“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
A while ago I went on a diet. I was tired all the time, and just felt generally bad. So, I joined a program that encouraged me to record everything I ate for several weeks. At the end of the first week I realized that I was eating a LOT of food. Not only that, but A LOT of food that contained very little nutrition. I didn’t realize how bad my diet was, or how often I was eating takeout and junk food. The reason I didn’t have much energy was right in front of me. Once I was aware of what I eating, I couldn’t go on without making a change. I still needed to eat, but I needed to eat better. I began to plan the meals for our family a month at a time. I worked hard to plan healthier meals I can make at home, saving takeout for nights when my schedule makes it impossible to cook. Of course, I still buy plenty of junk food, but I’m more aware of how much I eat it and how it affects me and others around me.
Like food, fear is essential for life. We like to demonize fear, but fear isn’t all bad. We need a healthy amount of fear. That feeling in the pit of the stomach when we are at the edge of a canyon or top of a tall building and peek over to see the ground so far below keeps us from doing something stupid and falling to our peril. In healthy doses, fear helps us make wise choices. However, when fear takes over, and we begin living our entire life in fear, it can be debilitating. It’s hard to get out of bed when you’re afraid all the time. It’s hard to be happy when you feel like everything you do goes wrong. It’s hard to love people when you don’t feel loveable, and it’s hard to forgive when all you can feel is pain.
I guess you could say I began a kind of diet a few years ago. I didn’t think of it as a diet at the time– and I can’t even pinpoint the day it began. I have a vague memory of having my heart broken and in response a desperate prayer — a plea for God to help. I didn’t want to be angry all the time, afraid of hurting people, or having people hurt me and my loved ones. I was tired of seeing people cause each other pain. I didn’t even know what to pray, but I prayed anyway. Eventually, somewhere in that raw prayer, I remember getting a nudge to pray that I could see people as God sees them.
That prayer did something. I’m still a work in progress, but my heart changed, and is still changing. Once I realized how much of my life was ruled by fear – fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of… you name it … I couldn’t go on without doing something different. I realized how miserable I was, and how that was affecting the people around me. I went from letting fear rule my life, to letting love lead my decisions, actions, and reactions. I fail constantly, but I work on giving myself grace for those times. Seeing others with this new heart – mostly filled with love – has made it easier to forgive, and easier to accept love from others. I’m also a tiny bit more peaceful when plans fail and dreams fade. I now understand and often remember that there is fear in the words and actions of those who hurt others. Of course, I often have days when my desire to operate in love fails, but I’m aware of it sooner.
I’m not paying the program that tracks my food intake any longer. I’m sure I’ll slip back into old habits and have days when I eat nothing but cookies, coffee, and French fries. But I know better now, so hopefully those habits wont’ stick around for long. I know I need to pray daily to see people as God sees them, and because of that prayer I have fewer days when I let fear rule my heart. I still have days when I react to the actions of others with fear and anger, though. Most days it’s easier to make decisions based in love rather than fear.
Whether we are talking about food or fear, I don’t think I made any sudden changes. Just small ones, gradually, and have gotten to a point where they resemble a habit most days. I love more, forgive easier, and see people as God’s children more often. I know when my energy gets low I need to evaluate my food intake – and whether my heart is living in love, or fear.
How are you doing these days? How is your fear-diet coming?
Let us pray...
Loving and Gracious God, We thank you for Your grace in our lives. The grace that leads us out of a place of fear and into a place where we can love You and others more freely. On days when we struggle, help us to live from a place of love that can only come from You. Grant us grace and mercy, and help us also to extend the same measure of grace and mercy to others, and ourselves. Amen.