Conquer fear, do not be controlled by it
We need never be afraid of monsters. Like actors on a stage they can change their shape and frighten children, but are permitted to do no real harm. The real harm is often caused by us while we are controlled by our fear.
I have an old acquaintance, for example, who found himself hardly recognizable after a long period of giving himself over to his baser emotions. We played rugby together in college, and he was always fearful that he would lose his starting position on the team. Truthfully, he was a fine athlete and shouldn’t have had any real worries, but his fears gnawed at him. He worried he would be replaced by someone quicker, and once replaced he would not enjoy the same camaraderie with his fellow starters, and and once robbed of his position and popularity he would no longer enjoy the game he had loved for his entire life. He was afraid I was going to take his place. Which, eventually, I did, though not necessarily because I was a better player. In fact, I’m s ill convinced he was my superior on the pitch in almost every category. But my friend’s fears and anxieties caused him to behave differently. he was more short-tempered, more prone to ﬂy off the handle, which caused him to take stupid penalties and compromise our defense. his behavior created tension with the other starting players, who no longer felt like playing with him because he was such a loose-canon. He couldn’t enjoy the game, just as he couldn’t allow them to enjoy the game. he had become a monster. L ke the titular character(s) in Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, my teammate had succumbed to his darker nature because of his inability to control his fear concerning what might happen.
There is a monster like that in each of us, a looming threat, best described by the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:
I do not understand what I do. for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. for what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am!
We become our own bestiary when we allow our fears to deform us. The monsters “out there” are far less problematic than the monsters we become when we are distorted by pride, hatred, fear, prejudice, judgment, religion, and expediency.
What we need is a strong assurance that, even while living with the possibility that there are monsters out there somewhere, God will protect and defend us. What we need is a strong confidence that we do not need to revert to our baser natures in order to cope with the unknown, the terrifying, and the threatening “out there,” because we can – instead – trust in God.
What time I’m afraid, I will trust in you.
Psalm 56.3 KJV
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com