Fear. That's a strong word isn't it? Just seeing the word in print conjures up all sorts of feelings and emotions. Fear is defined in Webster's dictionary as, "an unpleasant, sometimes strong emotion caused by an anticipation or awareness of danger" or "anxious concern". In the article, "Fear...Your Worst Enemy" by Philip Holder, Ph. D., he redefines fear "an unpleasant, sometimes strong emotion caused by the anticipation of loss". That makes a lot more sense to me as far as how fear plays out in our daily lives.
Thankfully, we live in a country where we don't have to deal with daily physical threats, but we do deal with all sorts of emotional threats that can cause the same reaction. If the thought of loss drives fear, then a potential loss of face (damage to the ego, pride, or image), security (physical provision or in relationships), health (by injury or disease), approval, acceptance, power, success,etc. can cause a lot of fear.
In American culture today, anxiety seems to be rampant. Even though some of the physiological effects are different, anxiety and fear are closely related. In fact they both create surges of cortisol that wreaks havoc on the human body, which make them indistinguishable.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, anxiety disorders are among the most pervasive of all psychiatric disorders in the United States. Greenberg and colleagues (1999) estimated that the annual societal costs of anxiety disorders exceed $42 billion dollars. These statistics seem to be contrary to living the "American dream" that we all want and pretend to have.
According to Holder, anger is the primary sign of fear. "Those who act out their insecurities as anger are the most fearful of all people." Fear is the catalyst that fuels anger. We can see that play out in our culture as it seems to be plagued with displays of this anger driven by fear. Violent crime, verbal assault, bullying, road-rage, etc. are seen every evening on our newscasts, not to mention on reality tv shows.
This problem of fear seems to be such a problem today, but it shouldn't be surprising. Actually, it has been a problem since the beginning of time. When sin was first introduced in the garden after Adam and Eve disobeyed God's instruction not to eat the fruit, the Bible tells us that they hid. Why did they hide? Because they were afraid. Afraid of being exposed. (Gen. :10) Sounds like a loss of safety to me.
God knew that we would fall prey to fear from that point on and the enemy certainly uses it as one of his best weapons against us. God tells us not to fear over 110 times in scripture so He knows its a hot spot for us.
My favorite verse about fear is 1 John 4:18. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love." What I love about this verse is that what God seems to be saying is that the remedy to fear is love, love from Him.
Once again, science proves God's truth. Fear, anxiety and anger all produce cotisol which interferes with learning and memory, lower immune function, bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol heart disease, etc.... These elevated cortisol levels also increase the risk for depression, mental illness, and lower life expectancy. Wowza! But, cortisol levels can be over-ridden by endorphins. How do we get those surging through our body? By the feelings associated with love and all aspects of connectedness and peace. So, love does drive out fear!
So how do we deal with our own fear, anxiety and anger issues? What are some ways that we can deal with these areas spiritually and behaviorally? I will be offering some ideas in my upcoming posts so stay tuned!