Posts Tagged ‘Worry’

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Do Not Be Afraid

He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4:40

When we are afraid it is often because we have lost a sense of control, we are in an unfamiliar situation, or darkness has made our surroundings strange and threatening. We can be frightened because we feel our life, or the life of a loved one is in danger. Fear is a common reaction whenever something out of our comfort zone is occurring. On the one hand, we are told to fear God, as in Leviticus 19:14, and on the other hand, sprinkled throughout scripture, is the directive not to fear God’s messengers.

Biblical encounters with a divine being – God, Jesus, or an angel – is often preceded with the directive to have no fear. For example, in Genesis 15:1, God visits Abraham in a dream and says, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield.” In Matthew 1:20, an angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph and says, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” In Luke 1:13, an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah and said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard.” In Luke 1:30, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and says, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” It is as if the message is, “Do not allow your fear to prevent you from receiving the message contained in your discomfort.”

About 25 times in the four Gospels, Jesus says not to be afraid or not to fear. In the passage from Mark 4:40, the disciples are on a boat crossing the sea. Jesus is asleep when a strong storm hits and threatens to sink the ship. The disciples are in fear of their lives when they wake up Jesus. He calms the sea with a word and says, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” What is so interesting about this story is the connection Jesus draws between fear and faith. Is Jesus suggesting that a person with sufficient faith should have no fear?

The night before Jesus was crucified, as he prayed, he asked, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me…” (Luke 22:42). Was that an expression of fear? Personally, I think there is an important distinction to draw between fear and dread. The human part of Jesus dreaded the pain, suffering, and humiliation that was before him in a similar way to how we might dread an upcoming Calculus final or a course of chemotherapy. The divine part of Jesus knew there was a greater purpose for his suffering, and so he relented, “…yet, not my will but yours be done.”

Perhaps the type of fear Jesus warns against is the type that manifests as worry. We fear many things because we suspect they may negatively impact our current or future states of being. Of course, the vast majority of what we worry about does not happen. Invariably, the outcomes of that which does happen are seldom as disastrous as our worry leads us to believe. Worry shows a significant lack of trust in God’s care and hinders our ability to be fully present to whatever is going on.

Anyone who has believed in the goodness of God over a significant period knows that faith does not prevent tragic things from happening. Certainly, there are events and circumstances on earth where fear is a rational reaction. Our faith, however, can help put our suffering into a meaningful context. God does not promise bad things will not happen, only that we will not have to carry the burden alone. In addition, God assures us that, over time, all things work together for good (Romans 8:28) in ways we simply cannot imagine. God always transforms suffering into blessing.

In Luke 12:22, Jesus is explicit: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.” We are in good, albeit invisible hands worthy of our trust. Fear of God, as in an awe-inspired reverence for God’s incomprehensible presence, is good. Worry and speculation about future possibilities reveals a faith deficit and only saps our strength. God may be speaking to us through our fear-inducing events, but succumbing to our fear will inhibit our ability to receive God’s message. Why are we so afraid? Have we still no faith?

This is the 5th in a series of Life Notes entitled “What Did Jesus Say?”

 Do you prefer listening to reading? Check out the Life Notes podcasts at www.ContemplatingGrace.com/podcasts.

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Life Notes—February 7, 2013 

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’”  Matthew 6:31

“My life has been filled with calamities, some of which actually happened.”  Mark Twain

I was convinced this was the end.  I was going to die on a predawn flight to Chicago.  The dark sky had a subtle hint of a sunrise I was unlikely to see, and from that streak of pink it was clear our jet was headed down.  Not straight down, but clearly losing altitude at an alarming rate.  A petrified flight attendant buckled herself into a seat across from my co-worker and me so as not to die alone.  The kisses I gave my sleeping wife and children when I left home that morning would likely be my last.  Was my relationship with God sufficient? Would my children remember me as they grew up?  Would my wife find another man with even a fraction of my splendid qualities (J)? 

Clearly, I was choosing to spend my last moments on earth—like so many of my other moments on earth—worrying.  At some point the airplane leveled off and began to climb. After the flight we were told a cabin pressure gauge had failed and the pilot dove below 10,000 feet to prevent the oxygen masks from deploying, which would have created a two hour delay in Chicago, resulting in flight delays for the rest of his shift.  He had not wanted to make an announcement over the intercom, assuming we were all sleeping and wouldn’t notice the little detour towards the ground.

In his book Conscious Capitalism, John Mackey writes, “The most important insight about fear is that it seldom exists in the present moment.  It is almost always about the future, something we are afraid is going to happen.  When we direct our attention fully into the present moment, fear greatly lessens or disappears.”  Apparently, the University of Cincinnati did a study on worry and found that 85% of what we worry about never happens.  And 79% of us handle the 15% of our worries that do manifest much better than we imagined we would.  So what are we worried about?  Unfortunately, we worry about nearly everything, even though nearly everything we worry about does not happen.  We are obsessed with looking forward into the unknown of the future and projecting the worst, instead of living in the present moment and enjoying its blessings.  Of course, some moments contain problems to be addressed, but worry does nothing to help with those.  When we stay in the moment, where we belong, we find our blessings.

Tom will preach downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch preaches at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. His sermon title is “On the Job,” based on Luke 5:1-11.

Come home to church this Sunday.  What should you wear?  Wear a smile!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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