Hello, my name is Sarah, and I like stories.
I can’t help it. I mean, what’s not to love? And they’re everywhere! It’s totally true that art imitates life and life imitates art (I’m not sure which is more true). Everywhere I look I see a story being played out; walking down the street, talking with a stranger, hearing beautiful music or even a pastor speaking… *ahem* You see where I’m going with this?
Sitting at Radius on Sunday, I promise I really was carefully listening to the things Blake was saying. I didn’t intend to get lost in a story. But hey, if my mind keeps heading in a persistent direction whilst I’m actively asking God what he has to say, I’m gonna go there!
To set the stage, I’m going to have to allow you to track just how easily I can end up in a storyline, so step into my mind won’t you?
[cue creepy, dramatic music]
Blake was talking about how fear is natural, but living fearfully is optional. Deep, right? I mean, it’s simple but definitely not easy. He walked us through the story of original sin, and how the devil so artfully wove lies around a kernel of truth in order to twist Eve and cause confusion. He convinced her that God was selfishly holding out on her, and that going against Him would actually open her eyes to a whole new world where she would know everything that God knows; the difference between good and evil.
Now, you’ve heard the term ignorance is bliss? Well, that is exactly where Adam and Eve had been camping out up until this point. God created this perfect paradise for them; a lush, green wonderland filled with animals and food, and more beautiful sights than they knew what to do with. In the evenings, God would come and walk with them through the garden. WHAT?! I mean seriously, that’s the definition of having it made. However, as he does so well, the devil crept in there with doubt, and Eve bought it. She became convinced that going against God and eating of that particular fruit would somehow make her life better; that she would be wiser and more independent. To be fair, she wasn’t entirely wrong, but it came at a heck of a cost.
Then the man (Adam) and his wife heard the sound of the Lord as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord among the trees of the garden. But the Lord called to the man ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’
And, that was it. Their innocence was gone. Up until this point, “naked” meant nothing to them. God CREATED those bodies, who cares if you’re walking around with him naked?! But their eyes were opened, and knowing good and evil isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Turns out God was right.
I know this has been a long setup, but here is the point: Blake continued on to draw a parallel to our own lives by saying that when we are living fearfully, we “hide in the woods” from our relationships.
That was all it took. Suddenly, I am Katniss.
The Hunger Games is a book series set in a post-apocalyptic world where thirteen districts were created, and are ruled over by an incredibly wealthy and disconnected capitol, which is presided over by the very charismatic, yet creepy and self-serving, President Snow. The districts are mostly destitute and starving, and are forced to participate in a sickening, coliseum-esque ritual in which two children from each district are put into a mysterious arena and forced to fight to the death in a battle that is televised all over their world. One victor remains at the end of each Hunger Games, and is promised food and wealth for the rest of their lives, the others all die, either at the hands of their fellow “tributes,” or simply from starvation or exposure. It sounds horrifically heavy, I know. Please don’t judge me too much for loving it.
As with all great stories, the best and the worst are brought out in people. This includes our hero/ borderline anti-hero, Katniss Everdeen. Her role in the story becomes clear when her little sister is chosen at the tribute to represent their district in the Hunger Games. In a panic, Katniss volunteers herself to take her sister’s place. It is one beautiful picture of the power of love overcoming fear. Of course, she is terrified to be sent into the arena, but she loves her sister more. We, as the readers, are given the opportunity to be in on her internal monologue as all of this is happening, “a walk in her shoes” if you will. We see that even after her love conquered fear in a big way, it didn’t keep her from sinking back into fear again. We see that in the arena, you only have a few options; hide, and pray that you avoid the fight, or face the battle head-on. When you’re talking about fighting other children, these aren’t great options. But, these children have grown up in this world where they know that the arena literally means kill or be killed. They have never believed in any other options. The true turning point in the story is based on one of my favorite lines in the series, “Remember who the real enemy is.” President Snow was the one who was orchestrating this horror-fest. HE was the one who forced innocents to be raised seeing each other as a threat, which therefore bred hatred and fear. They were kept so weak and destitute that they learned to believe that nothing could change.
These people were so caught up with fighting the enemies that were placed right in front of them, that they never stepped back to address the REAL enemy.
I don’t know about you, but that struck me as a pretty serious parallel to our Christian walk. Here we are, presented with some almost unbearable issues: depression, anxiety, cruelty, violence, betrayal, self-hatred. The list goes on and on. We take a second to “hide in the woods” because these are gruesome attackers and we don’t know how to handle them. We allow ourselves to be coated in fear, causing us to lash out at the people around us. SURELY this was caused by one of them! They are the only ones close enough to us to make this happen. Internally, we dig deeper and deeper into the woods, climb farther up the trees so that no one can hurt us anymore. This is what fear does. It magnifies isolation, pushing us into a corner where we can build our walls. Then we go about our everyday lives pretending that everything is fine, leaving our loved ones to wonder what is making us so distant.
The sad reality is that this is merely doing what Adam and Eve did in Genesis 3:7. We are “sewing fig leaves together” to cover up our brokenness, without actually addressing the root cause of what we are battling.
Satan is creeping into your heart and mind, creating fear and self-doubt. He reminds you, ever so gently, that you are worthless and dirty and no one really needs you. He swears that he is the only one being honest with you. The people who love you are just being nice. You are actually alone, fighting the world all by yourself. We sink into the darkness and begin to believe it. We begin to blame the people closest to us for what we are feeling; if only they REALLY loved us, REALLY supported us, or knew what we needed, then we couldn’t possibly feel this way. We blame our fellow soldiers in the fight for the evil that is being orchestrated by Satan himself. We have forgotten who the real enemy is.
Where are you hiding?
What will it take for you to step out boldly from your hiding place and claim victory?
Before you answer those two question there is one very important factor that we have not discussed, yet.
Fear and hate, and those powerful dark forces are nullified by the love of God.
Do you hear me?
Smashed into a million tiny bits, and these tiny bits don’t stand a chance of survival.
Not only CAN God defeat fear and death, He already has.
There are no mysteries left in this area. We have the benefit of God’s promises. They are the filter through which we can view any external fears. We already know what happens if we live in the power of our Savior. Nothing in this world can keep us down. Even though we may be living in a world that constantly bombards us with the idea that we are on our own, the idea that we are in a competition and it’s either us or them, we can step back and see the truth. We are all in this together. You serve a very real purpose within the promises of God. I serve a very real purpose within the promises of God.
But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.
2 Timothy 1:7-9
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling…
So, it’s time. Crawl out of that hiding place in the woods and live your life without fear of tomorrow. Be the force that your loving heavenly Father created you to be. And when you start to feel yourself slipping back into the darkness of isolation: remember who the real enemy is.
Gather with us this Sunday as we continue our Fearful Things series. In the meantime, check our Blake’s message on fear from this past Sunday here.