There was a lady who died in 1916 her name was Hetty Green. I mention the year to emphasise the fact that when she died she left an estate valued at $100 million. But she was so miserly that she ate cold oatmeal in order to save the expense of heating the water. When her son had a severe leg injury, she took so long trying to find a free clinic to treat him that his leg had to be amputated because of advanced infection. I am sure she was worried about losing her wealth, fearful that she would lose it, but I am also sure that she didn’t enjoy her life!
Everyone knows what it’s like to be afraid. We all have things that we’re afraid of. I can remember as a child being afraid of the dark – a fear I think we have all had at one time or another. For some it’s definitely got to be spiders!! For others it may be thunder and lightning, an heights, flying, or dogs.
It is really amazing all the things we fear. Here’s a list I on found on the Internet. Does anybody know what —
Peladophobia is? It is the fear of baldness.
Porphyrophobia –fear of the colour of Purple
Chactophobia- fear of hairy people
Cyberphobia – fear of computers
Ecclesiophobia – fear of the Church
Homilphobia – fear of Sermons
Phobophobia – Fear of Fear (That’s for those who can’t think of anything else to fear.)
There are hidden fears that motivate us too – Fear of failure causes many people to never start, or try anything that is not completely safe. Fear of rejection makes us afraid to do anything that could draw criticism or give someone a chance to laugh at us. Sometimes we don’t get involved in service because of fear: I can’t teach a Sunday School class, I can’t help in the creche, I could never be a minister or a missionary, I can’t sing in the singing group, I can’t share my testimony…Fear can keep us from serving God.
I could go on and on talking about fears and phobias and in the course of naming these different fears we’d probably find that all of them fall into two kinds of fear.
Firstly, fear that is good – keeps us from driving 200mph, picking up a snake, jumping off the side of a building, or other foolish things that you can think of… and fear that is harmful. This is the “spirit of fear” mentioned in this passage. This fear paralyzes us, keeps us from doing things we could or should do.
This passage gives us insight on “Overcoming Fear”.
The background to Lamentations is the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC, followed by the exile to Babylon, or flight into Egypt, of all the leaders of Jewish society. To the Jews, this was more than simply the physical destruction of their capital city and the emasculation of their leadership, calamitous enough as that was; they interpreted it much more deeply as the end of all that made them distinctive, and left them open to absorption by the pagan tribes by which they were surrounded.
So no wonder the first of our passages reads like a shriek of agony from a devastated and abandoned soul:
No one comes to the Temple now to worship on the holy days.
The girls who sang there suffer, and the priests can only groan.
The city gates stand empty, and Zion is in agony.
How often have we had to watch in helpless horror as we have seen and heard such cries in our day? From the suffering peoples of Syria, of Israel/Palestine, of Somalia, to name but three countries where people are, or have recently been, torn apart in such devastating ways by invading or occupying powers or by internal conflict?
For the exiled Israelites, Psalm 137, with its well-known first verse:
By the rivers of Babylon we sat down;
there we wept when we remembered Zion
It was an anguished attempt to put into words what it felt like to be so lost and abandoned by God.
For people of faith, this is the hardest thing – to feel abandoned by God. Habakkuk the prophet shakes his fist at God, and demands:
“God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen?”
How many times do I have to yell,’Help! Murder! Polis!’ before you come to the rescue?”
We Christians have not been that good at expressing our fear, our feeling of abandonment, giving ourselves permission to shout and rail at God when God seems to have completely left us, and all is totally gone to pot. Yet this very human feeling is right there in our Bible – and of course it is there at the central point of the story we tell ourselves over and over again every Lent, when Jesus lets out that great cry of abandonment as he hangs on the Cross.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Of course, as well as abandonment and anger, there is always hope. In Lamentations 3 the writer says:
“Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing:
The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue,
Fresh as the morning, sure as the sunrise.
The Lord is all I have, and so I put my hope in him.
The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him,
So it is best for us to wait in patience –
To wait for him to save us.”
And this hope – this encouragement to wait in patience for God – is reinforced again by Habakkuk when the prophet hears God say to him:
“The time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true.
