Two travelers were on the road together, when a Bear suddenly appeared on the scene. Before he noticed them, one climbed a tree and into the branches and hid there. The other was not so nimble as his companion; and, as he could not escape, he threw himself on the ground and pretended to be dead. The Bear came up and nuzzled all round him and sniffed his ear, but he kept perfectly still and held his breath: for they say that a bear will not touch a dead body. The Bear took him for a corpse and went away. When the coast was clear, the traveler in the tree came down, and asked the other what had the Bear whispered to him when it put its mouth to his ear. The other replied, “He told me never again to travel with a friend who deserts you at the first sign of danger” (fairytalez.com).
But that story could have happened differently. The one who climbed the tree could have run into the very trap that fear had set up for him, because while the bear does not like to attack dead bodies, it is an agile climber. Remember President Franklin D. Roosevelt, saying, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Well, much of an economy rises and falls based on the confidence or fears of a given population. In the same way our lives could be destroyed by our fears.
Phil. 4:6 says, “Do not be fearful about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
The fear referred to in this passage holds the same context as phobia – An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat – even though that thing poses no danger at all. That persistent, abnormal, and irrational feeling is classic phobia. Such responses must be eliminated and replaced by more healthy mental conditioning.
Faith and prayer, replacement for fear
What Phil. 4:6 is saying is that some transplantation has to happen when phobia attaches itself to our hearts. A transplantation is necessary when something, some habit, some desire, must be uprooted, removed and extricated, and totally relocated outside its current location. When a person with a low functioning kidney has had years and years of dialysis, there comes a time when processing blood through a mechanical machine does not work anymore and the kidney itself must be removed. At that juncture, a transplantation is required. What that means in terms of fear, however, is that the idea and the belief systems that have been infecting our hearts and minds need a replacement.
In that scripture, Paul talks about compulsory replacement for the useless fear we harbour. I don’t know if you have ever been in a situation where you see and hear nothing, but you are alone somewhere, and the hair on the back of your neck begins to stand on end. You see no one, but there is a sensation of danger. That also happens when you notice the biggest problems in your relationship on the horizon. It happens when your job begins to get impossible. It happens when your boss calls you into her office for the first time. It happens when you begin to lose control of your children. It happens when your spouse begins to send divorce signals. And it happens when the doctor suddenly sends a notification to be at his office first thing in the morning.
In those situations, the phobic, hair-raising experience makes its appearance. What Paul is saying is that, at that instance, at that moment, it is transplantation time. Time to expel the ugliness of phobia, the crippling effect of fear and supplant it with prayer. As a-little-old-song says: “it’s time to have a little talk with Jesus, tell him all about our sorrow. He will hear our faintest cry and he will answer by and by. You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right.” By ‘little talk’ we mean prayer.
Also, when those phobias appear, we need to look back and remember where God has led in the past. (I go back and see where God saved me and worked for me) – in the process replacing fear with faith. I have learned from past experiences that we need to feed our faith and starve our fears. We must not dwell on our fears—we need to starve them out!
Knowledge-of-God can supplant fear
The feeling of fear is a natural response mechanism to warn of danger. However, indulging that feeling continuously for things that pose no harm to a person is not the desired approach. On the contrary, getting to know the thing you fear is a more reasonable ideal. It is not emotion that conquers fear, but knowledge. “People are afraid of things they don’t understand. They don’t know how to relate. It threatens their security, their existence, their career, image” (Bill Laswell). So, knowledge of the fear factor is necessary to avoid the obstructions and perils that it brings.
It is also essential to understand that the contents of the heart and mind can supplant anxiety as well. “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” Proverbs 12:25. (It’s not about what you feel, but what you know). “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV). David said, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and staff will comfort me.” Even in the valley where the shadow of death lies, where the critters and crawlers come out, God in our hearts supplant our fears.
You may be facing sickness, pain or even death in your family right now, but there is more goodness in God than there is sadness in death. No situation is as bad as God is good. The goodness of God can overshadow any horrible situation in your experience. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your fears on him, because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:6-7.
According to the Apostle Peter, there is a place to lay down your trepidation, anxieties and fears, at the feet of Jesus. Why don’t you try him today?