If Fear was a stock, I would buy up shares with every spare cent that I could. Not because I believe in the value of its product, but because I believe in its popularity. I have no time traveled, so I cannot test this theory, but I can’t help but imagine that we live in a particularly and peculiarly fearful time. And it’s getting tiring.
I have written before that I have faced my own problems with anxiety. I’m a worrier, an imaginative, creative worrier. If my wife is late because she is with friends, I am figuring out how I’m going to shuttle the kids to school AND work now that, obviously, she is dead. Anxiety is an enemy I am well-acquainted with. I do not wrestle with it as badly as many people I know, but bad enough that I thought I was going to die that one time. So I’m not writing this because of my placid interior life.
I’m simply tired of so many arguments being levered by fear. Everything that people are wanting me to do or buy or believe or vote is driven by a narrative of fear. Or so it seems. Have you noticed this emotional sauce that’s squirted on every idea?
Health food: SUGAR AND GLUTEN AND GMO’S ARE KILLING YOUR FAMILY WITH THE HELP OF THE SINISTER FOOD OVERLORDS AND GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT.
Vaccines (pro): IF YOU DON’T VACCINATE YOUR CHILD, THE MUMPS WILL RIP THEIR REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS OUT AND STERILIZE THEM IMMEDIATELY.
Vaccines (con): THERE’S SO MUCH MERCURY IN VACCINES THAT YOU WILL LITERALLY TURN INTO A HUMAN THERMOMETER AND BESIDES, ALL THOSE DISEASES BEING INJECTED WILL DEFINITELY GIVE YOU FOUR OR FIVE BRAIN INJURIES.
Childhood safety: NEVER LET YOUR CHILDREN SLEEP OUTSIDE OF YOUR SIGHT BECAUSE EVERY SINGLE CHILD IS IN DANGER AT ALL TIMES.
Conservative politics: HILLARY IS THE WORST EVAR AND WILL KILL ALL THE CHRISTIANS AND THE SUPREME COURT JUSTICES SHE WILL APPOINT WILL WALK INTO YOUR HOUSE AND ABORT YOUR BABY WITHOUT ASKING.
Progressive politics: TRUMP IS THE WORST EVAR AND HE WILL ERADICATE EVERYONE EXCEPT WHITE MEN AND FIVE OF THEM WILL HAVE ALL THE WEALTH IN THE COUNTRY WHICH THEY WILL COUNT USING THE POORS AS TABLES.
I could go on and on. Everything is couched in the wildest terms. And none of it, seemingly, is using the good as the marker or the measuring stick. Everything seems to be measured against the worst possible scenario happening. If you don’t want [insert doomsday scenario], then you better [do/buy this].
My social media feeds are filled with this kind of things. And I’m sick of it.
Look, all of these things are important. Elections are important. Safety and health are important. I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about these things. I’m alarmed by political candidates that I see (both major presidential candidates, to be clear [sorry, Bernie people… I think the math means that dream has died]). I want to be sure that I’m eating healthy stuff and that my kids are, too (except on pizza night). I want my family to be safe. I think about those things and I take them seriously.
But the narrative of impending doom is exhausting. It’s the constant high pitched hum of our lives. I’m sick of the squeal.
Even our longings are being couched in fear. We curate our lives for our followers and friends and… whatever Snapchat connections are called. We are afraid to be seen in all our grittiness. Or not gritty enough. Or whatever. And then we watch people’s curated lives and we are afraid that we are missing out or not living up to it all. So even our positive aims have the constant undercurrent of fear, fear, fear, FEAR.
Humans have always been afraid. It helps to keep you alive. But now I think the Fear is a little bit different. People use to be afraid of the woods and dying by unseen beasts. Now I think people are afraid of being alive.
I’ve been contemplating how to detach from technology more and more. I like being connected to friends, near and far. I really do. I’m getting to the point, though, where I’m tired of this kind of constant input. I’m tired of the constant noise of fear. It really is exhausting. Truly. I’m tired of being afraid for my kids. Or for my country. Or human civilization. I care about all of those things that are endangering us. I want to think about those things and act wisely. I’m growing concerned that our technology is getting in the way of wisdom.
When fear balloons out of control, there is little room for the Good. I want to have space to long, to year, to love, and to hope. Joy has something to say to us, something to teach us about living. And when we devote all of our emotional bandwidth to being afraid, we are simply too tired to give ourselves over to what is Good and Bright and Beautiful.
The frantic fear that buzzes all around makes me so grateful for Jesus. I’m a man given to fear. I live in an environment where Fear breeds and reigns. I’m grateful that in the midst of the whirlwind, there is a whisper. There is the solidity of a Jesus who insists that He is King and is not worried about the challengers, the pretenders. When I start to wobble under the power of Fear’s proximity (which is only a few times an hour, I should say), I can turn around and cling to Jesus and hear it again.
“I’ll never leave you.”
Because that’s the antidote to it all, isn’t it? There are really and truly scary things in the world. Go read Donald Trump tweets and then read the ordinary twitter-folks who love him and retweet him and their simmering rage boiling for all to see (and yes, there’s scary liberal stuff too). Go read something about how food production is so different than any time in history, for better or worse. Go read about the terribly creative predators out there looking to hurt children. All of those scary things are really and truly out there.
But when you stack up all of those things and measure them against Jesus… the power imbalance is corrected. All of those things are scary and real. But “do not fear the one that can destroy the body. Fear the one who can destroy the body and the soul.” Suddenly, to be afraid of all those lesser things is to silently say, “Jesus is smaller than I thought.”
Jesus is bigger than we think, though. He’s bigger and better. The messy, scary things are real. They can really hurt. We should care about them. We should engage. We don’t have to retreat into the hills. We shouldn’t. But we should make much more space in our heart for the source of all Goodness, the source of true Beauty and Love. We should turn our allegiance from the terrible dictator that is Fear and instead give ourselves over to the awe-some King of Love. There’s always something more powerful than whatever terrifying Fear we face.
“I’ll never leave you.”
How can we be afraid?