When Fear Is Cute

Kids are cute.

One of the cute things about kids is their innocence. My three-year-old makes my life more enjoyable because so much of life is a discovery of something new and exciting. We walked through a store recently, and it brought so much joy to see her so excited about things I walked past without a second thought–a zebra on a shelf, a poster of a tiger, a football.

Kids are afraid. But not always.

Because children are innocent, they are often scared of things more educated people are not … like being scared of the dark. And sometimes it's cute.

On the other hand, children don't have the fear of man that more “worldly-wise” people have. Ever been with a small child in a library or a nice restaurant? You may be paralyzed by the child's loud laughter, but the child just knows the enjoyment of that moment, without the fear of what other patrons may think (I'm not advocating poor behavior for children in public places!). The beautiful thing about childlike innocence is that he/she may just be naive enough to miss pressure a more “educated” person would experience.

Adults are like big kids.

What about adults and fear of others? That's not cute.

The thing about fear of man is … it's fake. Others have power over you only insomuch as you allow them to have power. What sophisticated library patrons think doesn't have ill effects on a child secure in the love of his parents. And the approval of others shouldn't affect children of God who rest secure in the love of their Heavenly Father.


Peace in a Noisy World

We live in a world full of noise. When was the last time you stopped for a moment…just to listen? No music, no headphones, no filling the space with artificial noise–just taking a moment to listen.

There's nothing inherently wrong with noise, but turmoil around us often results in frustration in us. Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the noise of life? What do we use to shut out noise? Typically, we create more noise–like music, video games, or a movie. In a world like that, what can we do to enjoy true peace?

Objective peace with God comes through Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. True peace cannot come through an inner fight for peace or through the offering of imperfect good works to God. God brings peace to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ, His eternal Son.

This objective, external peace between sinners and God that can be accomplished only through the blood of Jesus. But there's also a subjective peace with God that God's redeemed people can experience as we grow in our trust of Him. What about when God's children struggle to find subjective peace? How do we find it? Isaiah 26:3 gives us the answer: we can enjoy peace by resting on God. Isaiah 26:3-4 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

God keeps us in peace. Peace is something we can and should fight for, but it is ultimately something God brings, not something we can produce ourselves. Our battle for peace is not so much a battle for peace as it is a battle for faith in the true God. As we trust in the Lord, He brings peace.


The Monster Within (Part 2)

Hope for fearful people

Last week, we looked at signs that indicate you may be struggling with the fear of man. This week, we'll focus on hope for those who are struggling with or controlled by the fear of man.

Be honest.

Perhaps the biggest struggle any person has is the battle to recognize sin as “sin.” Because the fear of man can masquerade as love for others (I'm being deferential, not fearful…), it is easy to be self-deceived. How can you tell the difference? Love for others is motivated by a desire for their good. Fear of others is motivated by a desire to be safe, to protect yourself.

Don't fool yourself into thinking that you're loving someone else, when you're actually watching your own back. It doesn't serve you well, and it doesn't serve them in the end either. Over time, people will be able to tell the difference and begin to recognize the fear that characterizes your relationships.

Be captivated by God's love.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…. We love because he first loved us.” These words from 1 John 4:18-19 give us the key to living in love, rather than being controlled by the fear of man: recognize that God loves you far more deeply than any human being ever could, and revel in that fact!

You who once were God's enemy have now been made a friend of God. He has made you accepted in Christ (Eph 1:6). No matter who else rejects you, God will not. Nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Jesus (Rom 8:38-39). You see, when God is for you, it doesn't matter who else is against you.


Are you living in fear or in love? Why don't you ask someone who knows you well?

Are you living in fear and calling it love? Call your fear what God calls it: “sin.” The next time you find yourself lacking the necessary courage to have a difficult conversation, think about the fact that God will accept you, even if that person rejects you. When you are tempted to manipulate others out of fear of failure, remember that even your greatest failures can't separate you from the love of God.

God's love is so great that it produces love for others, even when love requires great courage. Perfect love casts out fear.

See part 1 of this post, for signs that may indicate you struggle with the fear of man.


The Monster Within (Part 1)

What Monster?

One of my daughter's favorite books is The Monster at the End of this Book, starring “lovable, furry, old Grover.” It's a fun book for kids … about a monster that doesn't really exist.

I've recently given some thought to a “monster” in our culture: the fear of man. This monster exists in our minds, and it paralyzes many believers. I've sensed it frequently in my own life. How do you know if your life is characterized by an unhealthy fear of man?

The following characteristics might indicate that you are struggling with the fear of man. If you find that these characteristics pervade your life, you may even be experiencing spiritual or emotional paralysis as you are held hostage by these feelings.

Characteristics of the fear of man:

  • Preoccupation with what people think about what you say and do … even people that are “fringe” people in your life
  • A desire to control and manipulate others, so that you won't look bad when they mess up (children, spouse, friends, co-workers)
  • Failure to follow through on conversations you know you should have–both good and bad
  • Oversensitivity to criticism and a tendency to take things personally … even from the people that love you the most
  • Qualifying your statements so much that people aren't quite sure what you're getting at
  • Belligerence that comes across as overconfidence, so that no one will know how insecure you feel inside
  • Utter fear of being a failure or of ever failing at all
  • Judging the motives of others and resenting their success
  • Failure to lead consistently, according to the roles God has given you (church, family, work, etc.)
  • Reluctance to share the gospel consistently–with those who know Christ and with those who don't

You may wonder how I came up with this list. Good question! It's largely because I've seen so many of these characteristics in my own life.

Next week, in part 2, we'll look at hope for those who find themselves ensnared by this monster.