Scared and Ready to Run

Article by Tom Gilbert

There are a lot of scary things in life. I’m not referring just to “monsters under the bed and things that go bump in the night”, although to a young child that can be truly frightening. The very real acts of terrorism, continuing warfare around the globe and a spate of recent natural disasters are enough to make anyone want to pull the covers over their head.

What causes our fear? Almost always it can be traced to our concern that we can’t face up to something. It doesn’t have to be a global catastrophe. More often it’s the fear that grips us over sudden illness, a new job or commitment in a personal relationship – the list for each of us is lengthy.

Do Not Be Afraid

It’s interesting that the Bible records many instances of the Divine breaking into our world and how overcome with fright are the people who experience it. Trembling and even fainting away are common reactions. Inevitably words of reassurance follow. The most frequent term is “do not be afraid”. A search in the NIV translation reveals over 80 uses of these comforting words, beginning with Genesis and continuing right through to the last book of the New Testament (Revelation). Clearly God does not want us to be afraid of Him.

Still, we often are scared and ready to run when confronted by things we don’t understand (like God) and certainly when experiencing any supernatural occurrence. It reminds me of little children or pets. You want to assure them of your love, but in their fear all they want to do is flee. The problem has been magnified by the wrong teaching that we better behave and be good or God’s going to get us!

Seeking Us

Despite our constant fears God seems to be going out of His way to seek us. That certainly contradicts the opinions of those who believe that God is distant, removed and impersonal.

I’m still surprised at how often I’m afraid to face things. Even with a belief in a loving God and trusting in His mercy, forgiveness and grace I will still live in fear. This fear can even be low-level and subconscious. I won’t outwardly act fearful, but I’ll avoid confronting a need to change behavior, make amends or give my problems to God.

I’ve found that sitting quietly with the fear can be helpful. That may seem illogical. In actuality, this practice is not a way to torture yourself with your fears. Instead of staying in the fear you can experience it and let go of it. Sometimes we just have to feel the fear before we can become free of it. The internal struggle to run from it may be strong, but if you persist you may discover the power of that fear slowly dissolves. Of course, this is possible only when you let go of the fear and turn it over to a God that assures you that with Him there is nothing to fear. Protection, love and grace are available to give you the strength to face those fears.

Two psalms drive home the importance of trusting in God and not being afraid. The psalmist in 56:11 states, “in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6 similarly assures, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” There is nothing that can happen — not ill fortune, sickness, depression or even death that God cannot help us with.

Still, we have our running shoes on

Paul, the earnest apostle and evangelist of the early church, used the running analogy, but rather than running away he emphasized the importance of running towards the goal and finishing the race (Acts 20:24, Philippians 3:12-14, 2 Timothy 4:7).

I’d really like to be completely free of fear. I sense I never will be, but I have hope of it not ruling my life. The more I become willing to trust in God (and His messengers like friends, family, neighbors and strangers) the easier it is to stem the urge to run away. Instead, I can turn and face the music.

You’ve probably experienced some near misses in your life, such as swerving just in time to avoid an oncoming vehicle. Later, when the adrenaline has subsided and you relate your close call there is laughter. It’s the relief and realization that what you feared was the worst was avoided. It’s not just those close calls. When time heals the wounds of a once devastating event you might be surprised to see God’s comfort came to you and you learned and grew from that hardship.

Is the world a scary place? Sometimes. It’s also beautiful. We can be timid or bold. Jesus said don’t be concerned. Essentially he told us not to sweat the small stuff and that most of what happens is tiny indeed when viewed from a heavenly perspective.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.

NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® and NIV® are registered trademarks of International Bible Society. Use of either trademark for the offering of goods or services requires the prior written consent of International Bible Society.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL 60189, USA. All rights reserved.

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