“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet, not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7 NIV
Fear has contributed more to the negative shaping of our lives than anyone can imagine or measure. Fear is responsible for unfortunate knee-jerk reactions to temporary dilemmas in which we find ourselves sometimes. In moments of fear we choose options that have ongoing consequences beyond the temporary problem before us.
The fear I’m referring to are feelings of helplessness and panic when we have no control over an event that comes at a time when we are least prepared to handle it.
In my work, I meet people who are experiencing the ongoing problems directly related to poor choices they made in their lives. Women have sold their bodies, stripping away their dignity to keep a roof over their children’s heads as they saw no other way. Fear through intimidation is a control mechanism in an abusive relationship. Where families have been isolated by the one who uses power and fear to keep everyone in line, there are fewer and fewer resources for this family to get help.
Rhonda Britton, author and founder of Fearless Living Institute has created a fear cycle she calls the Wheel of Fear. Phase one is the trigger. It is the event that threatens our peace and security. Phase two is the fear response. Phase three is the negative feeling, like extreme anxiety. This is when the negative core belief we have of our self is reinforced. Phase four is the self-destructive behavior that we choose out of that negative core belief. The cycle begins anew the next time our security and well-being is threatened. Most often the self-destructive behavior we choose only compounds the cycle’s intensity and frequency of recurrence.
There are many permanent responses to temporary problems that would compel us to look back and see with 20/20 hindsight the negative direction those choices have taken us.
Jesus was quite often in a quandary over the fear reactions to crises He observed in His disciples and others in His life. As you read through the four gospels you will see that the word “fear” and “afraid” occur quite often. Here is one of those accounts: “And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him, and behold there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves; but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him and awoke him saying, Lord save us, we perish. And he saith unto them ‘Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?’ Then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a great calm.”
Matthew 8:23-26 KJV
It wasn’t long before this event with the storm that He sat on a mountainside and described in great depth how much their heavenly Father loves them and how every hair on their head has been counted. He spent his entire ministry building people up to have faith and trust that God will never leave them or forsake them. There is a saying: “Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child.” Author unknown.
What are we missing here? Is He saying that we don’t have to fear anything – like when the family car breaks down and getting it fixed takes the rent money; or when the childrens’ father decides not to pay his child support on time; or when we lose our job because of illness? Are these the times that our faith is supposed to be enough?
Here are some Scripture references to put this into perspective:
“Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? . . .for your heavenly father knoweth that you have need for all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”Matt. 6:31-34 KJV
1 Peter 3:13-14NIV
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”
2 Timothy 1:7 KJV “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV “ Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence,“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
Psalm 56:3-4NIV “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
The Apostle Paul says “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Phil 4:11-13 NIV It was because Paul went without that he learned he could do all things through Jesus. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 1 Tm 6:6-9 NIV
“David wrote, ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me.’ (Psa 23:4-6) . . . Many people hesitate to go through the dark valley and allow themselves to sink into depression, isolation or frustration needlessly. . . If you are afraid of the dark valley experiences, remember that God’s love can carry you through whatever problems you are experiencing. God in His loving way finds a way when there seems to be no way. He alone shows us how to resolve all conflicts. He helps us focus on his immeasurable love and then loves others through us.” (Quote from sermon by Reverend Paul Fritz, Sermon Central)
We can allow His love to quiet our fears and give us greater confidence. God may not remove the afflictions in our life but He will provide us with sufficient grace so as to demonstrate His power through us.
Sometimes we may not feel that we are worthy of a blessing. We may feel that we have less worth in God’s sight than a common sparrow. We tend to add up the score of our lives and feel like God doesn’t care at all about us or we wouldn’t be in the predicament in which we find ourselves. All of the adding up just reinforces that negative core belief that we have of ourselves. I have found that whether you were raised in extreme poverty or by parents on drugs or in any social setting, it has not made a difference on whether you had a negative core belief or not. This can happen to anyone. You ask yourself, “Who can I trust”? In all your life, perhaps, you haven’t been able to trust anyone because you’re surrounded with negative people who only wish to exploit you, take your resources, abuse and control you for their benefit.
If today is the day that you could make a choice to no longer fear but trust and believe what Christ said about your self-worth then it would be important for you to consider this:
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
I John 4:18 NIV
I believe that courage in the face of fear comes from a strong core belief that you are loved in a healthy, empowering way by the One who created you. Remember God reminds us that even if everyone else forsakes you, “the Lord will take me up”. Psalm 27:11. Based on what the Scriptures tell us you can reach up and single out one strand of hair on your head and imagine that it is numbered and what that number might be. In that moment, if you can thank God for everything you have even if it appears to you at the time to be very little, then a spirit of love will gradually fill you and the momentary paralyzing fear will leave. You can even thank God for the crisis you are facing because it causes you to seek him out of need. I believe God loves this kind of prayer.
Jesus said, all it takes is a mustard seed of faith. I John 4:18 states that fear has to do with punishment. Who punishes us better than ourselves? We may even seek ways to reinforce our negative core belief that we are without worth and unloved – sabotaging ourselves for success and a life free of fear.