It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take
place, and it will not be delayed. And this is the message:’ Those who are evil will not survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.’”
What is the basis for real hope in the face of destruction and abandonment and despair? What is this basis, for people of faith – and how can we find a way to share it with the unbelieving world?
The New Testament passage, addresses this issue head on. Paul is in prison, in Rome, expecting soon to be killed for his faith. He writes to Timothy in Ephesus, this remarkable letter, encouraging him to “join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life ..(by) ..the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
This passage emphasizes the apostle’s encouragement of Timothy in his ministry, throwing light on misgivings about the younger companion’s competence which the Letter to the Corinthians elucidates (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10-11). Perhaps Timothy was a somewhat fragile disciple with a low self-image. Perhaps the bishop who authored these Letters to the Corinthians using Paul’s name know of this aspect of the apostle’s relationship with his disciple and used it as the vehicle for encouraging his fellow bishops confronting a serious heretical situation?
Fear and a reticence to witness boldly appear to have a significant place in the background of this passage. But to openly acknowledge one’s faith today can still be a cause for derision in some situations and grave danger in others. Recent reports from Pakistan have revealed that in that predominately Moslem country now embroiled in an international crisis, Christians once more live in fear. In Sudan, similar antipathy between the Arab and Moslem north and the African Christian south brought on a civil war that lasted through the 1990s and still smoulders despite a negotiated peace settlement.
So there is still a place in our day for faithful witness by Christians in even the most dangerous situations.
The Christian basis for hope in face of despair is firmly based on the truly good news that God shares with us in our suffering, and has overcome its power (while not doing away with its reality) in and through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Time and time again – as people of faith standing alongside people facing despair, bereavement, abandonment, whatever – the one thing we have to offer, when all human words fail and the tears just keep on falling, is surely nothing more nor less than the core of our faith, that God suffers too, weeps too, and yet lives in the Risen Christ, present in all his wounded wholeness in our lives and in our world. The hymn we have just sung spells it out.
The great gift of faith is surely this. God, in Christ, has taken on our whole humanness in every aspect, suffering and death included; through the Resurrection, God has overcome the power of suffering and death; and God is now inviting us to follow the way of Christ, to stand as human beings beside our fellow human beings who suffer, and to do our duty by them, whatever that duty may be. God offers us the strength to do that – and simply asks us that we do our work.
So what does God give us to give us strength, to help us overcome our fears?
1. The Gift of Power
a. Power to be saved.
b. Power to be a witness for Him.
c. Power to be Joyful.
d. Power to make us strong believers.
2. The Gift of Love
Love for God
The more we love God, the less fear we will have. It is a matter of trust. When we realize that God will take care of us, it relieves our fear. Think of the children in our community: they don’t worry about having something to eat. They know that when they’re hungry they’ll get food – that parents will provide for them. They trust us. If we didn’t provide for them, they would get worried and it could lead to tremendous trauma and upset and FEAR. But they know that they are loved and that we will provide for them so they aren’t afraid.
Love for others
The more we love others the less fear we will have. Love causes us to overcome our fear for the good of others. Think about Rescue workers , Ambulance drivers, the parent trying to run back into a raging inferno to rescue their child, a soldier braving a hail of bullets to rescue a wounded friend…etc
3. The Gift of a Sound Mind
Most of the time our harmful fears are the result of wrong thinking. But something happens when we are saved and begin to trust God. Our mind is renewed!
When we think Biblically, we have a “sound mind”. When we have a sound mind, fear just doesn’t make sense.
Conquering fear is not a matter of self-determination, it is a matter of dependence on the God whom we can trust and love. It is a matter of belief in His words, His promises, and His gifts to us. It is a matter of recognizing Satan’s pitiful attempts to cripple us with fear and God’s majestic grace in giving us POWER and LOVE and a SOUND MIND.
Let us pray.
Father, your power is greater than all powers.
Son, under your leadership we cannot fear anything.
Spirit, under your protection there is nothing we cannot overcome.