In today’s world, more and more people fear God due to the lifestyles they have chosen and the decisions they have made. Their inner child thinks they will be punished, and shame tells them that they need to hide from God. At the same time, Abba is reaching out with the love of a father who knows that erring children need extra attention, while Jesus the Savior is actively and continually seeking the lost sheep who are hiding from the Father.
What are you ashamed of? Does thinking about it make you want to run to the Father or away from the Father?
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8 NIV)
Fear is our enemy. Not God. Abba’s love is the cure for all of our traumas and every fear, every worry, every anxiety. The safe and perfect love that we do not receive from humans is readily available from him. Do we really believe this? It seems that most people do not.
It’s not something that is taught often enough in religious education classrooms, homilies, and adult faith formation events. I’ve met many good, faith-filled people who are ridden with anxiety. The reason, in many cases, is that we tend to expect — even demand — that our peace and joy come from other people doing what they are called to do (i.e., love as they should with the love of Christ).
A wife expects her husband to love her faithfully, listen to her because he cares, and humbly apologize when he’s wronged her. The husband expects his wife to be supportive of him in his trials, love him no matter what mood he’s in, and humbly apologize when she’s wronged him. The truth is: This is the love that God calls for in the Vocation of Marriage, so of course it’s expected. The fact is: Everyone fails. Humans will always disappoint us.
Only God’s love is perfect. And it requires spiritual and emotional discipline to turn to him and let his more-than-enough love become our more-than-enough peace and joy.
Abba’s touch is very healing. But people run and hide from it. And yet, despite their best efforts to make a good life for themselves, hiding from God actually increases their fear, worry and anxiety. If they don’t recognize this as a wake-up call but continue trying to hide from the God who sees all and knows all, their thought-processes become irrational. Their inner soul, which knew God from the day of their conception, is in conflict with their minds and their wills.
As Saint Augustine so famously said to God, “You arouse us so that praising You may bring us joy, because You have made us and drawn us to Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”
Felisha, who in chapter two said that her parents were hard to please “and God is even harder to please than they were”, was ruled by fear, anxiety and negativity from a very young age. “I was a sad and very pessimistic person,” she says, “even though I didn’t really have a reason to feel so bad all the time, especially not in later years.” Then, as an adult, she heard a talk on the subject and continued to seek and listen to several more. It changed her life. “I thank God that I no longer wake up every morning with dark clouds obstructing the light in my life,” she says.
One of the tools she learned to use is scripture: She finds a verse that speaks to her fears and repeats it aloud to herself until the fear loses its hold on her. Later in this chapter we’ll cover other ways we can let Abba-Father heal us of from fear.
The downward spiral of fear
By God’s grace and love, we learn to overcome all of our fears. However, to receive his grace and live in the joy of his love, we need to stop fearing God. This is hard to do if we’ve been crippled by shame.
It happens even in the best of families. A child is raised in a church-going family with Christ-centered values. As she enters into adulthood, she chooses to accept the ways of the world that are contrary to the ways of God. So she begins to hide – she hides from the truth and she hides from God and she sometimes even hides from her family. What she’s really trying to do is hide from is the contradiction of choosing a lifestyle that was not part of her upbringing.
For many, this leads to becoming inactive in the faith. Deep down, they know that something is wrong in their relationship with God, but shame tells them to be afraid of him. They feel safer not going to church. They feel more and more uneasy around church-goers. They might even become argumentative in order to justify their faithless decisions. If you know someone who’s like this, remember that the louder they argue, the more fearful they are of the truth that they’re hiding from.
Fighting for their right to be wrong is a form of hiding that we see a lot of today. Consider what might happen to those who adamantly fight for abortion, gay marriage, gender change, and other controversial moral issues. What if they choose to open their minds to the possibility of being wrong? What if they were to investigate what the Church teaches about these issues? What if they even went so far as to humbly examine why the teachings are really for their benefit, how they are based on love, and how they make the world a better place when implemented?
Unless they also know that Abba loves them unconditionally, many feel terrible shame about the wrong beliefs they have been clinging to. Unless someone helps them realize that seeking forgiveness would free them to enter fully into his love, most fight shame by becoming more adamantly opposed to whichever truths make them feel uncomfortable. And unless they reach out for God’s mercy and learn how to receive it, most are afraid (often pushing this fear down into their subconscious) of crumbling under the weight of their own self-disapproval. They are fighting off poor self-esteem or depression, and what they don’t realize is that they are really fighting against the Father who highly esteems them.
