What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come true. Job 3:25.
My wife has an outsized fear of snakes. It’s technically called ophidiophobia. I have assured her that there are good snakes like black snakes that help control the rodent population. It hasn’t helped. As she says, “the only good snake is a dead snake”. I think it is funny; she thinks it is very unfunny.
Young children have a fear of the dark (nyctophobia). As a parent, you know that the dark isn’t something to fear, but your child isn’t convinced, which is why you put “night lights” in their room. They grow out of it.
Fear is an emotion. Everyone has it within them to be fearful. It’s part of the package of being human. On a recent Zoom, a friend of mine said: “The biggest problem we have is fear.” That says a lot.
We live in unusual times where a pandemic disrupted our lives overnight, not necessarily for the better. We have learned to social distance, wear masks, and stay isolated from others to avoid getting COVID. Family events like holidays and vacations were postponed and normal activities altered. Many have lost jobs.
Another friend said that fear was basically a concern of losing control. The next generation already was highly anxious before the pandemic, more so than previous generations. Millennials joined the job market in the 2008 recession. Not good timing. It took them a long time to get jobs and move out from their parents’ homes.
Millennials were often brought up by parents who protected them from difficult things, and they were shortchanged on developing resiliency. They haven’t faced adversity which is a valuable commodity today. They fear failure.
Gen Z is learning to live with school restrictions which often means virtual classes instead of in-class teaching. They were already isolated due to social media. Social distancing and virtual classes only have made it worse.
They are watching world events unfold in ways not imagined by previous generations. It seems that events and trends are happening at warp speed instead of over decades. The pace of change has increased.
When I talk to my friends, both Christian and others, all have described a sense of fear, often the fear of the unknown or of circumstances that they can’t control. It’s epidemic today and it may last beyond the pandemic.
As believers, we actually have an antidote. We have the ability to paint a picture of what your life is going to look like. It’s a form of self-realization, and studies consistently show that it works.
Paul even suggests it in Philippians where he exhorts us to fill our minds with positive thoughts – “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy.” “Think on these things.” Not a negative thought in the list.
A friend of mine used to call negative thinking (including fear) “stinking thinking”. He had a point. Most of our fears are about worldly things – our physical self, our finances, our health, our success (or lack thereof), or a challenge that we face.
As believers, it is easy to let yourself be afraid of life. I faced fear head-on several years ago when financial setbacks took me to the brink of bankruptcy. I feared financial disaster and the loss of possessions. Even more, I feared the scorn of my peers for my failure. I was afraid of what others might think.
A watershed moment occurred when I sat down with my wife who put it in perspective. She asked me: “What is the worst thing that could happen?” My list of “worst” cases included losing our house, our possessions, bankruptcy, etc.
She nodded her head and said no matter what happens to us financially, we had our faith in God, each other, our kids, and our friends. No financial set back could take those away.
I began to rely on God to get me through it. I was unable, in my own strength, to solve financial problems. God wanted me to get to a point of dependence on Him, not on myself.
When a financial bump in the road hit such as getting a letter from the IRS that I owed money beyond my ability to pay, it became a game to see how God was going to solve it. I remember praying “OK God, this one is in your court to solve because I have no chance to do it on my own.”
We got through the tough times, sometimes with some almost miraculous events which provided resources from unplanned and unexpected sources. I learned to visualize a positive result but only because I could see God’s hand in the outcome.
It was a lesson in overcoming my fear of losing control. That’s where many are today. If that is your situation, you can learn to depend on God in ways you haven’t expected.
The challenge is that losing your fear and depending on God may be harder said than done. But if you are willing to let go and let God work, you will be in a better place. As the Proverbs 3:5 notes, lean not on your own understanding.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: The next generation is consumed by fears – often of the unknown. They need help in seeing that being in control all the time is impossible, and that reliance on God is one solution that they may not have thought about.
RESOURCES: A Bible study on overcoming fears – Zach Williams
WORSHIP: Fear is a Liar – Song by Zach Williams
MentorLink: For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.
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