Living without fear

It’s a jungle out there. Life is positively Amazonian . . . a winding, never-ending thicket of dangerous possibilities. Terrorist attacks, neighborhood crime, vehicular accidents, deadly germs, medical mistakes. It’s enough to keep us bunkered in our homes, paralyzed with fear.

But we can’t stay home, because we’re not safe there neither. Black mold, slippery bathtubs, toxic radon, E-coli, bedbugs. What’s a bulls-eyed body to do?

I know what we can’t do. We can’t fully protect ourselves from unseen and unforeseen dangers. Oh, there are some defensive measures we can take, and do, to varying degrees. But where do we draw the line between reasonable and obsessive?

Here’s the way I face the potential dangers of every new day: I know that God is sovereign and has the power over life and death and every living and non-living thing. I also know that he is my loving Father and so is as willing as he is able to protect me. With that in mind, I get out of bed, I eat my breakfast, I get in my car, I go about my day doing what I know to do and not worrying about what I don’t know.

So, because it’s been well-established that a diet heavy on sweets and low in nutrients will leave my body low in resistance and, well, heavy . . . I start my day with a high-fiber cereal and resist the urge to stop for a donut on my way to work. Usually. But if I want to go out for dinner, I don’t let the possibility that the chef didn’t wash his hands properly keep me from enjoying my meal. Germs are something I can’t control even when it comes to my own body. I practice good personal hygiene, but because I can’t see the pesky little buggers, I never know when I might come in contact with one anyway.

But my heavenly Father knows and he is able to vaporize the microscopic menace before or after it reaches my gut or render it harmless or cause my car to break down on my way to the restaurant, leaving me irritated and disappointed but untouched by the E-coli outbreak at that soon-to-be-closing establishment.

As a mother, my faith in God’s power and love is what frees me to let my children leave my sight without abiding fear and worry. So, because I have ensured that my seventeen-year-old son knows the rules of the road and I trust his judgment because I know my son, I don’t fret and wring my hands and wait by the window until he returns from wherever he’s driven off to. I can’t control the errant driver but God can.

This isn’t about living recklessly, darting through traffic into the path of a tornado while chowing down raw bacon, expecting God to keep me healthy and safe despite my recklessness. It’s about living responsibly, using the brain God gave me, being accountable for the knowledge that I’ve used my brain to acquire, and trusting God for the unknown.

The key is not to put God to the test. I think putting God to the test means, in a sense, daring him to come through for you on your terms, not his. Or expecting him to do what he has not promised he will do. This attitude assumes a close relationship with him but generally stems from a lack of knowledge, intimacy, and trust. So, the Christian Scientists who refuse proven medical treatment for themselves or their children, determining to rely on prayer and faith, are refusing the remedy that God has provided, because medical treatment and technology that really work are good gifts and all good gifts come from God. Instead, they are demanding that he give them preferred treatment by a miraculous healing. They are taking advantage of God’s love and compassion and are essentially trying to force his hand. And God will not be forced.

And if I were to set my child down to play in the middle of the street, fully aware of the very real threat that poses to his life, but expecting God to protect him . . . well, God may. But he wouldn’t be pleased with my attempt to manipulate him, because that’s really what I’d be doing.

The bottom line is, life is full of dangers but our loving Father is watching over us and “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”  Fearing him means we needn’t fear anything else.

This post was originally published in September, 2014.