There are few things more debilitating than fear.
Fear is gripping. It has hands with long black fingers that coil around our necks like a snake surrounding its prey. It compresses our hearts, leaving us gasping for air, and it lurks behind most everything we do, its long arms reaching up from the hidden depths of our soul to mask itself in worry, stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, pain, and even hatred or malice toward one another.
Why does fear drive so much of what we do and who we are?
My 7-year old daughter Alea was recently having a rough go… She is such a fun and energetic child, but the older she gets, the more I see her artistic, performance-driven nature taking over that childhood carefree joyfulness. She can fall apart when she makes a mistake, crumble in the face of discipline, and lose all hope when something doesn’t come easy to her.
After a few rough days, she said to me, “Mom, I feel like everyone is against me!”
I sat her on my lap, having so much compassion for the struggles she was having… (knowing them all too well myself!) and tried to explain something that related to both of us…
There are two very different worlds that we can live in in our minds, I explained.
One of them is The World of Fear:
Being born into a fallen world, as a depraved human being, with the enemy of our souls ruling and reigning over the earth, we are raised in a world that is governed by fear. It is governed by fear, because it is absent of Love, and fear is the result of a void of love.
If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. (1 John 4:18b, NLT)
In the world of fear, I can feel like everyone is against me. I put up protective walls around my heart, isolating me from others, making community and connection difficult if not impossible. And in the world of fear, there are laws, just like there are laws of nature. If I mess up, I face rejection or a loss of love. My weaknesses, failures, limitations, and mistakes result in feelings of shame or devastating guilt.
When fear takes over the culture of your inner person, love is scarcely found.
But love is something that we need. It is part of our dignity as human beings created in God’s image that we need to live in Love. So here we are, on this precious but depraved earth, with the powers and principalities of darkness reigning over us and within us…
Then, a voice in the distance, echoing from the “third heaven” up above (2 Cor 12:2) that reigns over all, “Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!” (Matt 3:3, NLT). And just as Psalm 18 describes, as the ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path (v.4-5), the God of heaven heard from his sanctuary (v.6). He opened the heavens and came down (v.9)! Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind (v.10). He reached down and pulled us out of deep waters… (v.16). Because of Jesus, we are rescued from the grave, from a world of death and fear, and we have been brought forth into the kingdom of his glorious light, into the World of His LOVE!
The World of Love:
The world in which God reigns, where He is seated on the throne, is governed around His unconditional love. The Agape unconditional love of God operates as both a protective covering above our heads as well as a sure foundation beneath our feet. Where the world of fear has laws of justice that result in guilt and shame, the world of love has a law of justice that results in mercy and forgiveness, because Love has already gone ahead and covered every mistake we will every make… So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, NLT). Where the world of fear breeds a culture of rejection, confusion, and isolation, the world of love breeds a culture of security, peace, and everlasting joy.
And God’s world of unconditional love leaves no room for fear: Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. (1 John 4:18a, NLT)
One Mind. Two Worlds.
In my day to day life, my mind exhibits an entanglement of both worlds… I have both fear and love, darkness and light at work within my thoughts… My default settings tend to reflect the culture and patterns found in the world of fear. They can be stronger if we have had them longer… But God has given me His Son, His Word, and His Spirit, everything I need for godliness (2 Peter 1:3), to draw me into His world of Love.
Still, my soul clings to the dust (Psalm 119:25), and I want to fall back into old patterns all the time! Especially when there is a change or difficulty that comes up in my environment to off-set my footing…
This is the battle of the mind in the process of its renewal, as together we are transformed from depraved human beings into the image of God’s Son, who is Love Himself!
Learn your mind.
Sometimes, I have to admit that I am not aware of my own thoughts. I don’t always know what is lurking beneath the surface of my life, driving my actions and behaviors? But I have to become aware of my thoughts in order to discern whether they are coming from the world of fear or the world of Love, from the Kingdom of darkness in which we have been born and raised, or the Kingdom of Love that has been revealed to us and is trying to break forth from within us…
A few days ago, I marvelled again at how frustrated I can get in the mornings. Getting kids ready for school in the morning can be a mom’s Achilles heel! (Although, bed time can offer a similar result… Maybe it’s just anytime?!) I also noticed, that as a wife (my second time around at this…) I can still get extra frustrated if my husband is (in my mind) available, but still didn’t help. Why? What am I thinking? What am I telling myself in my mind? It took me a long time before I could work down to the bottom of it, but I eventually realized that my anger and hurt, once again, had nothing to do with my family! It was all symptomatic of that same old familiar fear that tells me I am not good enough and not capable of doing it, and therefore no one will love me. For me, I have this old fear that “things” will fall apart in my life because I don’t really have what it takes to be a good mom, a good wife, or just a good human being. And the result of fear is always the loss of love… I fear these things because I will lose love if they are true. Therefore, ultimately, I fear not being loved!
Interesting isn’t it that the thing we often fear the most is not being loved, when fear is the very thing that keeps us from being loved.
These fears, and so many others, drive so many of our thought patterns, actions, and behaviors. But unless we do the work to find them, we cannot dismantle them with truth and replace them with Love.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV).
I was soon living at peace again when I remembered that, I am limited in many ways, (Being human means to be limited. We are not meant to be everything!) – but still, I am something of infinite value. And sometimes, I don’t accomplish near as much as some other moms I know! Still, God knew what He was doing when He created me. I am not supposed to be everything, but I am created to be something! And God is helping me get better and better at that something every day!
God loves us unconditionally! We are His children! And as children, we’re allowed to be limited in certain ways. He’s so proud of us! We just have to keep loving and pressing into Him!!
Knowing this for ourselves allows us to share it with others, which releases us from so much stress, anger, or disappointment in our relationships.
Do the work of assimilation.
David tells us over and over again about His love for the Law. He exhorts us to meditate on His Word day and night (Ps 1:2). He is familiar with the battle of the mind and recognizes the work of choosing the world of Love, assimilating our minds to think in accordance with the culture of God’s Kingdom, overcoming the world of fear in our lives, and then dissipating it by loving others in the world around us.
There is only one way to do this. God has given us everything we need to choose life by choosing Love, but still we are in control of our own minds. We must choose to assimilate our minds to God’s world of Love:
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. (Psalm 119:15, ESV)
Similarly, Paul talks about the principle of sowing and reaping (Gal 6:6). In our minds, we will reap what we sow! If we keep “sowing” fear, we will reap more fear. If we “sow” into Love, we will reap more Love.
This is why Paul tells is in Philippians 4:8-9, NLT:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Who will win?
The next morning, after my talk with sweet Alea, I sent her off to school with a reminder, “Live in the world of Love today, Baby!”
As much as she seemed to benefit from our Mama-daughter moment, it is up to her what she will do with it… Just as it is up to me.
In the battle over your mind, which world will win? Which world are you sowing into? how can you take steps to sow into the world of Love?
As one preacher said, “Fear is faith in the wrong kingdom.” We are putting our faith in one world or the other.
Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord,
your salvation according to your promise;
then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me,
for I trust in your word. (Psalm 119:41-42, ESV)