Transcending or rising above fear, is one of the hardest things we can do, especially since our lives appear to be going from one fear event to the next. Today, you might be ready to choose to believe that you are loved and have a purpose in God’s design.
In my work in the farm crisis, I was working with a single-parent woman providing resources and support. Over time she came to trust me. One evening, she disclosed a frightening story of a life spent in extreme sexual abuse from the young age of three until she was in her teens. She suffered abuse from many of the male members of her family including her stepfather and his friends. At the age of twelve, she became pregnant. In her extreme circumstances of stress and despair, she attempted to take her own life and fell headlong down a flight of stairs and ended up losing the child. It was a baby boy. She had been suffering that loss for all these years up until my working with her in her early 30’s.
One evening as she disclosed her story, I felt led to take her to a church in the community for which I had a key as it housed much of the food for the Heartland Food Pantry. It was late and of course the church was dark except for the low light in the altar area. We walked in and sat down in a pew. The central focus in the silence gradually became the elevated *crucifix that eerily stood out from the shadows. The Spirit impressed me that she hadn’t allowed herself to let go of this child even in death as she believed that she was the only one who could possibly love him due to the heinous way in which he had been conceived. I told her in tears that God knew and loved her little boy and had taken him up to himself. God loved him so much that he gave his own son to die for him. In that defining moment, she allowed this love message to wash over her and she could finally let go of this child and begin to allow herself to grieve over his loss. The love of God is so powerful that through it we can transcend even our worst fears.
The following is the poem that she courageously wrote to her mother after this experience:
Where Were You
“The truth shall set you free.” That’s how the saying goes.
But only when at last we talked of what happened long ago.
I had no tears to cry then, I bade them to go away.
There was no rhyme or reason at all for them to stay.
But when the painful truth came out, my tears they fell like rain.
And now that they have fallen, I do feel whole again.
Why weren’t you there to help me and protect me in my need.
Instead I had to fantasize about a white knight on his steed.
He never quite could rescue me. He left my heart in dread.
Although I didn’t have the strength to do it, I wished that I was dead.
But now my tears, they have returned. And at last I let them fall
For now you see they’re happy tears. I know your love, it encompasses all.
I needed to know you loved me, when the pain was at it’s worst.
Even though you didn’t hurt me, though you beat me and you cursed.
Your pain is something you will have until your dying day,
But if you had been there for me, the hurt would have gone away.
I don’t blame you for what he did, the anguish he caused me,
I blame you for not stopping him and just letting all things be.
I now can say “I love you”; that love’s always been intact.
My hate instead is for the way you ignored me, that’s a fact.
If only you had helped me and put him in his place,
The sadness that you’re going through, you would not have to face.
Because I was afraid of you, I kept the secret well.
I didn’t think you would believe the horror straight from hell.
But at last you know the awful truth, and you’re the one who’s shedding tears.
Believe me when I tell you, there is an end to all the fears.
The facing up to what went wrong is a way to put things right.
We must go on with both our lives, with courage, strength and might.
I’m facing all my demons and I will see this through;
At long last I have the strength, thanks to God, myself and you.
2 Corinthians 4:7-11 NIV
. . .we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.
This is a very important reference. We are the jars of clay. Normally, you wouldn’t store a treasure in actual jars of clay as they are easily destroyed, but God has placed in each of us a living treasure that through his power gives us the ability to rise above anything fearful that would come into our lives and even try to destroy us. Our lives are resurrected daily through the treasure of faith we exercise to reveal the risen Christ who dwells within us. We are each given gifts through the Comforter or Holy Spirit Christ sent to us on the Day of Pentecost after he ascended to Heaven. One of these gifts is faith.
Greg Carr in his sermon “The Living Dead” tells us: “Jesus told us what the treasure was, ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ Acts 1:8 NIV When God gave the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 it started a chain reaction that started in Jerusalem and expanded through all of Judea and Samaria and ultimately to the ends of the earth. It was an event that had no constraints of time except that it would end when Jesus returned the second time. Because of this treasure, the Holy Spirit in us, God’s children are able to live as Spirit-empowered believers.”
Not even the most heinous acts that humankind is capable of can destroy us if we look to the risen Christ who overcame everything so that we might have life.
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 KJV
Job 11:13-19 NIV.
13 “. . .if you devote your heart to him
and stretch out your hands to him,
14 if you put away the sin that is in your hand
and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
15 then, free of fault, you will lift up your face;
you will stand firm and without fear.
16 You will surely forget your trouble,
recalling it only as waters gone by.
17 Life will be brighter than noonday,
and darkness will become like morning.
18 You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
19 You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid,
and many will court your favor.
Imagine the support we could offer one another with the sweetwater that could flow through our lives if we seek it for sharing. This describes God’s kingdom on earth.
*The crucifix is a statue of Jesus hanging on the cross.
Please Note: There are people in our communities who are hurting because of sexual abuse as children. The abused woman in the story was able to return to wholeness because someone believed her led her to Christ and continued to care about her. If you are dealing with a memory of childhood abuse or at any age, please seek help so that you can live the abundant life God has planned for you.