FEARS — COMMON BUT UNNECESSARY

Fear.  We all have things that we are afraid of, and many of them are legitimate. Chapman University has begun an annual study of American fears, and the results from the second annual survey that have recently been released.  The random survey questions cover 88 fears in various categories, such as crime, economic, environment, government, illness, claustrophobia, public speaking, and even questions about clowns.  

They found that in 2016 Americans were most afraid of “Corrupt Government” by a whopping 60.6%  The next closest fear was of a “Terrorist Attack” which bore a percentage of 41% with “Not having enough money for the future” coming in as number 3 with a percentage of 39.9%.  

Clearly, our world is full of fearful things, and this has been true throughout all of history. There have always been tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, severe ice storms, etc. Then, too, some of the things that mankind is capable of today were not dreamed of 1000 years ago, or even just 100 years ago, but even then there were fearful things.  Consider the 1st Century Christians and the persecution under Nero or the harm done to Christians in the Middle Ages, or even more recently, to the persecution of Christians in many countries of our world today.  These are fearful times.

But, sometimes, looking back on our fears, we laugh at how we could have been frightened at all.  For example, we watch the original television Star Trek series now, 50 years after its original airing in 1966, and we wonder how we could have been frightened by the special effects in that program!  They are now so “cheesy” to us, but then I well remember being glued to my chair in fear that Captain Kirk was going to be vaporized! 

My Grandmother was beyond fearful and well into terrorized when she lost track of me while she was babysitting when my parents were at some appointment away from the house.  She was from a small town in Wisconsin and we lived in the big city of Chicago. 

chicago-downtown-from-prudential-building-circa-1960

Downtown Chicago. This picture was taken from the top of the Prudential Building, “Top of the Rock”, in the early 1960s.

 

She was uncomfortable in such a large city and she just “knew” that there were evils hidden around every corner.  One problem she had was that she remembered that the infamous gangster Al Capone lived in Chicago, and when my parents returned home, they found her in the middle of the street, screaming my name, crying that Al Capone had kidnapped me.  (Actually, he had been dead for about 4 years at this point, but that was irrelevant to Grandma.)  I had simply walked away from the house with my puppy and had gone to a house around the corner to show my friend’s Grandmother my puppy.  She invited me in for cookies and I was watching the Howdy Doody Show on TV unaware that Grandma was in the street screaming.

Fears can cripple us from rational thinking.  They are disabling and they damage our lives in ways that are too numerable to count.  Fears of flying, fears of spiders, fears of going outside, fears of being in large crowds, fears of high places, fears of being in small spaces.  The number of fears is too great to count because they are the fabrication of our own minds and each of us are unique.

Certainly there are fears that are normal.  If we are in the woods and are bitten by a poisonous snake, we need to take immediate action to remedy the problem.  But the fear of potentially being bitten by poisonous snakes should not stop us from enjoying God’s creation in nature, and even in the woods.

Scripture has quite a bit to say about fear.  In Isaiah 35:3-4 we read:

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.  Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of   God. He will come and save you.”

In Joshua 1:9, God is directing Joshua in how he is to lead the people after Moses’ death.  God says:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

This peace and lack of fear is available for the believer in Jesus Christ and in our God, as is seen by David’s psalm:

Even though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

I suggest that the ultimate antidote to fear is found in Romans 8:28, 38-39:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. … For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Read that again – NOTHING will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

God is omnipotent and omniscient … He is all powerful and all knowing.  Therefore, He not only knows what is going to happen to us, He has it in His control.  His purposes will be fulfilled even if they are difficult for us to understand and to live through.  We have to have faith that our Heavenly Father will not put more on us than we can handle (although at times in my life I have thought that perhaps He had more confidence in me than I had).  During the rough times in my life, I have rested on Paul’s comment about his own “thorn in the flesh”:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9.

Fears – yes, we all have them.  But thanks be to God they don’t have to be disabling.  No, we are more than conquerors through Christ who saved us.  When we are weak, then God is strong through us.  When we are afraid, He will give us courage.  God has promised that His grace is sufficient for us, no matter what the trial might be. 

Listen to the song “Perfect Peace” as sung on the album Scripture Memory Songs – Overcoming Anxiety.  The words are taken from Scripture and provide balm for troubled hearts. 

And the peace of God which passeth all understanding  shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7 [KJV]

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. 

Isaiah 26:3 [KJV]

Father, I pray that these words from your Word will provide comfort and blessing to those who read them and that Your perfect peace will rest and abide on us even during tumultuous times because we have confidence that You are in control. 

DOCTORS, HOSPITALS, PETS AND FEARS

Cuddles and Snickers are at the doctor’s office today.  Normally they are in the family room, balancing on the recliner while looking out the window through the blind slats … not at all sure what they can see, but they are intent.

But today, they are at the vet’s office for their various shots, tests, nail clipping and baths.  While it sounds routine, it is anything but routine for Cuddles.

Apparently, at some time in her past, she was abused in and around her paws.  When she first arrived at our home, we tried clipping her nails and could not get her to hold still.  She violently pulled back — never snapped, but clearly was terrified.

