Summary: In this message, part 8 in series Freedom From…, Dave explains some ways of handling fear.
Freedom From Fear, prt. 2
Freedom From... prt. 8
Wildwind Community Church
October 25, 2009
Last week I spoke to you about fear. Fear is what I call a primary emotion. When something is a primary emotion, that means it’s not a mask to hide other emotions. Anger, for example, is not a primary emotion. Anger is secondary, because behind the emotion of anger you will always find the emotion of frustration, or fear, or hurt. There would be no anger if it weren’t for frustration, fear, and hurt. But fear isn’t that way. Fear is primary. It doesn’t owe its existence to other emotions. Love, anger, hurt, frustration, disappointment, jealousy, and pretty much all other human emotions could disappear tomorrow and fear would remain.
Not only is fear a primary emotion, fear, I believe, is one of the number one motivators of human behavior. It is one of the main reasons we do things we should not do, and one of the main reasons we do not do the things we should do. Some of us are having serious problems in our marriages at this moment, and deep down we know we need counseling, but we have not approached our spouse about it because of fear of what they might say. We have made an appointment for ourselves because of fear of what counseling will be like. Some of us need to lay down some guidelines with our children, but we are afraid of driving them away. Some of us need to get into the gym, but we’re afraid of failure. Some of us need to stop drinking, but we’re afraid we won’t be able to if we really try. Some of us need to break off a bad relationship, but we are afraid of being alone. Some of us need to confront someone about something, but we are afraid of how they’ll respond. Some of us need to tell a boss that they are requesting things of us that violate our conscience and we will not do those things anymore, but we’re afraid of losing our jobs. Some of us need to sit down and have an honest talk with a spouse, but we’re afraid of making things worse. Some of us need to pull the trigger on an important decision, but we’re afraid the decision might be wrong. Some of us need to stop procrastinating, but we are afraid of the accountability we’d face if we became known for being a go-to person. Fear is what motivates Islamic extremists, and they retaliate by doing things that create similar fears in others. I could go on forever. Fear is behind a great deal of our refusal to do what we should do, and our willingness to do what we should not do.
As I work with couples, I nearly always find that it is fear that is keeping each of them stuck in the rut they are in. He’s afraid to be vulnerable to his wife and just tell her how he feels, so he blusters and yells. She’s afraid to trust him to make good decisions, so she micromanages and tries to control his whole life. When I find this I like pointing out to couples what they have in common – “See, you are both struggling with fear. You have the same root problem! You’re afraid of being real with each other!!” And it’s not only married couples that have fear in common. Fear is common to all members of the human race, and to most of the animal kingdom! And of course fear can be healthy. It can alert us to danger so we take steps to preserve ourselves. (In the fallen world we live in, we would not survive long without fear!) The problem is that in humans, fear combines with our imagination and becomes worry and anxiety. Fear ceases playing its useful role of alerting us to problems in the present moment, and goes out of control in an excessive focus on moments that have not come – and that well may never come.
Proverbs 28:1 (NASB)
1 The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.
That’s fear, isn’t it? A feeling that we’re always running from things that are not real – from people who are not pursuing, trying to avoid events that have not happened, and probably will not happen.
Now that I’ve mentioned that worry and anxiety are what result when fear combines with the imagination, I want to begin dealing with approaches to fear – ways of steeping ourselves in God. And since we’re talking about the imagination, about the mind, I want to start right there, by dealing with the important role meditation can play in bringing anxiety and fear under control. Anxiety and worry can exist only in the mind that is focused, through imagination, somewhere other than the present moment. Thoughts of doom and gloom. Thoughts of despair. Thoughts of terrible things to come. Thoughts and pictures of death and destruction and devastation. Thoughts of loneliness and sadness and insecurity. Thoughts of defeat. Thoughts of the very worst that could happen, and then thoughts of the worst getting even worse. This is the pattern of anxiety and worry. They exist in the mind. Without the cooperation of the mind, they cannot take root and grow into those monsters that so deeply trouble our emotions. Take your mind out of the picture – get your mind into a place where it is no longer available for imagining, focus it entirely on the present moment, and anxiety begins to wither. You cannot chop down a tree at the base and expect the tree to remain standing.