This is the third lesson in a series on fear.
In the last lesson, we talked about determining if your fear is rational.
How do you know? When I was a baby, a neighbor girl threw a puppy on me. It scratched me so badly that I still carry the scar on my toe. So, was it rational for me to be afraid of dogs as a child? I would say 'yes'. However, I had to learn to handle that fear. Is it rational to be afraid of snakes? I would say 'yes', because even if the snake is nonpoisonous, its bite can still make you very sick.
Some fears are not rational. I always think of something I witnessed years ago. Even as a child, I knew it wasn't rational. We grew up next door to a couple with three children about our ages. We were close as children and our parents were close. They often got together to play dominoes. One summer night, all the kids were outside playing while the adults played dominoes. Behind their dining room table, where the adults sat, was a big picture window. The mother sat with her back to the window. The boy in the family told us, "Watch this. My mom is afraid of frogs." The boy, who was about 9 or 10, caught a frog, held it up to the window, and yelled "Hey mom, look." She turned around, screamed, jumped up from the table, knocked her husband out of the way, and ran to the bedroom, screaming all the way. I could not believe it. A grown woman was afraid of a frog. A FROG. They don't bite or sting. So how can you be afraid of them? Not only that, but how could the frog hurt her from the other side of a picture window?
That is absolute irrational fear. Now someone is going to say, "You don't know. Maybe she was frightened with a frog when she was small." She probably was, just like I was frightened with a dog. Even when I was afraid of dogs, I wasn't scared of them if they were on the other side of a wall or window. And I never knocked my husband down trying to get away from one.
In Deuteronomy 1, the Israelites were ready and willing to march into the promise land. Then the spies began to talk about the huge people inhabiting the land. The people probably grew two inches with each story told. Some scholars say the Israelites were between 5'5" and 5'10", so the dwellers looked even larger than they actually were. The spies probably started out telling about the 6'2" men. The next story the men were probably 6'4". During the night of storytelling, they might have gotten to be 7' or more. With each story the Israelites were less willing to march into the land.
So was their fear rational? Yes, absolutely. However, their fear was based on exaggerated information. This is another thing that fear does. It distorts God's purpose. Do we think that God didn't know how big the inhabitants were when He promised the land to the Israelites? Of course He did. But He had a purpose in sending the Israelites to take the land. The Israelites allowed the stories to blur God's purpose.
We do the same thing. God lays something on our heart and we feel a little fear. Before long we have talked ourselves out of doing what God told us. Imagine He says, "Reach out to Josephine. Make amends with her." You answer quickly, "Lord, I'm willing to follow You, but she is the one who broke our friendship. She should reach out to me." "I told you to reach out." "Yes, Lord, but I'm busy today. I'll do it tomorrow."
During the night, your mind starts.
- What if she doesn't want my friendship? (Concern)
- What if she tells me to leave? (Worry)
- What if she slams the door in my face? (More worry)
- What if she meets me at the door with a gun? (Irrational worry)
- What if...
In this case, ask yourself:
- Is my fear rational?
- Do I believe that God told me to go?
- Do I trust God?
- Would my loving savior lead me into something dangerous?