There’s a good kind of fear. The kind that trembles when angels appear. That falls to their face in front of the majesty of God. That asks to see only the back of the most Holy Lord as He passes by, knowing that the glory of His face would be more than any mere human could handle. This is the kind of fear that is appropriate and desirable. This is the kind of fear we are called to in Christianity.
There’s another kind of fear, however, that no one should ever desire. It is a fear that manifests itself in cowardice rather than reverence. It is a fear that shrinks back from the hard, the ugly, the scary. The fear that stays at the bottom of the mountain that needs to be climbed. The fear that keeps quiet when it should speak. The fear that pulls the blanket over its head, covers its ears, and refuses to face the task it has been called to.
Timothy was facing some of this fear. I don’t know why, or what prompted it. I don’t know how it was that the initial flame that had burned inside his soul -guiding him headfirst into a life of passion – had dwindled down. It could have been critical feedback, or slighting comments. Perhaps his following had been smaller than he hoped. Maybe it was just a whole lot harder than he had ever envisioned. Whatever it was, fear was creeping in. Fear that crippled, that was pushing down and smothering his boldness in preaching the gospel.
Timidity. That’s the name of this fear. It looks like a little kid with eyelids peeled back, hiding at the feet of his mother. Shy, quivering, unable to say hello to a stranger or pet a big dog. The hands of this fear grab us tight, whispering what if and watch out and beware. It tells us maybe it would be better if we stayed indoors, if we didn’t let go of our mom’s hand, if we didn’t speak a word. This fear says no to new ideas, to change, to different paths. We try justify its presence in our life, its grip on our heart. I’m just a little shy, don’t mind me – I’ll just stay in the corner, I’m not bothering anyone, I’m happiest here.
We ask for power. Power to do the hard. To shape lives. To make a difference in the world. To build up the Kingdom. We beg for love. Love for our enemies. For those who have hurt us. For when we don’t feel it. Love that leads to the intimacy we are craving. We strive for self-control. To will ourselves to buckle down and press through. To wake up and do the hard things we know we must. For the wisdom and discernment to do what is good. These attributes of the Spirit are what we desire. But we see them missing in our life. Their void is evident, leaving a gaping blackness in which we crawl into and cower. If only we knew the power, love, and self-control that the Spirit offers.
But there’s not room for them. Our hearts our full. Timidity reigns. Fear has consumed.
The Spirit of God cannot occupy spaces that are overrun by the spirit of fear.
So we start the process of scraping out our scared hearts, removing worry, pulling out anxiety, pushing out fear. The deeper we dig the more we realize how far down the roots have gone. There’s no quick way to clean out a heart. One by one we take hold of each thought that is making us afraid and we bring it into the light to be dealt with by truth. It’s a hard process. Each item brought up comes with its own set of insecurities, we don’t want to admit that these fears were in our hearts.
Just when our hearts feel most raw by the hacking and plying then comes freedom. Freedom so glorious we hadn’t even hoped to experience. The chains that have held us down, the fretting that has frozen our ability to do anything, they are gone. We are emptied and ready to be filled. Filled by the Spirit that offers emboldened power, courageous love, and daring self-control. We are at last brave.
With bravery we can step out into an uncomfortable place. With bravery we can make the move, change career paths, pursue the dream we thought unreasonable. With bravery we can plow down the barriers of self-protection and know the relief of vulnerability. With bravery we can write the words we feel pressing at our heart, we can play the music inside our souls big and loudly, we can stand on top of mountains and proclaim the good news we have just experienced. That the Spirit of God is alive, and active. That He offers cleansing of the darkest parts of our soul. That freedom is possible.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. -2 Timothy 1:7-10