This next week I’m teaching on the toxic topic of fear. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own fears. Most of my fears include the issue of pain – I don’t want to feel pain. It’s not fun. When I feel pain I tend to go into self -preservation mode. That’s led me to think about what it means to self-preserve.
I must confess over the last several years I have been an on and off again self-preserver.
Fear makes us (me) wiggle when God has us (me) dangling. And isn’t that exactly what we see in Genesis 12:10-13?
“Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
Got to love that man self-preserving. Self-preservation. It happens. We see it when fear strikes. What if I loss my job, or how will this impact the kids, or what about my house, or what if it takes my life, or what if my daughter gets hit by a car, or what if … Fear paralyzes us and we make moves to get away from it, solve it.
We wiggle. We ignore, hide, and go inward. We put our heads in the sand and hope it goes away. We take up alliances … usually with those who can win or benefit us the most. We become less vulnerable, less willing to share our inner selves with others. We become suspicious and distrust others. We set up rules. We become controlling. We …
We do this because we want all things to be good and wonderful. We don’t like to encounter difficulty, pain, suffering or discomfort. It’s not fun. I know I don’t like it. It’s hard … and I’m not a fan of hard.
I wonder if self-preservation is a natural response … a God-given way to protect ourselves? Or, is it part of the fall … a way I respond that’s not of God at all?
This is an important distinction because it lets me know if I need to embrace it (if it’s healthy) … or if I need to fight it (if it’s destructive).
I was at lunch with Sally (not her real name) recently. Sally is wise. We talked extensively about how we Christians respond to difficulty by self-preservation. I asked if she thought it was a God-given thing or a part of the fall. She immediately responded, “Oh no, it’s part of our fallen state.”
She gave this analogy. “There are times in life when we find ourselves dangling over a cliff. Our tendency is to try to get away from the fear, pain, suffering or discomfort … to self-preserve.” Sally knows this all too well; she’s had a year plus of dangling. She continued. “The point is, when we self-preserve, we’re trying to get back on land. So, we try to rescue ourselves. But God wants us to wait on Him to rescue us. He’s our rescuer. When we try to do it ourselves, we are playing God.”
Now … don’t just move past that last part so quickly. Read it again. When we try to rescue ourselves, we are playing God.
Carolyn Custis James, a wise-woman and author of When Life and Beliefs Collide, said something very similar to me. “Jackie, when you are in pain, you want to remove yourself from it. But, if you will allow yourself to sit in it, you will find yourself asking questions you never would have asked before – questions God wants asked.”
Now … don’t pass over that so quickly either. If you allow yourself to sit in pain, you will find yourself asking questions … questions God wants asked.
That means encountering pain, allowing it, moving into it. Who does that? Fear of pain makes me self-preserve not move into it!
I wonder if our self-preservation is a more serious offense than we realize. I mean, God calls us to a serious kind of love with him and each other. Just consider how we violate this when we go into self-preservation mode. Just consider what we miss.
Surely when I fear pain and start wiggling (taking it into my own hands) I am saying to God, “I don’t trust you.” “I don’t trust you can or will handle this.” “I don’t trust you have my best interest in mind.” “I think I can do this better than you can.” It’s an ugly thing to say to our Creator isn’t it? Yet, I do it. I don’t want to but sometimes I do.
Perhaps you find yourself dangling over a cliff and you’re wiggling – trying to get yourself “back on land.” Might I suggest you take a moment and breath in God’s Word. Let is soothe your anxious soul. Let him speak words of assurance and comfort in the this time of fear.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. (TRUST WHAT) (Character of our Lord) vWhat can mere mortals do to me?
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged; for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
I sought the Lord and He answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.