept telling me to run toward him. By the time I got to him, I was sobbing. He wrapped his arms around me and apologized.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Why is it necessary for Paul to provide these specific attributes against fear?
Power: We’ve got none of it. (That sounds like a really bad Gatorade commercial.) It’s a blessing that I have this Holy Spirit in me to grant that power over fear, because without it, I’m not quite sure what I’d be doing with all that goes on within my mind.
Love: It may be what makes a Subaru a Subaru, but a 2017 Outback can’t explain why I’m fearful about the future or being alone. I’m sure you know the verse, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). Why don’t we trust Jesus — the very definition of perfect love — by placing our fears into his hands every day? Because we are tempted to run from his love. No matter how many times we experience Christ’s love, we are a bunch of untrusting beings. I encourage you to recall all the Lord’s faithfulness in your life — his faithfulness is one of the most visible signs of his perfect love toward you.
Self-control: It seems odd that Paul adds this, doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t he have said confidence or something?
Actually, this may be the most practical thing we can do to combat fear. Self-control means taming thoughts, and taming thoughts means actively thinking about better things. All in all, it not only removes fearful ideas from our heads, but it forces us to focus on Jesus.
The end of the matter? The devil is a smooth criminal. He’s going to try to give us all sorts of easy paths into darkness and fear. Our response? Focus on the Lord’s power and love, take those dang thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) and dwell on what is good and honorable and pure (Philippians 4:8). It does the mind wonders because Jesus Christ, the guy who’s been in you ever since you got saved, is always there to lift you out of fear.
Gilmer is the opinion editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on X