Vulnerability is hard. It involves a level of trust that we don’t always feel we have and it carries the risk of more hurt in the future. That’s the nature of it; being vulnerable is lowering the defences that we put up to protect ourselves. The thing is, we’re all afraid of something. I’m not necessarily talking about fear of heights or small spaces or spiders or that sort of fear, I’m talking about the deeper seated worries and anxieties that it is so easy to be crippled by. The fear inside of us that something isn’t right, or that something is going to go wrong. The fear of not knowing, of change, of things coming tumbling down around us.
It’s easy to be afraid in a world where there doesn’t seem to be any hope. If there is nothing, if there is no plausible end to our situations, if there is no way of moving on, of moving past whatever it is that’s staring us down with any sense of finality then there is no way out of that fear. It remains, deep and insidious, haunting us in the moments when we’re alone and there’s nothing to distract us. It’s easy to be afraid when it feels like there’s no one that could understand you, when there’s no one to open up to. Maybe even the thought of opening up is so terrifying that it stops you dealing with the rest of that fear.
I’m not a psychologist, but I don’t see how there can be a solution to these rooted fears within the realms of therapy and medical science. It seems to me that such a course would be dealing with the symptoms and not the disease…you can’t remove these fears in that way, even if you can stop them becoming a regular problem. That may be enough for some people, but where there’s a problem like that I can’t help but want to find a solution.
These fears that I’m talking about are a product of who we are as humans, dealing fundamentally with purpose and mortality. If there is no purpose and our end goal is simply fertilising the flowers, then there can be no answer to these central problems, which begs the question as to why humans seem to, reasonably universally, see them as problems in the first place. But if we look at it another way, that the fears inside our bones are the cries of the core of our being that longs for something more, then we’re starting to get somewhere.
You can’t want what you have no concept of, and you can’t be afraid of life without it. The general western public got on just fine without tablet computers until they became something attainable, but once the concept was realised, it became something people wanted. I believe that human beings long for perfection and restoration because that’s what we’re made for. I believe that death is anathema to us because that’s not what we’re made for. I’m not the first person to draw these sorts of conclusions, but I think they’re important enough to be shared again.
Now I’m not saying that I’ve got the solution sorted and that none of this ever bothers me, because it does, but I’ve made a start. In his letter to the church of Philippi, the Apostle Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.
For me, that goes straight to the heart of the problem and brings out a solution. As a bit of background, I don’t think anyone would disagree that there is something wrong with the world. If there is a God, then that God would want to do something about it. Unfortunately, the problem with the world is us, people. The solution, therefore, is either to wipe us out or to restore us somehow. But we’re too far gone to restore ourselves, so we need someone to take the punishment in our place and give us the clean start we need. If no human is capable of this, then the responsibility must fall on that same God who desires the problem to be solved. Therefore we would expect to see that God do something about it, and this is exactly what Christianity says happens. The crux of the matter is that the solution is coming through the strength of God, not our own strength.
In order to overcome the fears within us we need that same strength, and the amazing thing is it’s there. But why do we have to pray for it? Why wouldn’t God just give it to us if He loves us so much? Because prayer, which is really just talking to God and listening to Him in return, is the way that we build a relationship with Him and through prayer, we not only understand more of who He is, but we understand more of who we can be through Him. It’s powerful stuff, and it has to be at the heart of any person’s life if they want to deal with those fears inside us.
Only through prayer can we be confident of the reality of what God’s done, confident of His relationship with us and confident of our purpose in Him. And the peace that comes from that goes beyond understanding. It’s not a logically based thing, it’s not a case of going, ‘well if this means that then I don’t need to be afraid of this other thing,’ it’s a case of that peace being a reality for us. I believe that when we really get this it won’t be something we think about at all, I believe that those fears just won’t be part of our reality.
The thing is, we need to be vulnerable. If we can’t be honest with God about what it is with fear, and if we’re not willing to respond to His purpose for our lives then we’re never going to get into that place where His peace is our reality. I’m only now learning to do this, and the thing is, it does take time. It’s not a quick fix. At the very least you need time every day to get to know God more and to pray. There aren’t shortcuts; it’s really like any relationship, you need to work at getting to know the other person and I think as you get to know God more, the more you should want to spend time with Him anyway, just like any other friendship.
Yes, it’s a challenge. But in the face of insidious fear that always tries to drag us down, it seems like the solution is worth a bit of commitment.