In other words, their fear of God sends them into hiding from the very Father who can provide everything they need. But facing the truth – with fear standing in the way — can be a very difficult struggle. Meanwhile, the world is telling us to not struggle with it but to give in to the desires of our flesh-nature. In fearing shame, they don’t know the secret to becoming shameless.
In Matthew 15:21-28, a Canaanite woman with a demonized daughter goes to Jesus for help. The disciples try to shoo her away. Even Jesus apparently dismisses her. But she is “shameless” about persisting with her request, and Jesus approves. Saint John Chrysostom extolled her as a model to emulate: “[She is] shameless with a goodly shamelessness,” Unlike this single-minded mother, he pointed out, “When we fail to obtain, we desist; whereas it ought to make us more urgent.”
The Canaanite mother exemplifies the proper attitude toward God: a combination of humility and boldness, of deference and defiance. This is a combination that leans on God’s goodness and depends on close intimacy with him.
It’s not easy to reach this point when we’re hiding from God, fearful of the truth. For example, the parents of aborted children who are willing to face the truth about what they have done need to find their way to God’s mercy, but it’s such a terrible truth that it’s easy to fall back into self-protectively arguing that abortion is a good choice.
Similarly, the young man or teenage girl who feels attracted to someone of the same gender needs to know God’s mercy — and his help as well — to figure out what is the healthiest, holiest way to deal with the attraction.
No one likes to realize that they have done wrong or have held the wrong beliefs. Those who humbly and courageously face it recover from shame and become happier than they ever were before. Those who hide from the truth perpetuate their shame and, in an effort to feel better about themselves, blame others.
Michael grew up in a loving, faith-filled home. But a terrible tragedy that occurred while he was in grade school began to undermine his faith and the close relationship he had with his parents.
His religious education teacher, the mother of a classmate, was a special lady. She taught the children in her home, mothering them and making sure that everyone enjoyed learning what she taught. But then, midway through the year, she was decapitated in a terrible car accident.
Death — especially when unexpected — can be a major fear-generator. For Michael, it was unnoticeable at first, but his teacher’s death translated into the fear of losing his own parents.
Fast forward to Michael’s high school years. In health class, he learned that people who are overweight and lead stressful lives and eat a lot of red meat are prone to heart attacks. His dad was overweight, worked in a stressful job, and loved to eat burgers and steaks. Michael asked him to change — but to no avail. Unable to control that which he feared, he diverted the energy of fear into anorexia. He couldn’t stop his dad from over-eating, so Michael began to under-eat.
His parents soon noticed his unhealthy behavior and took him to a therapist. Michael returned to his normal diet. However, his underlying fear of losing his father had not been uncovered.
After going off to college, Michael began to explore the occult despite hearing throughout his childhood that it’s a demonic counterfeit to what God offers. The idea of gaining supernatural powers attracted him.
The promise of gaining power through occult practices is especially appealing to those who feel powerlessness. Occult powers are the devil’s counterfeit of life in the Holy Spirit. When demons are given the opportunity, they pull people away from God’s love.
Fear is a very common fruit of demonic invasion. Michael began to fear his parents. Even when they showed him unconditional love and gentle compassion, as soon as they were out of his sight, fear took over again.
Deep down, Michael still held within him the faith-based teachings of his childhood. He recognized that his decisions were contrary to the ways of God. But rather than face the shame that he feared, he withdrew in avoidance. And rather than discover the fear of death that motivated his fascination with the occult, he cut himself off from his parents. If any tragedy were to hit them, he wouldn’t have to know about it.
But this too was shameful. He had to find a way to justify hiding from his parents. So he focused on bad memories from his childhood, exaggerated them, and repressed the good memories. He condemned his parents for treatment that never happened and incidents that he remembered incorrectly. (Exorcists report that one of the common signs of demonic influence is the warping of memories.)
It’s a tragic story that has variations being lived out by many adult children of faith-filled, Christ-centered, church-going parents.
More than ever, people today need to learn what it means to be loved by Abba-Father. He desires to bring his unbelieving sons and daughters to Jesus, the Son he sent to Earth to die for them. How will he do it? What’s his plan?
