Fear Vs. Concern
During the dark days of World War II the free world was on the edge of panic. Hitler seemed invincible. Through the blitzkrieg technique, he amassed victory after victory until his vaunted might seemed a fact instead of a mere boast
The blitzkrieg worked—not because the German bombers carried such a great load of potential destruction, nor because, as rumor had it, artillery shells would literally bounce off the German Panzer tanks. The blitzkrieg was effective because it was calculated to strike terror in the hearts of Germany’s opponents.
It was a war of nerves. Special equipment had been attached to the otherwise slow Stuka dive-bombers to produce a bone-chilling shriek as they dived. Similar whistles were also attached to the bombs themselves. Upon hearing that sound, potential victims would tend to freeze rather than run for cover. Hitler’s armies hit hard and fast in the most vulnerable and visible places, and the press was always on hand with movie cameras to show the disheartened prisoners, the decaying dead and the jovial, victorious Nazi legions.
As reassurance in the face of that demoralizing psychological warfare, a statement by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was quoted time and again. In his inaugural address in 1933 he had said, …first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed effort to convert retreat into advance.” That simple insight, which surely helped the Allies through the dark days of World War II, applies equally to the spiritual warfare of the Christian life.
Hitler might have learned the blitzkrieg technique from Satan himself. That’s just the way Satan attacks God’s people. He demoralizes us. He shows his hideous strength, our horrible inadequacies, and makes himself appear invincible. The Scriptures call Satan “the father of lies.” He is the originator of the proverbial “snow job.” His tactic is to produce a storm of lies that buries us to the neck in a drift of freezing fear. The flecks of fear fly in our faces and become flakes of worry. Quickly they pile up until we find ourselves immobilized in the blizzard. We are too paralyzed with fear to realize that it is all a cold mirage. We do not see that the storms of anxiety are illusions projected on the screens of our minds by the adversary to keep us from standing and acting on our foundation of faith.
Ungodly Fear Vs. Christian Concern
There is a difference between ungodly fear and Christian concern. Ungodly fear—the emotion produced by Satan’s blitzkrieg—enervates. It dulls our awareness. It makes us “react” to problems that may never even arise. It robs us of peace, replacing it with worry. It robs us of productivity, channeling our energies into jousting at windmills. It robs us of relationships, focusing our time and attentions on overwhelming concern. Finally, it robs us of God’s blessings as we deal with the real or imagined problem in our own strength rather than trust God to see us through.
Ungodly fear in the Christian life often stems from feelings of guilt. One of Satan’s lies is: “You deserve to be unhappy. You are not good enough for good things to happen to you.” On the screens of our minds he flashes close-ups of our sins and bad attitudes that merit God’s judgment. Reacting to this fiery dart from the evil one, some Christians live a continual horror story of exaggerated perils and imaginary threats in order to punish themselves for sin. They struggle on from one anxiety to another, haunted by horror. They plod through deepening drifts of dread that could be melted by God’s warm love—if only they could accept the amnesty he offers at Calvary.
Satan’s accusation of unforgivable guilt is designed to make us lose confidence in the future through losing our confidence in God. Yet God answers the accusation in just one word—one name—one act that has forever established his love and forgiveness: Jesus!
In Jesus we are not only good, we are great. We are not only strong, we have the entire arsenal and might of heaven for our defense. So why carry a load of guilt when we can repent and be forgiven? Why worry when we can pray? The absurdity of doing otherwise comes through in the irony of a popular bumper sticker that asks wryly, “Why pray when you can worry?” Confronted with life’s problems, a person will usually do one or the other. The only alternative is a spiritual and emotional numbness where we do neither until it is too late.
Some choose to desensitize their lives to goodness and to God. They presume that they deserve good until the evils of life catch up with them. Then they anesthetize their souls with the powerful narcotic of self-righteousness until they are overcome by the final agony of painful reality that will no longer be put off.
Most of us do have a conscience, and to have a conscience is to have the capacity for fear. Our consciences tell us that things are not right, so we worry. But when we know that Jesus has made things right, that he has given us the power to do right, that in the final settlement all will be right, we can rest in him. We can rest in his love and rejoice in the midst of the transient troubles of our human existence.
In contrast to ungodly fear, Christian concern, based on our relationship with Jesus, enables us to grapple with unpleasant reality. It sharpens our awareness. It strengthens us to meet every challenge and to do whatever must be done.
The key to overcoming fear is godly concern, and the key to dealing with godly concern is reality! Take the example of a young woman who, the week before she is to meet her fiance’s family, is paralyzed with fear. She has heard that they are loving, accepting, good-natured people. Why then does she have a great sense of dread at meeting them? In all probability, she imagines herself less worthy than she is and fears that her future in-laws will somehow discover her inadequacy.
Both fear and concern have their causes. Yet only concern stems from reality. The anxious person does not struggle with realities, but with feelings of inadequacy. A diligent and concerned person paints his house, then stands back and takes satisfaction in the new paint job. A fearful person, on the other hand, might actually do a better paint job, yet he or she will never take satisfaction in the accomplishment for fear that eventually some hidden flaw in some far corner will become apparent. They usually do find a flaw, because no one is perfect; and this only serves to confirm their notions of their own inadequacy. In turn, it causes them to abhor painting their house ever again. Not only that, but if next time their house needs painting they hire a professional painter, they will still search for and find some small flaw to spoil their enjoyment. They go through life finding things not to like—things that are disturbing.
Anxious Christians like that find it difficult to believe the doctor when he tells them that they are in perfect health. They just know that something must be wrong, because they deserve to suffer pain and ill health and tragedy. They “know” these things based on the unreal accusations of unforgiveness that Satan implants in their minds.
God answers the problems posed by anxieties with one word: trust! Trust is a decision. It involves taking a stand, remembering that commitment, and behaving accordingly. It means that in the midst of an anxiety attack, we must call upon God, our Defender and Advocate, who just “happens” also to be in control of the universe.
We must confess and confirm our trust in the midst of trouble. Think of Job and all that befell him. Yet he confirmed his position of commitment with a confession: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15a). Faith and trust are inextricably bound, and you cannot have one without the other. Commitment activates the faith/trust antidote to anxiety. At first an anxious person’s commitment to trust may be feeble and bring only momentary relief. But increasingly applied, it will grow in strength and duration.
Some Pointers On Applying Faith/Trust In God
1. Affirm and confess that God is.
2. Remember that God rewards those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
3. Take a stand that God is good, that he loves you, and that he will not let any test befall you that he will not give you the strength to overcome (I Cor. 10:13).
4. Feed your faith with frequent Scripture readings, memorizing the “trust” passages. A favorite that comes to mind is Isaiah 26:3: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.” Don’t be afraid to say the verse out loud often and ponder its meaning.
5. Resist Satan. Remember that he is besieging you with a spirit of fear in order to destroy your victory as a child of God. Declare that your fear is inspired by the enemy and that Christ has defeated him at Calvary (Ephesians 1:20, 21; Colossians 2:15).
6. Remember that perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18). God’s perfect love that culminated at Calvary banishes Satan’s power and his arsenal of accusations against the child of God. It is not our love for God, but his love for us that accomplishes this.
When blitzkrieged by Satan, the most important thing an anxious child of God can do is make a reality check. The evil one would have us believe that the forces arrayed against us are invincible. But remember: his power is limited. His bark is worse than his bite. The shrieking threat of his attack deceives us into thinking that he can do more damage than God will allow. It’s just not so.
God himself is our Defense and our Defender. When we take shelter in him, truly we have nothing to fear but fear itself.