The Antidote for Fear
The young Marine dressed in combat fatigues appeared suddenly at the door of my office. "It's an emergency... I need to speak with the pastor immediately," he said to my startled secretary. As I opened my door, I recognized him immediately as one of our many military church members. The appearance of his face was flushed, he was obviously distressed.
"Come on in Frank," I said as I shook his hand. "How can I help you?" I asked. He was obviously distressed, and looked about nervously as though concerned he could be overheard. "I've just been through one of the most stressful ordeals of my life, and I need your prayer and counsel... to get this off my chest as soon as possible." Alarmed by his news, I could see that his large muscular frame was shaking... his chest heaved as he gulped for deep breaths. "Tell me what's going on, Frank" I asked.
He looked up at me, and with apparent hesitancy, blurted one word cautiously. "Terrorism," he replied. Terrorism? Did I hear him correctly? During the 1980's, this was something we heard about frequently in the Middle-east or other places, but not in the U.S. I sat in silence for a few moments, pondering the meaning of what he just said.
I had known Frank and his wife for probably a year or so, a long-time by the revolving-door standards of military assignments. I knew he loved and served the Lord, but knew very little about his job except that he had significant rank, and seemed as rugged and disciplined as any Marine I'd ever met. As a pastor to many military personnel, it wasn't unusual to hear discussions or offer counsel pertaining to military life and concerns, but what he would share with me came as a shock to my seldom-surprised emotions.
Frank confided that he was the leader of a heavily-armed team of commandos charged with the secure transport of some of America's most dangerous weapons. Because a potential terrorist plot had been uncovered with plans to sabotage or seize their lethal cargo, Frank and his team deployed their mission with an unusually high degree of stress and fear... not only for their own lives, but for the thousands of others whose lives could be at risk.
Fortunately, his mission had been successful, and the public would never know that his team, along with federal authorities, quietly thwarted a terrorist threat on U.S. soil. However, Frank's nerves were overwhelmed with the prolonged stress he endured during the weeks of his mission. He held back his fears long enough to display strength for his team members who looked to him for leadership, but now that it was over, his emotions were exhausted and he needed to find relief.
After allowing him to talk and get things off his chest, we prayed and expressed thanks for God's protection over him and his troops. And as we prayed, I could see God's presence come over his countenance and restore peace to his soul. It reminded me of the scripture, "those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
Years later, after the tragic attacks of 9/11, and the subsequent years of more terrorist threats, I reflected back on Frank's trauma and could identify with the fears that so many others have had to struggle with. Unlike the goals of conventional warfare, the objective of terrorism is psychological manipulation... by shocking the senses of the public with horror, fear and hysteria.
A terrorist wreaks murder and destruction, not as aimless acts of rage, but with a calculated effort to exploit the public news media. Like a diabolic publicity stunt, they seek to grab the headlines and spread the terror as far and wide as possible. And even if their attempted atrocities fall short of the mass casualties they strive for, terrorists still win if they can simply ravage minds with fear, or exacerbate worry, stress or sleepless nights.
This helps explain who the real author of terrorism is, as this is a perfect description of the methodology and personality of Satan. His ambition is to "steal, kill or destroy" (John 10:10), but even if unable to cause actual affliction, he masquerades as a threatening "roaring lion" (1 Peter 5:8), attempting to bluff, bluster and intimidate his victims with fear and worry... until they lose their peace and joy, and cannot think, function or rest.
This is a part of what the Apostle John was referring to, when he wrote that fear has "torment" (1 John 4:18). Fear is worse than actual physical harm, in that it exploits the imagination... and if allowed to fester, will continue to grow and exaggerate concerns into a worse state than they really are.
Even without today's heightened concerns of terrorism, fear and anxiety are often at the root of many common problems we face. According to WebMD, chronic worry and emotional stress can trigger a host of health problems, such as digestive disorders, suppression of the immune system, muscle tension, short-term memory loss, coronary artery disease, heart attack... or even depression and suicidal tenancies.
WebMD states, "chronic worrying can affect your daily life so much that it may interfere with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and job performance. Many people who worry excessively are so anxiety-ridden that they seek relief in harmful lifestyle habits such as overeating, cigarette smoking, or using alcohol and drugs."
Obviously, there will never be a shortage of things we can worry about. Our kids, our marriage, our job, our health... or the national debt, natural disasters or our government's political instability. And as we continue to race toward the end-times events predicted to occur before Christ's return, the prospects of fear will only increase. "And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken" (Luke 21:25-26 NLT).
However, God provides the ultimate "antidote" for worry or anxiety... which John addressed, when he spoke about the torment that fear brings. He said that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18), a reference to the kind of love, trust and faith that God wants us to develop in our Lord Jesus, and which will bring His promised peace and rest (John 14:27).
Trusting in Christ is the solution for fear. When we fully surrender our confidence in Christ, to be the Lord of our life and destiny, it relieves us from the burden of worry. He becomes in charge, responsible for our safety, for the well-being of our soul and those we love and care about. As the palmist wrote, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalms 27:1)
And even though He does not promise a life without affliction or problems, He does guarantee that all things, whether good or bad, will work together for a good purpose... with our ultimate destination of Heaven as our eternal home. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
Meanwhile, turn your attention away from the vacillating uncertainties of this world, and focus on Christ, the provider of peace and rest. "You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You" (Isaiah 26:3).