A couple months ago I bought a book for my six year old son called Phobiapedia. The book teaches and illustrates the various phobias humans struggle with like arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and acrophobia (fear of heights). My son and I were both fascinated as we read together about koniophobia (fear of dust) and xanthopobia (the fear of the color yellow). We then had a discussion about our own fears. Kameron fears sleeping alone…I don't really think so, I think this is his way of trying to con me into staying longer after story time. I shared with him my fear of bees after having attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets when I was about nine years old.
Our short study on fears caused me to think more broadly about how fear affects our society. Many, many people are trapped in lives of fear. We demonstrate our fear of terrorists by refusing to use the airlines or if we do fly, we are subjected to the humility of going through airport security where fear of terrorism has driven TSA officials to insanity. They don't look for people, they look for things. They search us for tooth picks and aerosol cans. They their fearful irrationality by frisking 90 year old women and strip searching 9 year old children.
We are fearful of the criminal element in our society. Some live behind doors that have five or six dead locks installed in them. Gun sales are skyrocketing because people are feeling insecure. Fear is driving us to arm ourselves.
We have become obsessed with our health or our lack thereof. Millions are preoccupied by one diet after another and millions more spend most of their non-working hours in gymnasiums trying to defy the aging process and delay that which is certain for all, death. I'm sure you know a few hypochondriacs in your circle. Many are disillusioned by their fear of disease. They seek treatment for a disease when they actually suffer from an anxiety disorder. More than 50% of Americans are taking a drug to treat some chronic condition. (Medco Health Solutions) Fear can cause us to become dysfunctional or non-functional.
In a recent decade (1994-2005) the U.S. population increased 9% while the number of medical prescriptions increased 71%. At a time when American scientists and physicians are making tremendous advances in medical knowledge and technology, in a time when we are learning the latest treatments that have made us to be some of the healthiest people in history, in an age when we are being educated about what is harmful and unhealthy, ironically, we are addicted to prescription drugs. What part is fear playing in all of this?
Let us be reminded that all fear is not bad. I want to feel fear when I am walking on the peak of the roof or when I come face to face with a rattle snake. Fear is a protective mechanism that may very well save our lives many times over.
But I believe destructive fear is a controlling spirit released from hell by the Father of Lies to torment us. There are no boundaries to what we can be fearful of. We can even be fearful of fear itself. This is called phobophobia. We fear darkness, we fear pain, and we fear vomiting. Some people walking on the earth today are fearful of looking up so they walk with their heads downward. We fear germs, dirt and dentists. The fear of making decision is called decidophobia. Many suffer from snakophobia and I have taught many high school students who have suffered from testophobia. Some of our church pews will be empty next Sunday because some people suffer from ecclesiophobia, the fear of church.
We are a culture saturated by fear. Fear has become a slave master to some of us, controlling our every thought and action. The spirit of fear is nothing new for there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9) John addressed the issue over 2,000 years ago when he wrote, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…" (1 John 4:1) We can conquer our fears by recognizing the source of all destructive fear. It is Satan himself. This is no threat to those who are Christians because John also said, "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)
Fear cannot be overcome with fear. It must be overcome with boldness. It may be necessary to courageously confront our enemy. We must first realize that Satan is not a fictional character, he is real. Christians discover fearlessness when they realize that Satan is a defeated foe. Christ assured us of his defeat: "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Col. 2:15)
We need not be paralyzed by our fear "for the battle is the LORD's" (1 Sam. 17:47) When fear creeps in to haunt us there is a place for you to run where you will find protection and security. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous runs into it and is safe." (Prov. 18:10)