Freedom from Fear
Another malady that plagues many people is fear. Strecker and Appel maintain that the causes of anger and the causes of fear are identical. In the case of anger, something has already happened. In the case of fear, there is the prospect that something will happen. This view makes these Bible verses come alive: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
Again the key to freedom from fear is a backward look. Examine your reactions to people who may threaten you. Ask yourself, “Am I annoyed toward someone?” Lloyd Sterling was filled with vague fears. “I drive my tractor all alone in a field and find myself gripped with fear. A cold sweat breaks out and I tremble all over.”
A study of his life brought out the answer to his problem. He was racked by smoldering hatred. He and a neighbor had quarreled over who would maintain a fence. He and his wife kept up a running battle over the discipline of the children. He was bitter toward a brother who was a better farmer than he.
Why was he afraid? Because he might lash out at his neighbor and lose the respect of the people in the community. In an angry moment in the house, he might harm the children or cause his wife to leave him. In his fierce competitiveness with his brother, he might make a rash business decision that could ruin his own livelihood.
Lloyd Sterling had reason to be afraid. Most people do. But the loving person is not afraid. If no immediate explanation for fear can be established, an inward look is necessary. What James wrote in his epistle may apply: “Where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there” (James 3:16).
One further comment by Strecker and Appel:
Countless people at every corner unnecessarily deprive themselves not only of pleasure, but actual necessities in order to assuage the goading of a troubled conscience and fulfill a need for punishment. Feelings of unworthiness, of undeservedness, result at every hand in conspicuous neglect of health, comfort, and peace of mind.
The man who, unprovoked, insults his best friend; the man who fails to show up at an important business conference; the girl who refuses an invitation to a party she would very much like to go to; the man who declines to propose to the girl he loves and remains unmarried; the woman who spends endless hours in unnecessary housekeeping drudgery “working her fingers to the bone;” the brilliant man who insists upon engaging in a petty, monotonous routine, a drab, colorless existence; people who seem to court accidents, and have always a tale of hard luck; those who repeatedly make plans which seem inevitably to lead to failure–all may be motivated by guilt, the need for punishment or self-directed anger. Added to this are countless hours of sleepless worry, or self-recrimination, self-accusation, bitter regret, which also may be traced to the same sources (Discovering Ourselves, p. 132).
Revealing What’s Inside
Most people cause their own misery. Their guilt is not imaginary, but real. An inward look and a backward look can give the reasons and point the way to peace of mind. Yet such self-views are not easy to achieve. Man tends to flee from the truth about himself: “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
When a man discovers hatred in his heart, he usually finds other disorders as well. His personality may resemble an iceberg. Perhaps only jealousy shows, or envy, or temper. But submerged are other disastrous emotions that deny him peace. And one emotion can hardly be dealt with singly; every evil deed must be exposed to the light. Yet to what surprising lengths people will go to avoid discovering that which may be “under their skins.”
Some of these methods of avoiding what one discovers about himself will be discussed in the next three chapters.
Questions for review:
- How would you describe the emotions you feel when things go your way?
- On the other hand, how would you describe your feelings when your plans are thwarted, when people are difficult and hurtful or when you receive bad news?
- Do you ever blame the way you act on how you are treated by others or on your circumstances?
- The people in your life may never change their ways. Circumstances may be beyond your control. But there is something you can do to have peace. What is that?
- Look up 1 John 1:9 and read it aloud. Think about what it means to your life and commit it to memory.
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