Fear and loathing…

fear-eyesI can’t count how many times I’ve been afraid in my life. It seems like being born a pessimist, it comes up much more often than I’d like. Fear is no fun.

It’s not that I’m a worrier, or that I’m afraid of small things. It’s more that in the back of my mind, I always fear something bad is going to come along and ruin the good thing I have going. Like the other shoe is going to drop at any time. Do you know this feeling?

I don’t have any reason to believe that anything is going to happen, but there it is; creeping its way into my thoughts. I was just talking about this today with a mentor of mine. We were discussing how good things are going in my life and with our newly launched church (Encounter Church), and I said, “All this talking about how great things are going is causing something inside of me to want to stop talking about it.” He asked why, and I told him because somewhere deep inside I felt like sharing the good things is almost inviting something bad to happen. Where does that come from? Why would I think that way?

eeyore-cloudcare-bears-grumpy-bearIt can’t just be my personality. Yes, when I was a child my parents bought me a Grumpy Care-Bear because it reflected my personality. Yes, as I grew up, everyone jokingly called me Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh) because I generally had a negative take on life situations. But this idea that celebrating goodness will somehow invite crisis into my life is deeper. It’s rooted in fear. It’s borderline superstition, and it isn’t right.

You know what else it does? It controls you. Fear takes your happy circumstances and ruins your ability to enjoy them. This happens because you’re always looking for something wrong and can’t focus on the good things in your life. If it happens enough, you can begin to loathe your existence. Stick with me here. Have you ever uttered the words, “Why does this always happen to me?” or “I should have known that the extra money I made would need to go to a car repair?” Speaking like that is a symptom of a greater problem; the disease of fear taking root in your life. Fear that when good things happen, inevitably something will come along to ruin it, or at least diminish it.

I don’t believe that God wants us to live in fear, or even to pass over it like it’s normal. I don’t believe that we are meant to be shackled by the shadow of a thing that may be to come, but more likely will not. I have had to learn that fear does not come from my Creator and that it is not part of His plan for my life. I have discovered that when I look past fear and live in trust that I feel peace and security. Yes, difficulties come, but they also go. After I told my mentor about my fear, he asked me to look back over my life and examine whether what I was asserting was true. Did bad things happen every time something good did? When I thought about it, I actually couldn’t think of a specific situation when a negative scenario took place immediately following a positive one. In fact, there definitely wasn’t any correlation between them in any circumstance I could think of. So, what I was thinking and feeling actually wasn’t true at all. What was happening was life.

Life is a series of experiences that we walk through. Some of them we ride upward with positive emotion, and others feel like a downward tilt of uncertainty and frustration.stock-market-graph But just like the stock market graphs we see, up and down is part of reality. It’s not superstition or bad luck. We live in a world where good things happen and so do the bad. That is part of the curse we all live under because of sin. However, that does not mean we have to be controlled by it, even when difficult situations do come along.

I take my cue here from Scripture, and in 2 Timothy 1:7 it says,

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self discipline.”

So if I know that fear does not come from God, and that His way is filled with power (the ability to overcome situations), shouldn’t that change the way I perceive my life? Fear will always be present because the ones who bring it are trying to destroy us. I believe that God wants good things for us. Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came to bring life to the fullest. That doesn’t sound like a God who wants us constantly worrying that things will turn ugly as soon as I let up and enjoy myself. In reality, it’s our choice how we respond to fear. When it comes, we can either allow it to control us and ruin our present circumstances or we can stand on the truth of Scripture that says:

“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:6)

Knowing that God is with us does not mean that difficult situations will not come. It simply means that whatever does come should not cause us fear because with God being for us, “who can stand against us?” (Romans 8:31)

I encourage you, just as I encourage myself, to enjoy the life that God has given you. If you find yourself in pleasant circumstances, enjoy them. Be thankful for what is happening and the good things that God has brought you. Do not be afraid of what might be to come one day. God is with you, and if we stand on His word, He promises to bring us through stronger. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, know that the truth is still truth. God is with you. He is working on your behalf to bring you through. A new season is on the way.

How does fear control you? How have you overcome it in your life?

Osama is dead: How should we feel?

Osame Bin LadenWe have seen this face many times over the past nine and a half years. It has haunted us and reminded us of the terrible events that took place on September 11, 2001. Yesterday, the news that Osama bin Laden was killed in a US Special Forces operation brought to close a difficult and frustrating chapter in American history. Since last night, social media networks have lit up with buzz and excitement from all around the world in celebration of the death of Osama bin Laden. The news has been showing constant images of crowds cheering all over the United States with people singing songs and enjoying the newly minted world without Public Enemy # 1. I have found myself wondering how to feel.

On one hand, I am thrilled at the news. My heart wants to celebrate! On the other, as a follower of Christ I feel compelled to check myself. How should I respond? How should I feel? Is it ok for me to celebrate the death of someone? What if that person is an enemy of the state? What if that person was the murderer of thousands? Is there a point where it is alright, as a Christian, to be happy that someone is dead? I believe the  Bible sheds light on this subject.

There are two main passages that I think help to illuminate this subject. Proverbs 24:17-20 says:

“Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble, or else the LORD will see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from them. Do not fret because of evildoers. Do not envy the wicked; for the evil have no future; the lamp of the wicked will go out.”

Matthew 5:43-48 reads:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Both of these passages seem to suggest that we should not celebrate in the death of Osama bin Laden. In fact, the first passage appears to outright command against it! Can this be right? Are we to be denied the feeling of satisfaction that a terrible bringer of death has been removed from our world? I think the answer is actually, no. Now, I’m not contradicting scripture here. I completely believe in the truth of the Bible. I am simply saying that I think there is more to these passages than we may think.

As I thought more and more about how I should feel about the news, I could not reconcile the very real emotions I was feeling. How could a God that stands for justice be upset with my celebrating the death of a mass-murderer? I believe the answer lies in my motivations. Don’t they always?

You see, as a follower of Christ, I am compelled to love my enemies and to pray for them. No matter how terrible they may be. Jesus died on the cross for even the most wretched individuals. My heart longs for every human being on this planet to come to God; to know Him; to be forgiven. Osama bin Laden is no exception. So how do I reconcile this feeling of wanting to celebrate and still remain faithful to my beliefs? By celebrating in the justice of the event, and what is means to our nation and the people who have dealth with the pain from September 11th. I can celebrate that justice has been done in our world and still remain faithful to the Bible’s commands. I am not celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden, but instead celebrating that the man who wreaked havoc on our world for the last 20 years has been brought to justice for his crimes. Simultaneously, my heart can still be saddened by the fact that his soul is lost forever, and that he will never again have the chance to be reconciled to God.

God is a God of justice. There are plenty of stories in the Bible that show God cares about the wrongdoings of our world and that he judges the individuals, cities, or even nations for their actions and hearts. 2 Thesslonians 1:6 highlights this point:

“God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you.”

By celebrating that justice has been done through this event, I am aligning with God’s perspective of judgement befalling those who do wrong, whether in this world or the next. I am not speculating whether God caused this event to take place or not. What I am saying is that, from what I know of God’s laws and his characteristics, the demise of Osama bin Laden is absolutely justice having been served. And that by affirming this justice, we can rightly celebrate with the rest of the world!