Finding Hope in Fear
Finding Hope in a culture of fear….
Advent is all about hope. The first climax of history is the coming of Jesus, the words of the Angels to the shepherds, the words of the Wise men to the young family – all of these resonate with Hope. This final episode began months earlier with the conception of John the Baptist, and then the announcement to Mary that the day long awaited was at hand. Hope everywhere – Elizabeth’s words to Mary, Zechariah’s canticle, in the words of Anna and Simeon in the Temple. Words of hope and joy greeted this child at every turn. It was a new era dawning, filled with hope.
Hope’s adversary was alive and well. Herod was out to kill and extend his reputation that he, the King, was to be feared. He did just that with all the male children in Bethlehem 2 years and younger. Joseph took his little family to Egypt for several years and they lived as refugees. They returned after Herod had died, and his threats with him.
But today, fear has been both weaponized and commercialized by the enemy of our souls and is one of his major tools. Give fear a foothold in your heart, and the enemy will be happy to leverage that into a permanent part of your world. With the advent of the extensive horror movie genre and the ‘zombie culture’, fear is an ongoing aspect of daily cultural life. Recent political campaigns have capitalized on this and made it very clear just how powerful a motivator fear can be.
Our son and his family live in Thousand Oaks, California. They actually live in the same neighborhood as the shooter (recall the recent tragic event). That was an incredibly hard day for them as a community. Then at 3:30 the next morning, the fire department was knocking on their door telling them to evacuate immediately because the Woolsey fire was doubling in size every 30 minutes. We’ll admit that our heart rates were beating faster than normal those days. We were texting back and forth that morning but there was nothing to do except to pray – and the phrase ‘pray without ceasing’ came alive in our life experience during those days.
We feel certain that because there is almost no fear that is in our lives day to day, it could not get hold of us in those circumstances. Because we live in hope of God’s love for us every day, that is where we stayed throughout this time, firmly planted in hope. We prayed, yes, but with expectancy and certainty that all would be well. They were safe at his in-laws house in Van Nuys 25 miles away, and their house was in God’s hands. Four days later they moved back home, and their neighborhood was saved by a combination of the wind direction and some very spunky hills a half mile behind their house. The fire could not climb the hill against the wind – even as fear cannot take hold when the Holy Spirit breathes hope into us.
The scriptures are clear. In Luke 1 as Gabriel appears to Mary, he says “do not be afraid” (sometimes translated as “fear not”). When Jesus appeared to the women in the garden in Mt. 28 he said the same thing “do not be afraid.” The same phrase is spoken by the angels to the shepherds in Luke 2. So it would seem that when encountering a celestial being for the first time, a natural response is instinctual fear. Facing the unknown, safety threatened, the body’s automatic response is an adrenalin rush that can motivate quick action to gain (or regain) safety.
We’ve all experienced it. Sudden, unexpected threats and our body pumps adrenalin into our blood, enabling action. I (Tom) was once taken hostage at gunpoint in a pharmacy by a guy who had just robbed a nearby bank – only to realize that his getaway car driver had panicked and left without him. I was 29 years old, and my wife and baby daughter were in the car outside. He wanted my car keys, and I told him I had walked. Then a police car drove up, the officer jumped out, weapon drawn, and shots were fired. He dragged me, gun to my head around the police car. He released me for just a moment and pointed the gun at the cop. Without thinking, I took two steps and dove over the top of a parked vehicle nearby. I cleared it easily, landing on the other side. I flew 15 to 17 feet through the air, over the top of that car. That was an adrenalin response.
Fear is full of negative energy and a strong motivator. The culture is stuck there. Fear and hate are natural companions. What does love have to say here? Love is also a motivator, full of energy, but instead of instant, short term negative energy it is constant positive energy. The author of this design is God himself, who is steady, reliable, and who has an endless supply of Love. His love is Love. Please note, Love and hope are also natural companions.
Living in fear, addicted to the adrenalin it brings, is the way of death. The political system will disappoint you, the economy will fail again at some point, education might open doors, but you must walk through them on your own. Only sustained hope can help you do that. Change is a part of life, and living in fear or dread of it is pointless. Accept it with hope and see how God can use it.
Living a life of sustained hope means releasing your fear to the Spirit of God. Only then can you go forward by living into his love for you every day, one day at a time. That is the key phrase – one day at a time. You might want to be afraid of tomorrow, but don’t be. He has already been there and knows what tomorrow will bring your way. His promise is to be with you – always, every day, through all the ‘every days’ that will ever be.
Fear is the tool of the enemy of our souls, and it is only nullified and made powerless when confronted by God’s love. “Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope.”
Rom 15:13, Passion Translation.
Tom & Lorita Boyle