Time-Released Fear

When it came to matters of the heart, each of the women in my family passed along godly wisdom even when we didn’t realize that’s what they were doing. In my mother, I saw faithful strength mixed with a hilarious sense of humor. In both grandmothers, I witnessed sweet acts of love deliciously blended into their homemade delicacies. 

Yet, when it came to their physical hearts each of them had issues. Heart attacks and congestive heart failure ultimately got the best of them. There were warning signs. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a predisposition to diabetes are common on both sides of my family. Each of these develop slowly and steadily with few or no symptoms. Unless, a person has their blood checked, they may never know they have a problem until it overwhelms them. I guess you could say these maladies come in capsule form; they are time-released. 

Because of the fall in the Garden of Eden mankind has swallowed a fear pill that’s been toxic for many God-fearing, Jesus-believing, Spirit-filled Christians. God knew it. That’s why He spent over 300 times telling even His most faithful kids, “Do not FEAR!” 

We know we’ve swallowed some time-released fear when, over time, we become guilty, insecure, criticized, abused, or a hundred other things. If ignored, fear can grow to gargantuan proportions and manifest itself in all sorts of ways. We fear we aren’t good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough – but we’d never say it. We fear losing our jobs, our children, or our mates – but we keep that quiet. We believe all the lies and doubt the truth – yet we act as if we’ve got it all together. If we don’t keep a check on our fear level, it can get the best of us physically, mentally, and spiritually.

After killing an Egyptian who was mistreating a Hebrew, Moses buried the body in the sand. Realizing he’d been found out, he became fearful of Pharaoh and ran away to Midian. Moses then spent 40 years shepherding sheep – plenty of time for his fear to grow into insecurity. When God called Moses from a burning bush to be the one to free the Israelites, he fearfully uttered the question we’ve all asked at one time or another, “Who am I that I should … ?”

Fear manifested as guilt can cause us to run away. Fear displayed as shame, anxiety, or depression can also cause us to lace up our running shoes. But, just know this, God knew Moses’ fear, and He still went after Him. Moses was worth the chase, and so are you! 

The apostle Paul was threatened, mocked, stoned, left for dead, hungry, cold, shipwrecked, and snakebitten. He had every right to be fearful! Unless you look at Scriptures closely, you might focus on his courage and miss his fear. But, missing his fear would turn him into someone he never claimed to be.  

Paul had grown up with a heart that beat passionately for God. Yet, his strict religious world pushed him toward perfection. The Law of Moses and the 600+ rules added by the rabbis created a rigid code that no man could keep perfectly. Even after Paul came to believe in Jesus and accepted His grace, that capsule of fear he’d swallowed early in life continued to slowly release strong doubts about his effectiveness. 

In Corinth, the Jews argued and contradicted Paul so intensely that he became exasperated and shook the dust off his feet as a sign that he was moving on to the Gentiles. Yet, even after converting many Corinthian Gentiles, he still had doubts in the still of the night, just like we tend to do. “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you and no one will attack you to harm you for I have many in this city who are my people.’” (Acts 18:9-10 ESV)

God knew how Paul felt, so He showed up during the night to relieve his fears. Perhaps, Paul had been staring at the ceiling and saying to himself, “What if I’d said it differently or not said THAT at all? Maybe I shouldn’t have talked so long. Maybe I should have talked longer? Was I right to shake the dust off my feet and move on to others who would listen?” 

Our sweet and understanding God knew that Paul needed other Christians around him to encourage him and support him. Don’t we all need some like-minded people to love us through our fears?

It delights me to know that Paul could humbly admit his fear. In a letter to the Corinthians, he told them how insecure he had been. “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaimingto you the testimonyof God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in FEAR and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of menbut in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NLT, emphasis mine)

When it comes to issues in our physical hearts, there are doctors to help, life changes that can be made, and medicines to take. When it comes to matters of our spiritual hearts, we have the Great Physician who is willing and able to calm our fears. Our best life change happens when we surrender those fears to the Holy Spirit. God graciously blesses us with good friends who become good medicine for our fearful hearts.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)


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