What are You Afraid Of?

The other day I was scared of a grocery bag. 

Really. The bag was blowing across the lawn, and when I first caught a glimpse of this thing charging toward me, I thought a badger or something was attacking me.

It was embarrassing. Especially when I thought about my friend, Sam. Sam is a new Adventist. Sam has been in horrifying situations and never seems to get scared. Like the time when he was in the Marines and he jumped out of a plane at 30,000 feet over a jungle filled with people who wanted to kill him.

Or the time he met a motorcycle gang. Or the time he faced a guy holding a gun. In his stories Sam faces fear with confidence. I believe in Jesus and can be scared of anything.

The Bible says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil” (Ps. 23:4).

I can’t even walk to the car without fear. 

One day we went to visit friends at a cabin in the mountains. We had a great visit. Our friends showed us where they had seen a bear.

Night covered the mountain when my wife and I left to go home. A trail wound through the dark woods to our car. We talked as we walked, and we talked loudly. Then we decided to sing. We sang as if our life depended on it, because we remembered the bears. We hoped the noise would scare them off before they could smell how delicious we were to eat.

Christians should have nothing to be afraid of. But what we know and what we feel are two different things. 

Let’s talk about a boy who finds a snake. If it’s a copperhead, the boy will know he should leave it alone. But if he recognizes it as a harmless garter snake, he may catch it. His level of fear depends on what he knows.

Now, when the boy’s mother finds the snake in her bathtub, her reaction may be different. It is a natural burst of fear that overwhelms what she knows about, whether or not the snake is dangerous.  This is a function of emotion.

We can also unlearn fear. At least what we know. This is when we learn that God can be trusted to keep us safe.

But believing in Jesus doesn’t wipe away all fears. Fear is part of the sin problem.

Which brings me back to Sam. Last year his wife, Laura, was admitted to the hospital. “I don’t think she’ll make it,” said the doctor.

Sam looked at Laura, lying unconscious on the hospital bed. This tough man realized a fear like nothing he had felt before.

Sam sat beside Laura and held her hand. There was a time when Sam would not have known how to deal with this fear. But his new faith gave him a clue. While he held her hand, he prayed. He prayed and prayed until the day that Laura was well enough to come home.

When it comes to fear, Christians do have an advantage. We experience moments of grace that reduce our fears. We have prayer. We also have a hope that can help us see beyond the fear. But all of us—even those as brave as Sam—are waiting for a time when there’s nothing to be afraid of.

—This first appeared in KidsView, April 2017.