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Without Any Fear - By Pastor Tom Engel

I have a couple of phobias. My biggest phobia is the fear of tight spaces. I’m not sure how I got this fear. From as far back as I can remember, I can’t think of any childhood experience that had caused me to fear close-in places. Through the years, I have to say my fear of tight spaces has gotten worse. I can no longer get in the back seat of any car, especially a two-door car, and even getting in the back of a large SUV makes be very uncomfortable.

My other phobia is the fear of heights. Whenever I am getting above one story, I get a little anxious, and my knees start shaking. I’ve learned to get along with my phobias. If I am invited to go somewhere, I just say that I will drive myself and meet them at the place. And if I am on the second floor or above in a friend’s apartment, you will not see me hanging out on the balcony.

These two phobias are not debilitating. They are a little inconvenient as I have to be sure that I get an aisle seat when I fly, so I don’t feel so boxed while sitting in a window seat. I have no plans to seek help to get over my phobias, for I get still get through life pretty well with these fears. Getting on an airplane is tough, but as long as I get that little fan blowing on me in my aisle seat, I am fine.

The terms for my fears in the field of psychology are claustrophobia and acrophobia. Claustrophobia, the fear of tight spaces, is the most common fear. In all the definitions of all the phobias, we see that these fears are caused by irrational thoughts and feelings. In other words, there is really nothing to be afraid of.

A tight space is just a tight space, The walls are not actually going to close in on me. And the likelihood of falling off a balcony with a solid railing is very small. In looking up more about phobias, it talks about the lack of courage.

I can apply courage when it comes to my fear of heights. If I am to step out on a balcony, I can self-talk my way into taking cautious baby steps. Standing on the balcony, I can concentrate on looking out at the beautiful view. But I have to say with my fear of tight spaces, I will not be taking any walks in any cave ever in my life. The way I figure it is that I’m okay knowing that I will never experience some things like caves and tunnels. If you ever go spelunking, send me a video of your cave adventure.

The other thing about overcoming fear is to learn about your fears. Many people have a fear of snakes. Although snakes are not my favorite of God’s creatures, snakes do us a good service by keeping the rodent population down. Most snakes are not poisonous, and we can learn to know their habitats and what to do if we see a snake on a hike in the woods.

To be clear, some fears are helpful as they can be red flags that danger is ahead. If the hairs on the back of our necks are standing up and our pulses start to beat quickly, we might think to proceed with caution. On a cold night with freezing rain, it would be wise to slow down in case ice starts to build upon the road. Or just entering a dark room and you feel a little creepy, simply flip on a light switch. We do not fear the dark, but it is what possibly is in the dark that makes us scared.

But some of our fears hold us back from having a better life for ourselves. When we wake-up and begin walking through any day without courage and boldness, we are missing opportunities that can make us stronger people. As we face the future, we are moving towards unknown things. The definition of “future” is “time that is regarded as still to come.” By this definition of “future,” we do not know what the next moment holds for us.

So, we are living in this moment, and we are active and doing what we need to be doing, but we know from experience that anything can happen in the next moments that are ahead of us. In one sense, we want to be organized, to have our plans, and to be able to guide ourselves in a direction that is working for us. But, we have to admit that in another sense, we can hardly control our present circumstances at times/

And as much as we prepare for the next thing in our lives, we know how right Robert Burns is in his poem, “To a Mouse,” when he says, “The best-laid schemes of mice and men go often askew.” Robert Burns wrote this poem after he had stepped on a mouse’s little den, and he felt “bad” about it. After the line about plans hardly ever turning out, he writes this line, “And leave us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy!”

And then Robert Burns ends the poem with these lines, “The present only touches you: But oh! I backward cast my eye, On prospects dreary! And forward, though I cannot see, I guess and fear!” I agree that we can only guess what will happen as we go forward in life, and on our own, we could be fearing our next steps as if we are walking in the dark.

But as people of faith, we do not on our own as we step into the next moment. It is true we do not know what is ahead of us, but we are not stepping into the dark when we are going into the next moment. Looking ahead we might not know the situations that are ahead of us, but we do see Jesus leading the way. Believing that our Lord fought the devil, sin, and all that wants to harm us in this life when he went to the cross and won that battle, we walk by faith into our lives.

We are never sitting in our lives as people who are stagnant, but we made to be people who are going forward and deeper into life. And most definitely, life can be scary because we know from past experiences that life can be unpredictable. But let us also remember about those past experiences that we did get through them. The past was once the future that we had feared, but now we can remember that we made it through all of them, so we can conclude that we will still be making it through whatever is ahead of us.

When David was before the giant, Goliath, he recalled his experiences of guarding his flock against wild animals when he was a shepherd boy. The way David figured it was that if God saw him through by helping him kill a lion and a bear to save his flock, God will surely help him kill this man who is threatening God’s people, even if this man is rather large.

Looking up at the Goliath, David saw a man much larger than himself, but he also knew that Goliath was standing in the shadow of something much larger than him. David saw his God with his mighty power standing above this whole situation. Knowing that God was the power to defeat this giant, David accepted the challenge to fight.

David believed that he could only be victorious because God was with him as he stepped up to fight the giant. We will be having our giants to face in the future, but we can face them without any fear as David did. As David had his experiences with lions and bears, we have had our own lion and bear stories, and we did make it through them.

It’s no doubt that our futures will have their challenges, and they can big, and because they are big, they can be scary. But we do not let the situations demand how they affect us. By faith that gives us a light that shows us the grace and power of God in Christ, we can move into our lives with courage. We see Jesus ahead of us and His victory over Satan, eternal death, and sin. With all that, we have in Jesus and what he has done for us, we can ask ourselves with every step that we take, “How am I walking into my day with Jesus leading the way?” The answer can be something like this-I have gone before into my challenges and have made it, so I can keep doing it over and over again by God’s grace in Christ Jesus without any fear.

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