1939 was a great year for movies. Jimmy Stewart was in a couple of popular ones: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Destry Rides Again. Some guy named John Wayne was in picture called Stagecoach. Then there was a ridiculously long movie—so much so that it had an intermission in it. It was based on Margaret Mitchell’s story set in the Civil War and had the same name, Gone with the Wind. Finally, there was an adult movie for children, or maybe it was a children’s movie for adults called The Wizard of Oz.
There’s a scene in TWOO where Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man are in the forest and night is falling. The darker it gets, the louder the sounds of the forest become. Here’s the conversation that follows:
Dorothy: I don’t like this forest—it’s dark and creepy.
Scarecrow: Of course I don’t know, but I think it will get darker before it gets lighter.
Dorothy: Do you suppose we’ll meet any wild animals?
Tin Man: We might.
Scarecrow: Animals that eat straw?
Tin Man: Some . . . but mostly lions and tigers and bear.
On cue, out springs a lion. But it’s not just any lion—it’s a cowardly lion. We don’t normally associate scarecrows with brains or tin men with heart, but we do connect lions and courage. A cowardly lion is something of an oxymoron. It’s funny, disarming, and something everyone can relate to because we’ve all been afraid. Correction: make that we all are afraid.
Some of our fears are healthy, some are funny, but the ones I’m thinking of are restrictive. I’m speaking of the fears that prevent us from being the people we’re capable of being. Most of us can identify a few of our fears, but many of them operate at something close to a subconscious level. On their own they might seem like little, insignificant things. Perhaps we’re a click or two past having a healthy regard for the approval of others, or maybe we’re overly insecure about our abilities, or we have some nagging doubts about the future. All of these fears add up to weigh us down. For this reason, I think the number one fear of most people is to face all of their fears. Instead we limp along, partially paralyzed by our well hidden collection of anxieties, insecurities, and doubts.
Nearly everyone is surprised to find out that the most frequent command in Scripture has to do with not being afraid. It is said in one form or another about two hundred times. You don’t have to be a theologian to deduce from this that fear is a major problem for most people and that God wants to help us with it.
What is the biblical answer to fear? In a word it is faith, but we must be careful here not to over-simplify. “If you have faith you’ll have no fear,” some tell us. But is that correct? I don’t think so. I think it’s more accurate to say that if you have faith you can overcome your fear. It seems to me that fear is part of the human condition. We can’t eliminate it presence entirely, but by faith we can control its power over us.
How does faith enable this to happen?
Faith puts fear in its proper context. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me,” (John 14:1). The disciples were troubled about some very real things. Christ Himself was troubled in spirit (13:21). He told them that He was leaving and they couldn’t follow (13:33). He had spoken of one who would betray Him (13:21). He told Peter that he would deny Him (13:37-38). There were plenty of legitimate reasons to fear but Jesus assured them that fear didn’t have to rule the day. Faith could—if they would put their trust in God and Him. Their fears wouldn’t magically disappear, but they be greatly diminished when Christ was put into the picture. Faith is like turning on a light in a dark room. It doesn’t remove the objects we could bump into, but it helps us to see everything for what it is.