As we continue to search for good news in this week of horrible events, we have to acknowledge that we as a nation (I think) have never been more afraid than we seem to be right now. Almost every word or action that we've seen on the news is a response to a terrorist attack based solely in fear. We want to feel like everything's ok. We want to feel secure. We want to be protected. And we don't have those things right now.
I'm no expert, but I think the following things are true about fear:
1) Logic takes a back seat. A long time ago, I was driving in some freezing rain and my car started spinning out of control. When I was telling the story to friends afterwords, I noted that when I realized I was spinning, I started to do everything I could think to do, including putting the car into a lower gear. My friend stopped me and asked "Why did you do that?" And the truth of the matter was, I had no earthly idea. When fear enters the scene, even the smartest of us start to loose our sense of logic, our understanding, our reasoning, and we move into a shoot first ask questions later kind of mode.
2) Fear is contagious. The first night we brought the twins home, young Josh didn't sleep a wink, and consequently neither did I. We were up all night long, screaming and crying together. At first I think it was just that he was adjusting to our home as a new environment, a scary prospect to be sure for someone who is only three days old. But then after a while, I'm pretty convinced that he was upset because he could sense that I was upset. I was starting to wonder how we were ever going to do this, questioning whether I would ever see sleep again, and examining why I was so excited that we were going to have twins in the moments that Julian woke up and both of them cried together. In the morning, Sarah's mom came over to help out with the guys, and as soon as Josh was in the arms of a well-rested and sane human being, he went immediately to sleep. Fear, it turns out, is contagious even if we don't say anything. It's way worse when we have a microphone.
3) Fear can be dangerous. We as animals have this inborn fight or flight reflex, meaning that when we're afraid we will either do as I would and take off running, or we will stand and fight until the threat is destroyed. The problem there is that sometimes we fight the wrong threats. Sometimes when we're swinging wildly at danger we hit innocent bystanders. So the more people who are acting and living out of fear, the more likely it is that someone will get hurt.
Now all of that is the bad news, which is easy to fall prey to. Here though, is the good news. Of all the teachings of Jesus, of all the things that the Son of God could actually say, Jesus spent (a not insignificant amount of) time telling us what to do with our fears:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Now, if we take the Bible or Jesus seriously, then we have to recognize that Jesus is not simply talking about our habits at the shopping mall or grocery store. Jesus' teaching about worry is every bit as relevant in the face of extremists and terrorists as it is when we sit down to pay our monthly bills. And we should note, that Jesus lived in a political era that was arguably every bit as dangerous as the one we find ourselves in. His life, we read in the Gospels, was on the line seemingly every day.
So how do we get to this lack of worry? We have faith. We have faith that everything I wrote about yesterday was true, that God in fact loves us just as we are. If we get to a point where that faith is sure and sound, there's really not a whole lot left to worry about is there? There's really not a whole lot left to fear if we understand that the God of the universe has claimed us as his own. And he has. You can take that to the bank.
So you and I, we need to remember as we watch the news and listen to politicians and engage in Facebook conversation that as Christians, our love is meant to be bigger than our fear. Our love is meant to take away worry, not cause more of it. Our love is God's love, and the world continues to be in dire need of more of it.