God means it when he says don't be afraid

Modern psychology is a fascinating subject on many levels, and probably one of the most practical disciplines in the business world. In fact, one of my first college professors at the University of South Florida in Tampa pointed out that the required courses for the college of business required just as many psychology courses as those studying counseling.

A day does not go by when such skills are rather handy, in either dealing with direct customer contact or even with co-workers.

One of the favorite buzzwords used in counseling circles, and found frequently in the lives of individuals, is anxiety, worry or its more familiar term: Fear.

Keep in mind that God created the human race and that, in fact, anxiety and fear can play a very healthy and useful role. Young children may avoid doing things they do not realize are dangeroussimply because of the fear of mom or dad. Employees may fear taking home supplies or equipment out of fear of losing their job. And truth be told, how many of us would actually drive the speed limit were it not for the fear of a nice, big speeding ticked (or even the anxiety of explaining it to your significant other on returning home)?

Some fear is good. Other fear is not –– the kind of fear that makes us feel very self-conscious, concerned about rejection, performance, whether people like us or even whether or not we measure up to our own expectations or the expectations of other people.

This kind of fear makes us doubt ourselves and even distrust God at times. Whether you read the Bible, the prophetic book in Christian circles, or Jewish writings, you will probably notice that any time that an individual met up face to face with God, two things happened. First, the person was pretty much terrified. Second, and most importantly, the very first words out of God’s mouth are always “Don’t be afraid.”

That little phrase is more than just God’s lines in the “scripts” in His encounter with human beings; it should also be considered something He says to all of us every day. Why? Simply put, because fear is usually the single greatest threat to any real relationship with Him, with others, and yes, even ourselves.

Fear is essentially a lack of trust that makes us want to either run away, literally or figuratively. For instance, when a husband or wife is afraid to truly be themselves with their mate, they are impairing intimacy, which is what a deep relationship is all about. In business, it can lead to not saying the right thing to a customer or co-worker. It can prevent real collaboration in a brainstorming session (“They will think my idea is stupid”) or telling a close friend something that they need to hear.

Most of all, a sense of inadequacy or personal fear can prevent someone from striving for their dreams or taking chances. A splendid example is showcased in the ongoing real-life drama known as “American Idol.” You have to give credit to some of the tone-deaf folks who end up with 10 seconds of fame (or infamy) on this television show. They may not have possessed the right image or talent, but they certainly had the guts, and no fear that stopped them.

I myself struggle with this kind of fear on an everyday basis. Sometimes I get tongue-tied speaking because halfway through a sentence, I think of a better way I want to phrase something (usually when other words have already left my brain headed for my mouth), and what results sounds more like a foreign language than a brilliant sentence. At other times, I end up feeling intimidated, and still other times I avoid risks instead of just jumping into things.

Life is just too short to get too wrapped up in fear, what other people think or even whether you fall flat on your face sometimes. God repeats “Don’t be afraid” for a reason: It’s something we all need to hear every morning as we look in the mirror, every afternoon as we deal with friends and co-workers, and every night as we close our eyes and go to sleep.

I saw a bumper sticker a few years ago that said “Work is for people who don’t know how to fish.” To bend that just a bit, I think it would be safe to say, “Fear is for people who don’t know how to live.”

God wants you to remember to fear not, to shed worry, to take chances and fulfill your dreams.

No risk, no reward.

Mirror columnist Joe Rinehart lives in Federal Way and is a former pastor. He can be reached at P.O. Box 25536, Federal Way, WA 98093.

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