“There’s No Thief Like Fear”

Pensive, doubting, fearful heart,
Hear what Christ the Savior says
Every word should joy impart,
Change thy mourning into praise.
Yes, he speaks, and speaks to thee,
May he help thee to believe,
Then thou presently wilt see,
Thou hast little cause to grieve.

Fear. It’s relatively easy for someone to tell you not to be afraid of trying new foods. It’s easy for someone to tell you not to be afraid of your pre-algebra test, or not to worry about that thunderstorm rolling in. It’s much more difficult to learn that fear is about so much more than the physical things we face. Fear isn’t about what’s scary or unpleasant on the surface of our lives. Fear is an issue of the heart—of my heart, at least, and probably of yours too, if you’d do a little digging.

We don’t hear a lot about this kind of fear. We don’t hear about the little tiny voices in your heart that tell you not to try something simply because you can’t do it. We don’t view our personality flaws and social anxieties as things that are rooted in ugly fears. We do hear about fear that keeps us from the mission field, or fear that keeps us from evangelizing at the grocery store. We do hear about the fear that keeps us from repenting of our sins. These are huge fears! Important fears! But I am becoming more and more convinced that these are not the deadliest fears. The deadliest fears are the ones you entertain without knowing it; the deadliest fears are the ones the pastors don’t preach about. An unknown enemy is the worst kind.

I am convinced that we don’t hear about the fears that keep us from living our lives as God has created us to live. Because, often, I’ve learned, those fears are the ugliest monsters hiding in the deepest crevices of our hearts. Those are the fears that never announce themselves, but lie in wait to cripple your joy and to steal the great things God is doing in your life. They seem so small that it’s not even worth addressing them, but at the heart of the issue only one thing remains: fear.

Jason Gray has several songs that address this type of fear. He sings, “Fear is easy; love is hard.” And over the last few months I have seen this lyric proven true in my own life. Fear is easy. It’s so easy that we fall victim to it without realizing that we are in its clutches. Why have I never finished any ambitious writing project that I have started? Why haven’t I found a solid group of Christian friends or a church family yet? Why haven’t I been able to be disciplined about exercise and diet?

It’s not an excuse. It’s a fact. I am a fearful person. I am scared of what my family might think or say of me. I am scared of rejection. I am scared of uncomfortable social situations. I am scared of what others think of me. I am scared to try new things in case I don’t like them or they make me feel bad.

All of that is rooted in fear. And all of that is wrong thinking on several levels.

First, my life is not about who I am in my own strength. My identity is rooted (or should be, though it often isn’t) in who Christ says I am. That should eradicate any fears about social situations or others’ opinions. Worrying about what others think is a sure-fire symptom of another ugly sin: pride.

Second, many of those fears are rooted in this unspoken agreement I have with Satan. And before you start thinking I’m insane, hear me out. I have, for my entire life, had this deal with Satan where he’ll say things like, “You can’t do that. You’re not smart enough. Other people will laugh. You should quit now.”

And my response, according to this deal, is “Yeah, you’re probably right. I’ll just go have a snack and not face this issue.”

Y’all. Why? Why do I do that? My God has defeated Satan, and here I sit just accepting the fears he plants in my heart like they’re 100% true. My answer to that old bat should be, “You know what, Satan, I’m probably not strong enough to do this, but I know someone who is.

Nine times out of ten I just go along with him. How about you? Do you just nod your head along with the devil while your heart cries out for life lived more abundantly? Because I do. The dreams and ambitions God has given me can’t be reached if I’m bound up in fear. They can only be reached if I push back with everything in me against the devils in my heart. And you know what? Even all of my might won’t defeat them. So when I feel those fears creeping up in me, I need to cry out to God to speak truth into my heart, to banish the fears that I haven’t even seen yet.

Even as I write this, I feel in me a growing desire to have God banish my fears. At the same time, I also have a growing dread that he will.

Wait, what? Let’s look at that again.

Even as I write this, I feel in me a growing desire to have God banish my fears. At the same time, I also have a growing dread that he will.

I said it earlier. Fear is easy. If I earnestly pray that God will show me what in my life is rooted in fear, then I am accountable for what I do with that knowledge. What happens if I pray that God would give me a chance to rely on him for bravery and strength? That means I have to trust him. That means I have to be brave and strong in his power. What if that’s hard? What if that means hard work? What if that means not being safe and secure in my prison of fear?

Well, that’s where we get to another big issue: obedience.

I’m praying that God will continue to show me the strongholds of fear in my own life. I know they’re there. They’re more subversive and destructive than I ever could have imagined. If I’m being honest, my fears have wreaked havoc on my life for the last few months, and they’re still at it. I don’t have any of this figured out yet, but I know that God is in control. He sees what I am going through, and he is ready and willing to provide me a way of escape. God is more than able to conquer my fear. Oh, Lord, help me believe this!


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