Time Wasters – Part Five

Time Wasters – Part Five

Fear, Part One

by Leslie Ludy | July 1, 2011

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.”

– Proverbs 31:25

When I was in second grade, our school gave a special teaching series called “Health and Safety for Kids.” Our teacher, the round and jolly Ms. Jamison, passed along many fascinating and valuable skills, like proper teeth-brushing, diligent hand-washing, and, of course, faithful seatbelt wearing. I quickly gained a healthy fear of germs and cavities – in all the visual demonstrations these little nasties were portrayed as sly, ugly monsters who were concocting evil plans to destroy my well-being and happiness. I was armed and ready to wage war on these vicious villains with my high-powered weapons of fluoride toothpaste and anti-bacterial soap.

Our lesson on car safety was one of the most memorable. We listened with wide, solemn eyes as our teacher told us many terrible tales of careless boys and girls who dared to stick their hands, arms, feet, or legs out of the car windows, and ended up losing a limb or becoming maimed for life. We were told that if we failed to wear our seat belts we would end up flying through the windshield and into a galaxy far, far away – never to be seen again.

Looking back, it’s obvious that fear tactics were the primary means of indoctrinating us with healthy habits and responsible decision-making. And in some ways, it worked quite well. I became very diligent about wearing my seatbelt and never even sticking my pinky finger out of an open car window. I was convinced that if I didn’t scrub my hands vigorously for at least fifteen seconds, villainous germ-bugs would set-up shop under my fingernails and infect me with all kinds of nasty diseases, and that if I didn’t brush each one of my teeth twice daily in slow soft circles, they were likely to turn black and fall out before I was ten.

By the end of the “Health and Safety for Kids” study, I had been shaped into a responsible little girl, at least when it came to buckling up and attending to areas of cleanliness and personal hygiene.

The problem was, I had also been shaped into a fearful little girl. Before second grade, I’d never really worried about dying from horrible, painful diseases (from failure to wash my hands for at least fifteen seconds), losing all my teeth (from forgetting to carefully brush in circles) or flying into oblivion (from not buckling up). Second grade had made me paranoid about many “what ifs” that I’d never thought about before.

The safety-teaching that impacted me the most was our study of “strangers.” In an effort to keep us from being snatched by prowling kidnappers, we were told one horror story after the next about little boys and girls who were innocently playing hopscotch on the sidewalk one moment, and tied up in the trunk of a bad guy’s car the next. Such accounts filled me with a deep abiding terror of being kidnapped. I was under the impression that child-snatchers were everywhere; constantly roaming the streets, surveying our homes, and calculating ways that they could carry me away to their evil lairs. I started looking over my shoulder every time I went outside to play. If my mom ever left me in our station wagon while she ran into an ATM vestibule, I would shut my eyes tightly and pray frantically that the kidnappers wouldn’t smash the car window to grab me in the 60 seconds she was gone. When I accompanied my parents to the supermarket, I clung desperately to their pant-legs, afraid to let go for even one moment, lest the child-stalkers chose to seize me and whisk me out of the store.

After about two years of debilitating anxiety, nightmares, and self-imposed kidnapping-prevention tactics, I eventually moved beyond my paranoia and started to function a bit more normally around “strangers.”

But from that point on, I was never truly free from fear. It just took on different forms, depending on what season of life I was in. In middle school, I was terrified of being humiliated in front of my peers, and I was constantly preoccupied with ways to prevent embarrassment – obsessed with dressing in latest trends, being up to speed on the new cool words to use, and avoiding being seen in public with my parents or younger siblings. In high school, I was plagued with fears about my grades, my studies, and my popularity status.

As I entered my young adult years, I struggled with extreme anxiety over my health, relationships, and the future. The “what if” questions that I’d learned to ask in second grade seemed to follow me year after year, presenting all sorts of new, disturbing scenarios to my mind. What if I fail this class? What if all my friends turn against me? What if I never get married? What if my health falls apart and I die prematurely?

Even after I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, I struggled greatly with fear and anxiety for many years. Looking back now, I see how much precious time I wasted worrying about things that never happened. My Lord has always been faithful. He has always kept His promises. But I’m ashamed to admit that I invested countless hours, days, and even years into my own self-protection; trying to build a fortress around myself and prevent bad things from happening in my life. I laid awake so many nights, my heart pounding with anxiety, my mind racing with fearful possibilities of all the bad things that might happen to me. What a disgrace to the God of the universe who has promised never to leave or forsake me.

Our culture has done a very good job of convincing us that being fearful is equivalent to being wise. After all, if we simply take a few self-protective precautions, we can avoid being kidnapped at age eight, or dying an early death at age twenty-one. If we fearfully stress over money and career, we’ll avoid ending up in the homeless shelters. If we obsess over finding the right guy, we’ll avoid becoming a sad, lonely spinster. If we are consumed with health, exercise, and dieting, we’ll avoid becoming overweight or wasting away from illness.

