By Sarah Hemberger
Let’s talk about what scares you. I don’t mean the kind of scared you get when watching those horror movies this time of year or the sudden jolt you feel when someone jumps out and surprises you. No. I’m talking about fear—that deep emotion you cannot avoid, yet struggle to find the courage to address.
Everyone has fears, certainly not all of them the same. Some people fear change while others are fearful when things remain static. Some fear knowledge while others fear ignorance. Some fear death while others fear life. Whatever the fear, it can be paralyzing to the individual experiencing it. Fear is an instigator of anxiety and the initiator of depression. So, what do we do about these unavoidable fears?
The fears we experience are legitimate; they are real, true emotions that should be acknowledged before they consume us. Lack of safety is very high on the list of fears many of us experience.
Just a year ago, leadership in churches came together to discuss ways to calm the fears of their congregations regarding security in the case of an active shooter. Families did not feel safe coming to church without a security plan in place. This year, church leadership continues to discuss ways to calm the fears of the congregation; but the fears have shifted from staying safe from deadly weapons to staying safe from a deadly virus.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the fear of loss has become a devastating reality, whether it be the loss of a business or job, the loss of experiences, the loss of unity, the loss of friendships and marriages, the loss of homes, or the loss of life. Often, loneliness is waiting in the shadows of loss making the reality of isolation even more apparent.
Something many of us fear as well is change. We have been reminded of the realities of injustice in our country this year. Some are afraid of the way their lives will change if injustice is addressed. For others, there is a greater fear that things will once again remain the same and disregard for human life will prevail. Change is difficult but avoiding that which is difficult will not lead to progress.
Fear is a common topic throughout Scripture whether it is fear of being without God, fear of inadequacy, or fear of failure. In 1 Chronicles, chapter 28, we see a father reassuring his son that he can accomplish a difficult task ahead. Perhaps David could see a look of worry on Solomon’s face after presenting him with the task of building the temple of God. David instructed his son: “Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you” (1 Chron. 28: 20 NIV).
Fear is acknowledged over 300 times in Scripture. There is not a need to ask “what are you afraid of” because fear is always present. It does not, however, have to paralyze us. While fear may always be present, Scripture makes it clear that so too is God. Talking about the things we are afraid of may not dissolve the fear, but it reduces its prodding of anxiety. Strength and courage come from acknowledging the fears we experience and putting our faith and hope into an ever-present Lord.
Sarah Hemberger serves as the Associate Minister of Worship and Families at Willow Meadows Baptist Church in Houston, TX. She is working to obtain her M.A. in Christian Ministry from George W. Truett Theological Seminary’s Houston campus.