God calls Christians to live a life of peace, to live in the 'rest'. Why then do we live such anxious lives? Why do we cling to fears? Particularly fears of the unknown?
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Even though we may have been a Christian for a long time, we can still hold onto specific fears and anxieties for years, not releasing them to Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 4:11 both encourages and warns us. "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." Could those anxieties be a part of that unbelief?
Despite God calling us to live by faith (The just shall live by faith. Romans 1:17), we find we have memorised the formula for fear. Instead of living a faith-based life, fear has adulterated our foundation of trust.
What is the power within fear? One Canadian Doctor of Philosophy said, "Fear of the unknown may be the fundamental fear".
When we look at our fears, most are fears of the unknown. For instance, what is the actual fear of public speaking? Yesterday, you talked to friends with all confidence for more than an hour over a coffee, but from the time you found you had to speak publicly, you've been in morbid fear.
I think the doctor was right. We don't fear public speaking so much as the uncertainty of whether people will like us or not. It is a fear of the unknown (FOTU). FOTU is present in our lives and operated in some of our biblical heroes.
FOTU isn't entirely wrong. It may stop us from doing many foolish things. But the problem arises when it also prevents us from exercising faith.
Why are Christians afraid of the unknown when much of our calling is in unfamiliar territory? So powerful is its grasp, it can paralyse us. Some wet their pants, faint, break out in sickness, have anxiety attacks, asthma attacks and heart attacks. Uncertainty can magnify how threatening a situation feels.
When waiting to hear back about a job interview, we compulsively refresh our inbox for the email.
When someone is sick, we repeatedly call to ensure they're ok.
When we leave our mobile phone at home, we must return for it.
We are too scared to tell someone about Jesus, uncertain if we'll lose a friend.
There was a lengthy study done not so long ago, which involved electrically shocking people with a mild voltage. Participants were never sure when they would be shocked. The result? The vast majority preferred to KNOW they would be shocked 100% of the time rather than being shocked 50% of the time, but uncertain when it would happen.
Although they would be shocked 50% more often, they still preferred to endure double the amount providing it was evident when the shocks were coming. Is that strange to you? Such is the power of our desperate need to know our future. One Psychologist said, "Any element of unpredictability significantly increases peoples discomfort, despite there being no difference in the intensity of the shock." A very illuminating study!
FOTU they say is "The tendency to experience fear when we feel there is an absence of information". Why do we have such an influential intolerance of uncertainty? Why aren't we satisfied that God knows? When following an all-knowing God, do we need to know it all?
The Bible mentions the word 'fear' almost twice as much as 'love'.
The term FEAR NOT! is mentioned in the Bible around 70 times. On many occasions, God called people to do a new thing in their lives. They had to step up to a new level of faith, a new turn in direction. The predictability of religious repetition was over for them. God called them to an unfamiliar stage with an unknown outcome.
If we remain faithful, God assures our spiritual life, but the natural life can become far less predictable. Here are some people called to a new direction. Each one instructed to fear not, and each new life unpredictable!
Moses. 40 years a shepherd. Then called to confront the most powerful leader in the region.
Joshua. From No.2 leader to No.1 leader. A vast difference in responsibilities and accountability.
Jeremiah. From young believer to national Prophet of doom living a perilous life.
Zacharias. From little-known aging priest to headliner, he became the father of John the Baptist.
Joseph and Mary. From predictable lives to bearing the King of Kings and living by the direct word of God.
Apostle Paul. To be brought before the brutal Caesar.
For whatever reason, Moses had an extreme fear of the unknown. At 80 years old, God spoke from a burning bush, briefing him on a new direction in his life. That was, to challenge Pharaoh to release the Israelites from bondage. Moses' reaction was classicly human. He feared! Just like we would, and his excuses were just the same as ours would have been—all based on FOTU.
"They will not believe me...they will say, the Lord hasn't sent you".
"I am not eloquent... I am slow of speech and tongue".
"Lord, please send someone else".
Moses' fear of the unknown annoyed God. His fears left as soon as the Lord appointed Aaron as the spokesperson. God knew Moses had what it took. Moses didn't. Maybe some of us are the same.
Very differently, Joseph and Mary immediately believed and followed.
Luke 1:30-31 "And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus."
Matthew 1:20-21 "…behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins."
They showed no impeding hesitation to proceed. No impeding hesitation. I'm sure they pondered their callings trying to find a precedent. There are no precedents in many things God does. The underlying precedent is the faith of those who follow. ( "And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation".Luke 1:50).
Q.What part of the future do you fear? Do you still have the same fears you had ten years ago? 2022 is unknown to us all. But through it, the most important fear to embrace is the fear of God.
Different types of fears run through us in life, and it surprises us how many are tied to the aspects of unknown futures. When we come to Christ, our view of the unknown should change. We now have the light of life and should pass from anxiety to rest, casting those fears away.
2 Timothy states, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and a sound mind."
Power to overcome all adversity and all related fears
Love God more than we fear humans or what they think they can take away from us.
A sound mind, transformed by renewal to believe God above all fears.
By understanding how FOTU affects us, we can not only alleviate those fearful feelings of not knowing what's ahead, but thrive, trusting that the unknown is known to God, even in 2022.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, thank you that I don't know everything about my future, otherwise my fears would grow bigger. I already have fears for myself, my family member and friends, and for humankind's future that I haven't yet given over to you. Please help me release these to Jesus Christ and enjoy the rest He promised.
Photo by Simon Watkinson