At least that’s what our culture wants us believe. But in reality, fear does not bring freedom. It brings only imprisonment.

All too many young women are so fearful of being alone that they cannot survive more than an hour without texting or opening their Facebook page. Others are so consumed with finding the right guy that they are continually strategizing how to dress and act in order to get the opposite sex to notice them. Countless others are so stressed about having a secure financial future that they nearly kill themselves trying to succeed in school, get their degree, and climb the corporate ladder. Who has time for real intimacy with Jesus Christ when we have so many urgent, important issues to worry about?

I know several moms who are fearfully gripped by all the “latest studies” about what they should eat or not eat in order to avoid disease; what skin-care products might possibly be cancer-causing, what electronics could be giving off harmful radiation, and what kinds of toys may cause their kids to get lead-poisoning. The more “knowledge” they gain about what might possibly harm themselves or their families, the more paranoid and self-protective they become.

While I’m all for following sound “life principles” such as working hard in school, taking care of our health, protecting our children, and avoiding outright stupidity, I have come to realize how easily fear can disguise itself as “wisdom.” We convince ourselves that we are being smart and responsible, when in actuality we are squandering precious hours, energy, and resources on fearful self-protection techniques. Instead of embracing our calling to turn outward and live poured-out selfless lives of sacrifice, fear turns us inward and causes us to become preoccupied with our own happiness, well-being, and protection.

But most importantly, fear is deliberate disobedience toward our God. He does not merely suggest that we avoid fear. Rather he commands us to avoid fear:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9 NIV).

“...as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror” (1 Peter 3:6).

A Vision for More

When Gladys Aylward was on her way to China to fulfill the call of God on her life, the enemy must have known how powerful her ministry would be, because he tried to thwart her with fear before she even arrived. In Russia, she was detained by corrupt government officials. As she sat in a hotel room, thinking about a way to escape, an officer tried to force his way in. Boldly she told him, “You are not coming in here.”

“Why not?” he smirked.

“Because this is my bedroom.”

“I am the master, I can do with you what I wish!”

“Oh no, you cannot. You may not believe in God, but He is here. Touch me and see. Between you and me God has put a barrier. Go!” The man stared at Gladys, shivered, and without another word, turned and left. (Story taken from The Little Woman by Gladys Aylward and Christine Hunter.)

Imagine having that much confidence in the protection that God promises His children! Not just hoping God will come through for you, but knowing He will. Not cowering in fear when the enemy tries to attack, but rising up in the strength of God and trampling him under our feet.

Heroic Christians throughout the centuries have exuded this very confidence:

“Should all the hosts of death and powers of hell unknown Put their most dreadful forms of rage or malice on I shall be safe, for Christ displays superior power and guardian grace.”

– Isaac Watts

“I fear not the tyranny of man, neither yet what the devil can invent against me.”

– John Knox

“When Satan heard the ninety-first Psalm, did the fourth verse baffle him? ‘With His feathers He shall create a fence for thee.’ So covered, and so fenced, what can Satan’s malice accomplish against us? Nothing, nothing at all.”

– Amy Carmichael

Despite the popular notion today that it is more spiritual to remain weak, struggling, and vulnerable, God desires to build us into valiant, valorous, fortified warriors who fear none but Him alone and are vulnerable to none but Him alone. Interestingly, the chief word that characterizes the Proverbs 31 woman is strength. And all throughout the New Testament, we are constantly exhorted to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

Leonard Ravenhill wrote, “Satan fools and feigns, blows and bluffs, and we so often take his threats to heart and forget the ‘exceeding greatness of God’s power to us.’”

Take a close, prayerful look at your life. Are you wasting precious moments or hours each day on fear? Are you allowing the enemy to hound and harass you with “what if” scenarios? Is anxiety turning you inward and destroying your ability to live a poured-out life?

If so, you don’t have to live this way. I encourage to run to your Savior and ask Him to set you free. He intends you to live a life filled with courage and valiance, not in your own strength, but through the power of His life within you. His prescription for courage is simple and straightforward: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

A fortified Christian woman has an impenetrable barrier between her and the enemy. She has put on the full armor of God and is able to resist the devil, no matter what fiery dart he tries to throw at her.

Christ has already conquered the enemy of our souls. The only thing Satan can do is put on a magic show; using smoke and mirrors to trick us into taking him seriously and letting him have his way in our lives. But if we stand firmly in the power that Christ has given us, no weapon formed against us can prosper (see Is. 54:17).

When we come to our Lord with the simple confidence that He is everything He claims to be, then freedom from fear is the natural result. Don’t wait another moment. Ask Him to shape you into a courageous, fearless woman of strength! He will be faithful. Our God has promised, and He cannot lie.*

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