Fear is one of the most powerful influences driving our lives, and to varying degrees we all stare it down on a regular basis. It is an influence that both draws and repels us. We hate the fact that we are fearful and try to avoid those things which send a chill down our spine and cause us to freeze like a deer in the headlights, but at the same time we are almost hypnotically drawn to those things that strike fear in our hearts as though there is some hauntingly attractive quality about them. It is almost as if we are puppets and fear is holding the strings, pushing away and drawing us back at its own demented impulse, and to varying degrees we find it painfully enjoyable.
Fear is the thing that drives much of the amusement industry. These puppet masters expend immense amounts of brain power and financial capital to perfect the art of pushing human beings just beyond the boundaries of their fear threshold. Then we pay them for entrance into these ‘amusement’ parks just so they can take us to the brink, and we walk away calling that fun, further cementing our demented relationship with fear.
The same is true of several of the movie and television genres of the day. Whether it be a ‘thriller’, ‘suspense’, or ‘horror’ puppet masters are once again sent to task with the goal of weaving a yarn that will take movie goers or couch potatoes just beyond the limits of their fears with the purpose of the audience walking away feeling entertained possessing what could almost be labeled a sense of satisfaction for sitting through the entire experience.
Of course, these are controlled environments that give us a sense of power over our fears, a fact we must not overlook. We are fine with our fears as long as we feel as though we are in control of the puppet strings, because then there is no overwhelming sense of imminent danger for us. But what about those things we can’t control?
Fear of the flu seems to grow each year since the outbreak of the avian flu just a few years ago and now with the H1N1 strain this year. People wear medical masks and governments are hard at work on possible vaccines for fear that at any time the threat could become an epidemic if we human beings did not stay one step ahead. Responses to such things vary. Many are forced to face a fear that is beyond their control along with the questions in their lives they may not be ready to answer, so anxiety heightens. Others just laugh and sweep such threats under the rug.
The current instability in the Middle East and other parts of the world has stirred up chilling fears in many that rival those that suffocated many during the days of the Cold War. Once again the threat of nuclear war is wreaking its havoc.
Still a greater fear, on a national level was stirred nearly a decade ago on the fateful day in September, 2001. The reality that terrorism could invade our borders, hit many with a crippling force that has left many fearful to this day. And though all were not crippled by fear all were impacted. Thankfully, the fear drove many people to action, but even this action has at its roots fear, the fear that if something wasn’t done the same thing could happen again.
On a regular basis each of us is faced with situations and realities that force us to stare down our fears to varying degrees. We are continually reminded that regardless of the marvels of medicine, we all must face our finiteness. And ultimately, most fears we face find this reality as the source of their power. They remind us we are not invincible, we are breakable and one day the system is going to shut down. It may be in our sleep or while we are awake. It may be long and painful or it may be short and painless, but we all will face the reality one day.
Jesus was keenly aware of the crippling power of fear in our lives. It was something for which He wanted us to have the right perspective. His comments concerning fear are both a source of contemplation and, for those who know Christ, a source of comfort. He gives us valuable insight into the proper handling of fear when He says, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear Him who can kill both soul and body in hell.” God is not a puppet master seeking to profit from our fears, but the reality is that our Creator desires a relationship with us that only comes through a right relationship with Jesus Christ. And if that is a relationship you are missing then all other fears in your life are child’s play.