She is not terrified to look out the bedroom window at the birds feeding just a couple of feet away.  So we don’t know what caused her terror at having her claws clipped.

I see you, birdies; I just don't want to get out there, that's all!
I see you, birdies; I just don’t want to get out there, that’s all!

So, we did what anyone would do, we took her to the groomer’s and asked them to clip her nails.  They were successful in “grinding” some of them, but could not get all of them done and none of her claws were significantly shorter than when we left her for the grooming.  And, again, she was clearly terrified.

Cuddles with her long nails
Cuddles with her long nails

Next stop on the journey for reducing nail length was the veterinarian.  Surely, with all the staff, equipment, etc., he will be able to clip her nails and we will be on our way.  Cuddles disappeared into the back of the animal hospital with the smiling vet carrying her, assuring us that it would be a simple task for them.  [You can read into his expression “You poor guys, can’t even get the dog to hold still for a minute!  We’ll take care of it.]

About 8 minutes later, a very harried vet returns carrying Cuddles — nails are no shorter and he is significantly humbled by the strength of our little MinPin.  And, as per previous encounters, she is clearly terrified.

“We were not able to calm her sufficiently to do the job.”   He then said that our only option was to bring her back on another day and have him operate on her … just put her under anesthesia for about 10 minutes and they would clip and cauterize her nails.  She would not be declawed as that is not a good thing for a dog, but the nails would be very short and it would take several months for them to grow.  Of course, the operation costs money, as does the anesthesia, treatment, etc. and it would be an, almost, all day affair for her.  We had this as one option — the other option was to have our limbs shredded when our skin comes in contact with her paws.

Needless to say, we have taken her to get her “nails done” today so that when we bring her home she will no longer shred our legs with Samurai sword claws when she jumps up onto our lap.

We don’t know what terrified her so much when it comes to her feet.  She has been with us almost two years and there certainly has not been anything here to foster that kind of reaction, but it matters not because her fear is visceral and there is no way to prepare her for the normal clipping procedure.

So, is this post about our travails with Cuddles nails?  Yes, but just a bit.

I want Cuddles’ experience to cause us to consider what terrifies us.  I am fairly confident that there is something in each of our lives that has hurt us, burned us, or abused us whether the injury is physical, psychological, mental or emotional.

When I was a very young child, I had polio and it resulted in scoliosis that showed up before I started school. Because the doctors warned that the severity of the curve would claim my life by the time I was 25, my parents opted for experimental treatment that involved spinal fusion surgery and over a year in a body cast.  I turned 10 years of age after surgery and 6 months in bed in a body cast that went from my head to my knee.   The Lord was gracious, the scoliotic twist was not cured but it was halted, and I was able to live a normal life, including having two children.

I tell you this to say that, even though I credit the Lord as the Great Physician and his messengers, my human doctors, for sparing my life, the horrors of the treatment and body cast were imprinted on my heart and mind.  But, I never thought of them until a doctor suggested that one of my children might have scoliosis.  All at once my greatest fear was staring me in the face.  All the memories that I thought were gone came crashing down and I was wailing, sobbing and utterly drained.

My beloved husband kept repeating that decades had passed since my surgery and the traumas that were associated with it, but I could almost touch my fear it was so real.  I had to come to the point where I could say, truthfully, that my children were the Lord’s and that, if He wanted them to go through this, I had faith in Him that He loved my children even more than I did and that He would handle the situation according to His plan for them, and for me.   As it turned out, there was no scoliosis diagnosis from any orthopedic or neurosurgeon specialist and the children are now adults, both of whom tower over me in height!

Cuddles trusts us — she, in her own doggie way, knows we would not intentionally harm her.  But her trust is not sufficient to overcome the fear that some other event had imprinted on her psyche.

Cuddles and I are different; however, because while my fear knocked me down, it could not overcome my Lord and Savior. He is sovereign and trustworthy, and I am in His hands.

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” 

Psalm 9:10

We are repeatedly admonished in Scripture to trust the Lord.  For example, the Psalmist compares objects of trust in Psalm 20:7 where he affirms:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

And, the writer of Proverbs says:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

The God that is described in the Old Testament as being trustworthy is the same God we serve in the New Testament body of Christ.  The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 13:8 that:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

So, who do you trust when you come face to face with your fears?  Do you trust in human wits, Oprah, psychology, or tabloid suggestions? Or do you trust the Creator of the Universe, the omniscient, omnipresent God who sent His Son to be our Savior?

May we say, along with the prophet Isaiah:

“Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” 

Isaiah 26:4.

Father, forgive me for the myriad of times when I let my fears and insecurities rise to the surface so that they distract me from living my life in victory in the power of your Son through your Holy Spirit.  I praise you for being an everlasting rock upon whom we can trust.  I praise you, also, that you have never forsaken me even when I have tried to run and when my fears turned my eyes away from your beloved Son.  Thank you for your overwhelming love and protection, despite my fears.