When Jesus walked the Earth, his love and mercy and compassionate concern taught, for everyone who wanted to learn the truth, that Abba-Father is real, that the Father is all-powerful, and that the Father cares. But what about today?
The good news is: Jesus is still here on earth — in us. We are now the ones walking with the Father. We are now the ones representing the Father. We are now the ones who are called to reveal, through our behavior, what God the Father is really like. He is calling upon us to bring unbelievers to his Son. As his beloved children, we have testimonies of soul-changing miracles that need to be shared openly and often.
Today’s Exercise, Part 1:
Take some time now to reflect on some of the amazing ways that Abba-Father has revealed himself to you. In what ways are you different than you used to be because you trust God? This is your testimony. Write it down so that it becomes easier to remember and to share. When people see how joyful and peaceful you are because you know that Abba is taking good care of you, and if you share the stories that prove it, they get the opportunity to learn what it means to be loved by the heavenly Father.
Don’t continue reading until after taking note of how the Father has revealed himself to you. You’ll miss out on a very necessary step if you skip this exercise.
* * *
Abba offers freedom from fear
Michael wanted to have his parents’ love for many years to come, but he got caught in a trap that denied him the freedom to receive that love. It also turned him away from the perfect love of Abba-Father. That’s what fear does. It steals our freedom by lying to us.
Whether a fear is small or huge, it disempowers us at the very time we’re seeking to gain control. For example, the fear of not being able to find employment after being laid off from a job can pull us away from God’s help by convincing us that we’re failures, Fear lies to us, and so we lose the freedom to be who we truly are and to do what we’re gifted and called by God to do.
Abba-Father, in contrast, freely gives us freedom: freedom from sin through Christ, and then freedom to be his adopted children — with all that this includes.
Saint John tells us in his first epistle: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18 NIV) What are you afraid of?
When we understand what it means to be loved by Abba-Father, fear dissipates. How much anxiety we have is an indicator of how well we understand (or remember) Abba’s love. To overcome anxiety, first identify the misconceptions you’re believing about God, then ask the Holy Spirit to fill you the truth about each misconception.
Remember that when we look at Jesus, we see the Father (as explained in John 14). The Father and the Son are fully united, one in being, one in purpose, one in answering our prayers. Jesus came to earth to reveal the Father’s true nature to everyone who is open to receiving his perfect love. He said, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27 NIV).
Then Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” (Matthew 11:28). Since Jesus is yoked to the Father, doing only what he sees the Father doing, he is inviting us to be yoked to the Father with him. This seems burdensome if we prefer to go our own way and stay in charge of our own lives, but Jesus says, “Surprise! This is actually the easy way to live. This is a light burden.” Why? Because when we’re not pulling away from Jesus and we are cooperating with Jesus, going with him wherever he wants to go, he carries the weight of the burden. Not us.
Fear does not want us to know that the Father cares so much about us that he wants what is truly best for us. Examine the role that fear has been playing in your life. Ask yourself, “What’s keeping me from fully trusting in God’s goodness toward me? How does fear play into this?”
Then look at Jesus. He readily gave miracles to all who asked for help. Why? Because Abba-Father desired to provide the miracles. Jesus told us that if we have a close relationship with the Father, we will receive whatever we need.
Jesus said, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Seek his kingdom first. Rely on him above all else. Turn to him before trying anything else. Cling to nothing but your Father, and you will be given everything you need.” (See Matthew 6:31-32.)
Fear says this is not true. Fear says that God will disappoint us.
Which voice do you believe? When you’re not thinking but you’re simply reacting to a problem, what do your actions and attitudes reveal about your understanding of Abba’s love?
The traps of fear are rampant, but the love of the Father is always abundant.
Fear’s trap #1: If you react by taking matters into your own hands, you’re believing lies about God.
Defeat the fear: One good way to overcome this is to find scriptures that show God handling a bigger problem. Since he did that for those people in the Bible, he will certainly help you; after all, he gave his Son Jesus to you knowing full well that Jesus would have to suffer and die for you.
Fear’s trap #2: If you entrust the problem to God and then take it back by worrying about it, fear is telling you that God can’t or won’t do enough good with it.
