I struggle with fear. I get overwhelmed unexpectedly. I think it is just the way my brain works. I can be calm, calm, calm, calm and then suddenly not so much. The 'not so much' is particularly strong at 3am in the morning when I feel like the sky is going to fall in on me. Thankfully I awake again at 6am and it isn't all so grim.
The Bible says a lot about fear. God seems to kinda "get" that part of being human is getting scared. There's a lot in there reassuring us to "Fear not". And why are we encouraged to be less fearful? Because God is with us.
I don't think the Bible is dismissive of our fears. It's not saying 'oh don't have fears' because fear is pretty instinctive. When I'm standing at the edge of a cliff, fear is a right response. Fear actually protects me at that point.
But fear can come from other places too. How about FOMO? Fear of not getting what I want out of life. Fear of my children not turning out like I had hoped. Fear of not keeping up with my peers financially. Fear of not being sure if I can cope with what I'm having to give up. Fear of failing when I'm usually pretty successful. Fear of losing control.
In Matthew 14:25-31 we read the (kind of bizarre) story of when Jesus walks on water.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. 'It’s a ghost they said and cried out in fear.'
But Jesus immediately said to them ‘Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid’.
‘Lord if it’s you, Peter replied, tell me to come to you on the water’ ‘Come’ he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out ‘Lord save me!’
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, ‘you of little faith’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’
I'm interested in Peter in this story. I can see how Peter so truly wants to trust Jesus. Jesus has already shown Peter and the other disciples his power. Power over nature and death and sickness and food and powerful people. In his head Peter knows what Jesus is capable of. So he walks out of the boat believing that Jesus can get him there.
But then "he saw the wind" and got scared. And sinks. Jesus ask Peter why he didn't have more faith. Not that Peter should have tried harder, but why didn't he believe that Jesus could help him get there?
When the winds and waves of life overwhelm us (and those around us) we have to look to Jesus. Why do we often take our eyes off Jesus? Well, every other message in this world tells us that only we are the masters of our destiny. That only we have control over our futures. Later on in the gospel story Jesus asks Peter why he follows him and Peter responds, "Where else do we have to go?". It is only Jesus who has the words of eternal life, it is only Jesus who has the power to give us a future beyond this life. And it is only Jesus who has power to take away our fear.
More on my journey with fear here