This blog is an excerpt from a sermon that originally appeared in a sermon at Centerville United Methodist Church. This is the last week in our Separated series, to see the full sermon click here.
For three weeks we’ve talked about the things that knock us off of the tight rope of life. We’ve talked about the emotional baggage, anxiety, isolation; we’ve talked about how to deal with it, and we’ve tried to give you a road map to deal with all the things that might be separating you from God.
We as a church have been very intentional about showing you exactly how to handle these situations, but the one thing that we haven’t talked about is the root of it all. The root of all of this is one thing, and it is something we all have: FEAR.
The problem is we (as a society) have become so good at avoiding fear that often times we don’t even know when we are acting out of fear.
There are things that you are doing in your life right now that are a direct result of fear.
Coping skills are designed to help us deal with fear. Those coping skills are our own way to relieve the psychological pressure that comes with a particular situation; the hard part is that most of us don’t even realize exactly what we are scared of.
I’ve told you before that drinking was one of those negative coping skills for me. I would say that I didn’t have a drinking problem, but I had a coping problem. Well, I would come home from work and drink to “take the edge” off. That was all based on the fact that I was fearful that I would fail.
Here is the funny part, when I stopped drinking the fear was still there, so rather than drink I found other ways to cope: for example, I emotionally eat. Not only do I use food to cope, but I pat myself on the back because, “at least I wasn’t drinking.” Can we have honest talk ever for a second? This isn’t something that you are going to be able to leave here today, click your heels together three times and poof it is taken care of. This takes a lifetime of work to navigate through. The good news is that it gets easier, and we begin to see what we use to hide the face of fear.
Do you see the problem though? The fear never went away, just how I coped with it changed. I literally changed one bad coping mechanism for another.
Through all of this I learned a very important lesson – Fear isn’t bad or good, fear is an emotion that is designed to make us pay attention.
We all have fear. Sometimes the hardest part of all of this is just identifying the fear.
The trick with all of this fear stuff is not to run away from it, but rather to walk towards it. Because when you walk towards fear then you get an incredible gift, you’ll begin to know what is fear and what is you.
If you can define what you’re scared of then it no longer defines you.
But, when we do the opposite, when we don’t define what we are scared of then it takes over our life, it defines us through our thoughts, feelings, and our coping mechanisms.
When we don’t define our fear we are basically trying to say that it doesn’t exist. And that is the trap; most of us don’t want to acknowledge our fears. We want them to just go away, so we do things in our life that suppress our fears.
By ignoring fear we are giving it more power than it deserves. By pretending like its not really there we all but assure its victory over us.
The truth is that the only way to be brave is to admit fear. Without fear there is no bravery.
I love the message translation of Romans 8:15-16:
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.
Resurrection life is not a life in absence of fear, rather it is a life that admits fear, and still looks at the father to say what’s next?
It is a life that says I will jump courageously into the father’s arms because I know he stronger than the Hulk.
It is a life that says I will be brave because my Father is my ultimate coping skill, that when I stand with Him I will encounter fear, but it won’t define me. What will define me is that I am an heir to the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, my identity in Christ.