Fear of Death and the Fear of Life

Fear is a crappy friend. It gives you the illusion of protection. Masquerading nobly as “worry,” a character trait that only “good” moms have for their kids…(chief of sinners, yours truly) or the logical and practical thought to plan ahead for the mythological future that doesn’t exist.

I have realized that when I hold onto fear, I believe it can help shield me from the blow of impending doom and tragedy. As if bracing myself in enslaving preparation can reduce the pain I could inevitably experience should my worst fears be realized.

We know, of course, that this isn’t true. Fear tells us how helpful it is only to betray us in the dark night of the soul, releasing us into our deepest pain with no safe place to land.

I’m gonna level with you, living in that space blows.

So we begin to let go. We eventually grow into freedom in Jesus, letting him hold our fears so honorably. Not condemning us for our raw humanity, but experiencing it with us with supernatural empathy. We feel seen, known…free.

Then we begin to feel strength building in our deepest parts. And invigorating flow of life pumping into our souls, readily accepting challenge and getting excited for how this growth is preparing us for God’s best promises over our lives to manifest…

Then suddenly, fear returns. Taunting us. Like the serpent to Eve, “did God REALLY say that his best will be yours?” But maybe it sounds like your own voice within you saying “God gives the biggest challenges to the strongest ones. What if all this strength is now only qualifying me for more pain, because now I’m strong enough to handle it?”

So now we aren’t just fearing death, we are also fearing life.

Yikes. I don’t want to be strong if it means my reward is devastation. The devastation I originally feared.

Remember Job? Wasn’t he offered to satan as this great example of faith and godliness for satan’s worst arrows? Does godliness qualify us for deeper pain? If so, where on earth can we hide from pain? If we shrink back and vainly attempt to protect ourselves through fear, or if we stand strong and trust the hand of our loving Father, pain still finds us.

You can’t hide from pain. You can’t hide from fear for that matter. In weakness or in strength, in sickness or in health, fear will try to undo you. Pain will try to debilitate you. Pain exists because sin does too. Fear exists because the enemy does too.

1 Peter 5:8 “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

Way to sugar coat it, Peter…

It’s 2018. But even Benjamin Franklin knew what I feel the heaviness of when he flatly stated in 1789, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

We look everywhere for certainty.

EV. RY. WHERE.

In government and laws. In consistent schedules. In 9 million health supplements. In personal development books. And all of these things are good. But they aren’t certain. Only Jesus is certain.

Hebrew 13:8 tells us this…

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

Thank God. Things were looking kind of grim…

But there is good news. Jesus overcame the actual worst case scenario. Not just death, but eternal death. It literally could not possibly be any worse that reality.

In John 13, Jesus was preparing his disciples for his final Passover celebration before his death and resurrection. These were heavy times…I always read these chapters in the gospels with a weight in my chest knowing what’s coming… But he washes their feet, including his betrayer’s. He was aware of his forthcoming death and yet he lived with ultimate intention toward those he loved. He exhorts them for the next few chapters, imploring them to not be troubled but to trust him, to trust God the Father, reminding them that he was the only way, the only truth, the only life. Telling them to “just believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” (John 14:11)

He promises the Holy Spirit, he promises those elusive “greater works”, he promises not to abandon them, to reveal himself to them. The NLT says it like this…

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

-John 14:27

Uhhhh…chapter after chapter of Jesus reminding the disciples of how good he is, how much he loved them, how much good he was bringing to them. These are his strong ones. These are the ones GOD HIMSELF poured into daily for years…If anyone has reason to think they are strong and mature in faith, they had more. They had the best discipler of all time walking with them in the flesh. The OG of mentors, if you will. And at the end of this masterful word of prophetic encouragement, Jesus says,

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

-John16:33

I spend so much time both consciously and unconsciously dwelling on how to avoid bad things, bad feelings, fears, the projected emotions in a hypothetical future that doesn’t exist…Literally living as if Jesus hasn’t already overcome all those things. Effectively shutting my heart off from experiencing his presence. A presence that isn’t like the vices of my flesh that grasp for comfort, never satiated, never finding enough relief…

Why do we live like that? Don’t we know? Don’t we see how good He is? Don’t we remember that He will not abandon us? Do you hear the tone in his voice calling us to just believe….He really is that good.

Fear is a distraction from His goodness. Fear and pain are NOT more powerful that his perfect love.

This Easter, wherever you find yourself…full of strength or keenly aware of your profound lack, go read John 13-16. Hear him love you. Look for his promises, his resurrection, his life. And remember that your choice to gird yourself in Him alone doesn’t attract death, it attracts his life, because you are connected to his presence. And in him there is no darkness at all… (1John 1:5)

Don’t get distracted by death. Look for the Resurrection everywhere…

“We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!”

Hebrews 12:2 The Passion Translation

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