In January of 2015, a little dog named Mona joined our family. She had been raised in a home that gave her very little training and discipline, then shoved out onto the streets to fend for herself after her owner died. Being very small compared to the big and fearsome dogs and vehicles and other dangers around her, she survived by becoming good at protecting herself.
After four months of street life, she arrived in our house with a sweet and joyful disposition that was masked by the instinct to seem bigger than she really was. Fear triggered her to bark aggressively and attack our big, old, gentle dog, Cruzer. Fear triggered her to bark meanly at everyone who walked through a doorway. Fear made Mona ugly. But gradually, under our training and guidance, her sweet, joyful personality re-emerged, and the ugly side of her disappeared.
Fear makes us unpleasant to be around. Fear made Adam hide from God in Genesis 3:10. Was he afraid because he discovered that clothing should be invented? No, he was afraid of God’s disapproval. And this fear made him so ugly that he thought he had to hide himself.
Did you ever see a child throw a temper tantrum because he could not get his own way? Instinctively, the child feels afraid that he won’t be happy if he complies with what his parents want. Fear is what triggers the tantrum. And this tantrum makes him ugly.
Think of an aging man or woman who is afraid of losing independence, afraid that life without independence will be miserable. This fear makes a person unpleasant to be around. If you’re a caregiver for an elderly parent, you know what I mean, especially if you are part of the transitional period between independence and its loss.
Fear is the root cause of all sins. It leads to a lot of hiding from God. Think of this on a society-wide scale. Lots of people are hiding from God today.
Many in the oldest generation live in fear of losing independence through old age and infirmity. Who will help them learn the joys and freedom of being completely dependent upon God and upon those he has called to be their caregivers?
Many in the young adult generation live in fear of losing the easy life that the media has raised them to believe is rightfully theirs. Many of them fear the heartbreak of divorce, so they give themselves the sexual benefits of marriage without the commitment of marriage. And many fear the responsibility of raising children, preferring to be responsible for no one but themselves, fearing the loss of the financial security of a full-time career, fearing the loss of self-fulfilling dreams. Who will help them learn the joys and freedom of trusting God’s plan for marriage and having children?
My generation is stuck between these two generations, and we’re experiencing our own set of fears. We’re afraid of what might happen because our parent(s) won’t accept the help they need in making good household, financial, and medical decisions. We’re afraid that we will never see our children become altruistic adults and followers of Christ.
We’re the generation that’s stuck with the aftermath, raising our grandchildren, trying to keep communication going with adult children who don’t want to hear our point of view, and trying vainly to convince elderly parents to stop driving before someone gets hurt. We’re afraid that we’ll never fulfill our own dreams or enjoy a carefree life in our retirement years. Who will help us rest in the loving lap of Our Father long enough to regain the joys that come from relying on God?
We live in ugly times. And so we, too, have become ugly as we snarl and bark at whatever and whomever is unpleasant around us. But God has a cure for that. He sees that we are beautiful inside, sweet and joyful by nature, because that’s how he created us to be.
We can choose to stop reacting to what seems fearsome. It’s not easy to do. It seems counter-intuitive. And it cannot be done on our own power, by our individual selves.
God’s help is found in the Body of Christ, the community of believers who serve as the hands and feet and voice of Christ. Each question of “Who?” above is answered within that context. Which “who” are you best suited to be? We are all part of the problem of ugliness that’s in our world and we are all part of God’s cure. Ugliness exists because too few of us have spread God’s beauty.
Reflection questions for family discussion:
What are my fears and how do they control my life? What fears are controlling my family? What does Jesus want to tell us about these fears?
Lord Jesus, we surrender all of our fears to You. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit, giving us a greater awareness of Your help in everything that has made us feel afraid. Have mercy on us, forgive us for not trusting You more fully, and increase in us an appreciation of the freedom that comes from becoming more dependent on You.
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© 2018 by Terry Modica of Good News Ministries