Jerry Sittser from his book the Will of God as a Way of Life wrote:

~Certain powers in the world should make us all shudder.~

. . . the future is not predictable. No one can know with certainty what will happen next week or next year, to say nothing about the next century. The future is slippery and elusive, and it will surprise us. We may experience tragedy just when we thought we had life by the tail; we may enjoy moments of pleasure just when we thought we would never pull out of a tailspin; we may find opportunity just when we thought we were stuck forever in the same old routine. Other Edisons and Einsteins and Mother Teresas and Stravinskis and Martin Luther Kings and Joe DoMaggios will emerge and dazzle us with their brilliance, skill and feats.

The Power of Fear

There are at least two unhealthy ways to respond to a lack of certainty about our future: fear and worry. Of these two fear is more rooted in actual reality. We usually fear a specific object or situation—strangers, rejection, or death, for example. We fear what we know. Fear has a clarity, sharpness, and immediacy to it. It is also strangely rational, at least to the person who feels the fear.

For example, I fear heights. When I’m making my way to the top of a mountain on a chairlift, I feel genuine fear. I imagine the worst happening. I convince myself that I am in mortal danger. I see the chair jumping the cable and hurling me to the ground. My fear may be irrational in the eyes of the engineers who designed the chairlift; but it is perfectly rational to me. I know something will go wrong. I feel it, then work it out logically. No one can persuade me to think otherwise.

Not that fear is always a bad thing. It can be a healthy reflex that serves us well. If the chair on which I am riding did jump the cable, I would probably be killed or at least seriously injured. My fear is based on a genuine threat that, if realized, would do me real harm. When we fear, our body produces adrenaline, which makes the heart pump more blood, increases sensory awareness, sharpens our instincts, and infuses us with greater physical strength. Fear makes us ready to fight or flee.

In the film Braveheart, the main character, William Wallace (a historical figure who lived in the thirteenth century), leads Scotland in a revolt against English rule. He is captured and put in an English prison, where he awaits certain torture and death. He knows he will suffer unimaginable pain. Sitting alone in his cell he whispers to God, “I’m so afraid.” He has good reason to be afraid, considering the cruelty of medieval torture. Yet fear concentrates his energy and turns his will to steel. He suffers and dies without crying for mercy or compromising his beliefs.

My youngest child, John, has typical childhood fears, which his older brother likes to dismiss in a supercilious tone—as if he never had such fears when he was younger! John is not unusual. Most children fear ghosts and monsters that hide during the day but come out at night. The fear is real enough. No there are no monsters and ghosts hiding under his bed. But there are real beings populating the spiritual world that should awaken genuine fear in all of us.~Jerry Sittser, the Will of God as a Way of Life (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, 2000, 2004). 132-35

Continued with Fear II

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