Defeat the fear: The best way to deal with this is to see yourself as God’s partner in dealing with the problem. What can you do to help solve the problem? Pray about it. Convert the energy of worry into an action plan. Then sit with it for a while before acting upon it, waiting to find out if the Holy Spirit anoints the plan with divine energy. You’ll know when that happens, because divine energy brings with it joy and hope and opportunities to implement the plan.
Fear’s trap #3: If you repeatedly complain or lose your temper, you haven’t let Abba heal your wounds. Your complaints are a cry for help. Your temper is a cry of pain.
Defeat the fear: Let God heal you through a counselor or a good friend who is solid in the Faith or through a spiritual director.
Fear’s trap #4: If you’re waiting for someone else to comfort you or to solve the problem by making a change, you haven’t discovered that the Father’s love can more than make up for what someone else is not doing.
Defeat the fear: Increase the time you spend in meaningful prayer and meditation, which will take your focus off of others and put it where it belongs.
Fear’s trap #5: If you get depressed and it lasts more than a day or two, what do you wish you could control but cannot?
Defeat the fear: Ask God to reveal to you the bigger picture that he sees. “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord” (see Romans 8:28) — so what benefits might come from the troubles you’re enduring? Write down all possible answers and revisit this list whenever you need a boost in hope.
Fear’s trap #6: If you know that God always walks with you during hard times but you’re avoiding a person or a situation that will stir up trouble, fear is telling you that it will be irredeemably disastrous or you will suffer unbearably.
Defeat the fear: Give God your “yes” about accepting whatever cross he knows is coming. Ask Jesus to help you carry it. Unite yourself to Jesus on his Cross by seeing the connection between what happens to you and what happened to him. By doing this, all of your sufferings will become redemptive. Praise God for the opportunity to serve him so closely united to Jesus.
Charmaine shares how she defeats fear. She says, “When I am excessively anxious and fearful, Papa God always urges me to praise him. It’s hard to keep focused in those moments, but he would not ask this of me if he knew that I could not do it. So, when I praise him consciously and from my heart, it brings the most immense peace. What I am learning is that instead of trying to desperately rid myself of the anxiety, Papa God is actually using this to draw me closer to him, to a more intimate relationship with him, while teaching me about me.
What signs of anxiety do you see in your reactions to problems? What is fear telling you? What is Abba-Father lovingly saying to you that casts out the fear?
Today’s Exercise, Part 2:
Replace your fears with the Father’s love
Remember that fear always lies. The word “fear” (F-E-A-R) stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear uses just enough of the truth to capture our attention and our trust, and once we trust fear, it leads us away from the truth. For example, fear tells us: “Yes, God does work miracles, but remember the miracle that you asked for and didn’t get. This is proof that God is not interested in you.” In this hypothesis, what feels like proof is really the fear that God is not interested in you.
When we don’t fight the fear, it controls us and harms our relationship with the Father. The damage is automatic unless we deliberately stop the process. Since the lie that fear tells is hidden behind a truth, (as we see in the example described in the previous paragraph), we very easily — and automatically — allow the lie to control our faith and dictate our lives. And thus fear disempowers us.
This is easily cured! We need only to identify the lie that fear is telling us, renounce it in the name of Jesus, and ask the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Truth) to reveal the truth to us. And then be still and listen.
I’ll lead you through that process now. Get out that writing pad again.
- Describe a fear that has been controlling your life.
- Then pray, asking the Father to speak to you through his Holy Spirit.
- Circle or underline the words in the description of your fear that might possibly be a lie.
- Pray again and listen for reasons why you, as the beloved son or daughter of the Perfect Father, do not need to be afraid.
- Write these reasons as a love letter from the Father to you.
* * *
When you hear the truth, you will recognize it, because Jesus gave you the Holy Spirit. Is it something that helps you grow stronger in faith? Does it give you peace — but more than peace, does it bring your blood pressure down? Does it put you in touch with Abba’s love? Then trust it! Then act on it.
You can add to #4 above by thumbing through the Bible and turning scriptures into a very reassuring prayer.
Try this one. Adapt it for your needs (for example, “though an army besiege me” might be changed to “though financial troubles besiege me”).
The Lord is my light and my salvation —
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life —
of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
Psalm 27:1-4 (NIV)
In other words, to overcome fears, stay in Abba’s arms at all times!
Here’s a video course that can help you with this:
How to Find God in Times of Waiting >>
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© 2020 by Terry A. Modica
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