In First John chapter 4 verse 18 we read that, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” Now that’s a truth we all want to experience in our lives!
I was teaching about fear recently to a group of teenagers in Dangriga, Belize. My preparations for this message led me to consider my encounters with this strong emotion. I recalled how my 30 years as an airplane pilot exposed me a few times to deep waves of fear over short periods of time. I then recalled a time when on a short term mission trip to Belize, I heard, for the first time, howler monkeys and gulped as I thought, “something is dying!”, before someone pointed out they were just monkeys. However, most of the time my experience with fear has been subtle, like a low-grade fever that you can barely tell you have. Then my thoughts wandered to spiders and my thoughts froze. Why do these 8-legged creatures result in so much fear in my life? Silly, I told myself for the thousandth time.
As best as I can recall, my arachnophobia, or fear of spiders, began when I was in first or second grade. As I remember, my brother had thrown a small spider on me just before I left for school, but the little creature was no where to be found, until about 2 hours later when it hopped off of me and onto my desk, scurrying away to haunt some other child. Not sure why, but since that day I have experienced a low-grade fever every time I have a close encounter with the 8-legged kind.
Years later, I was alone, working in a pet shop when a young boy and his mother came in, asking to buy, of course, one of our tarantulas. Resisting the strong urge to reveal my fear, I grabbed on to one of the hairy beasts, feeling its carapace flex under my grip until one of its legs caught the edge of the aquarium, pulling the fast spider from my grasp. “That one is too jumpy”, exclaims the mother as the boy boxed up his own spider. But for me, the damage was done and my irrational fear of spiders deepened; I would not intentionally hold another spider for over 37 years.
But before I get to that, let me emphasize that my wife, Mary and I intentionally parented our two kids so we would not transfer our shared fear of spiders, even while we remained burdened with this unfounded fear of these truly fascinating creatures.
As I prepared my message to the Dangriga teenagers, I recalled those times I stepped through that wall of fear into a place of security and a pattern emerged: knowledge displaces fear. There is something powerful about knowing, that counters the emotion of fear and that’s when it dawned on me. Guides lead people into situations and places they would never experience or go alone. How? They share their knowledge with their followers, leading them over that wall of fear into a place of security and that is where my tarantula story continues.
Our guide, Francisco Tush, excitedly called us from the comforts of the lighted outdoor patio into the inky blackness of La Milpa’s biological research station’s yard, where his small flashlight lit up a large spider on the ground. “Here is a Mexican red-rumped tarantula. Would you like to hold him?” I hesitated. Our guide went on to say that they are very gentle, especially at night as long as we are gentle with them. They do have fangs that can hurt, but they will not bite unless provoked. They can also shoot little red hairs from their abdomen when threatened and they can hurt, especially if they get into your eyes, but they warn you first, by raising their abdomen. “See, you can tell this one is calm. Mr Brian, do you want to hold him?” “Sure”, I answered, feeling a slight out-of-body-experience as I said so. Holding out my hand, Francisco nudged the large spider onto the palm of my hand. Trusting the experience of our guide, I experienced a sense of calm as I watched the hairy critter on my hand, defying a fear that has messed with me for far too long. It’s legs felt a little sticky on my hand and it almost tickled as it crawled from one hand to the other. “Thank you, Francisco” I said as we allowed the large spider to crawl back onto the ground and into its hole. Wow, now that’s the power of a guide!
My Dangriga audience seemed to resonate with my message from God’s Word that perfect love drives out fear, that this love comes from a pure source, Jesus Christ, and following Jesus’ example allows Him to guide us through life without fear as we follow His Word by the leading of the Holy Spirit. In a very real way, Jesus is the ultimate Guide, because He knows all, can see all, and therefore can lead us through any and every situation we might face. I ended my talk that evening with another truth about fear. Fear robs us of our dreams and I challenged the students to make peace with God through His Son, Jesus Christ and begin following Him. They will experience a growing sense of security in their lives that produces the rich soil where dreams grow.
Next time you experience waves of fear, consider hiring the ultimate Guide. The One who is able to lead you through any wilderness you might encounter this side of heaven!
It’s now time to gather your family around the dinner table or settle in to a favorite location outside and consider this week’s, Points to Ponder:
- What fears seem to persist in your life? Some fears are healthy, but most are not. List your unhealthy fears.
- What can you learn about the source of those fears? Do not limit yourself, but develop a list of things you could study for each of your unhealthy fears. Find someone who can guide you through your most troublesome fears.
- Have you accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of your life? He truly is the ultimate Guide and can lead you by using: a) The Word of God b) The leading of the Holy Spirit c) Other Believers d) your unique design (personality, likes, dislikes, etc.) and e) Your circumstances.
We encourage you to continue the conversation by using the comment box, below and until next time, enjoy your experience of Scripture in the outdoor classroom!