I wrote this piece in response to this comment on my piece Finding our hiding place. “I sometimes wonder if my fears are worthwhile in a sense after god does not give us more than we can handle right?” I felt I needed to address this important question in an article, because there are a lot of misconceptions about the wrongfulness of people experiencing fear.
We are often told that fear in itself is a sin. It is argued if we possessed a perfect trust in God’s watchful eye over us we would never be afraid. Some say that it is possible to be someone who has no fear of anything.
I have great respect for pastors , who offer comfort and support to those who feel God doesn’t love them, because they openly express their fear. We so much in our hurting communities and our global village need these understanding pastors of the heart.
I John 4:18 says perfect love casts out fear. But who among us is perfect? Only Christ who is without sin can offer perfect love. Hebrews 4:15 says, ” For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” ( New King James Version).
Christ in his humanity was terrified in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22: 43-45 says, “And an angel from Heaven appeared, strengthening him. He was in agony and prayed even more intensely so that his sweat was like great drops of blood falling to the ground. Then he got to his feet from his prayer and walking back to his disciples, he found them sleeping through sheer grief” (J.B. Phillips New Testament). God knew that His Son would need an extra measure of His strength to face His impending crucifixion, so God sent an angel to bring comfort to Jesus in His hour of great need. Christ’s own disciples were so filled with grief that they fell asleep.
That horrifying fear was evidenced in how He may have actually sweated blood, because of a medical condition called hematidrosis.
Commonly referred to as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis (Allen, 1967, pp. 745-747), this condition results in the excretion of blood or blood pigment in the sweat. Under conditions of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture (Lumpkin, 1978), thus mixing blood with perspiration. This condition has been reported in extreme instances of stress (see Sutton, 1956, pp. 1393-1394). During the waning years of the twentieth century, 76 cases of hematidrosis were studied and classified into categories according to causative factors: “Acute fear and intense mental contemplation were found to be the most frequent inciting causes” (Holoubek and Holoubek, 1996). While the extent of blood loss generally is minimal, hematidrosis also results in the skin becoming extremely tender and fragile (Barbet, 1953, pp. 74-75; Lumpkin, 1978), which would have made Christ’s pending physical insults even more painful.
None of us are perfect. We all can experience fear. Fear of becoming too ill to work. Fear of being in an accident and confined to a wheelchair the rest of our life. Fear when we have been diagnosed with a progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting mobility, swallowing and speech. Fear of death. Fear of being fired. Fear for the future. Fear that the bills won’t get paid. Fear that you will not be able to keep up the mortgage payments on your home, and lose your house. Fear for those on welfare that they won’t have enough money to stretch through the month, for the food they need to survive.
True, God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle, but having been on welfare, I can tell you even as a man of God I feared. I feared that I would always live as a poor person. I was afraid that I would not have enough money to pay for my rent for the small room I was renting in a man’s house. I was afraid that I would not have enough money to stretch $120 each month to pay for my food and other living expenses. My rent was $400 a month. The Conservative Harris government in the province of Ontario decided people could live off of $520 a month to pay for their rent, food, clothes, tolietry articles and transportation.
I agree that government needs to be fiscally responsible. They are accountable to the public for how they manage the budget they have through the taxes we pay. However, keeping to the bottom line should never be done on the backs of the poor, who often become the sacrificial lambs to appease those in the public who demand fiscal accountability. Those who make such cruel and inhumane decisions should have to experience what it is like to live on so little.
There were many nights I would cry myself to sleep. I would pour my heart out to God and ask why? Why this journey? I was scared this would be my ongoing miserable existence. At one point I even asked my Lord to be merciful and call me home. I said in my prayer, “Loving Heavenly Father, I’m so tired of fighting. I’m a worn down soldier, who just wants this agonizing torture to end. Take me home to be with You. Oh, God, take me home now!” The Lord heard my fears. He must have felt my gnawing inner pain that was eating away at me like gnats. He sent me help in the dark hour of my distress.
Had it not been for faithful and loving friends arriving with groceries and a hot coffee filled with agape love and the ongoing support of my church, I would have never made it through that awful time.
I was afraid I would always be unemployed. Critics may argue that if I possessed more trust in God, He would have blessed me with a job. There is a lot of dangerous theology out there, that wrongly judges people for their fear.
In a positive sense fear can be a motivator. As long as we are not paralyzed by that fear, it can be the thing that causes us to embrace new challenges and opportunities.
I was afraid of what I would experience when the opportunity came to be a missionary in South Korea. Following the wise advice of my friend and journalism professor, Will Rooen, I took a leap of faith even with my fear and accepted a position to be a teaching missionary there.
A soldier’s fear can help keep that soldier alive. If the soldier had no fear, he or she would not be watchful for an enemy attack.
So, fear can be a gift as well.
I leave you with this quote to ponder about courage in times of life’s struggles and fears.
“Courage is to feel the daily daggers of relentless steel and keep on living.”- Douglas Malloch
The peace and comfort of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you as you experience fear. Know that God understands and loves you even with your doubts and your fears. If Christ experienced fear and was not judged for it by His Father, then neither should you be criticized for having fear when you go through life’s storms. Trust that the Lord will carry you through the storm to the river of His peace.