How Do We Respond to Fear?
DA: You’re listening to Together by AGCI. I’m Dayn Arnold.
You know, we’ve been planning on starting this podcast for a while now. We have been developing stories, recording interviews, and learning the ins and outs of the technical side of the podcast world. And right about the same time we were going to let this fledgling creation finally flap its little wings, a national crisis ground all of our lives to a halt. And it just didn’t feel right to start things off without acknowledging the strange and sometimes scary times we are living in.
If I’m honest, I feel like I’m inundated with a constant feed of news, and part of me doesn’t really want to be ANOTHER voice in your ears talking about nothing but Coronavirus and COVID-19. But on the other hand it would feel naive to not acknowledge it at all.
The episode you’re listening to now is one of two episodes that were recorded in the last few days. We wanted you to hear some words of wisdom in light of what is happening in our world NOW, so we reached out to a friend of AGCI, Jesse Butterworth. Jesse is a pastor and musician and AGCI adoptive parent who lives in Kirkland, Washington, in the heart of one of our nation’s biggest Coronavirus outbreaks. Our prayer is that Jesse’s words sink deeply into your heart as he shares about a topic on all of our minds: fear.
JB: Have you ever been on one of those airplane rides where you start to hit some turbulence and you think, “Hey, you know, I’ve been through this before. It’s not a big deal. I’m a seasoned traveler.” You know… Oh, and then there’s another big turbulence and you’re thinking, “Hmm, that seems a little not normal.”.
And then it just begins to shake you in a way that you’ve never been shaken before on a plane. Uh, the kind where then you’re looking at the people like the flight attendants and when you see them make the sign of the cross across their chest, then you go, “Oh, this is real. Uh, this is a problem.” I think we’ve all been in those situations before.
Now imagine if in the middle of all of that uncertainty and then maybe the, the plane just absolutely, you know, it was in a place where everything was going fine and you were heading smoothly right in the direction you wanted to go, right towards your destination. And then just like that, everything went sideways. And now imagine as the plane is going completely all over the place and perhaps even taking a nosedive toward the earth, somebody turns to you, you know, next to you and says, “Hey, choose faith over fear!”.
“Choose faith over fear!” You’re thinking, “That’s not helpful right now!”.
That’s, that’s a little bit how I think, how I think it’s taken by most people. While I totally agree with the sentiment that I think most people are trying to get across when they’re saying, “Choose faith over fear,” unfortunately I think there’s a lot of shame around it. It sounds like… You know, what people are saying is, you shouldn’t feel afraid. You should be ashamed of yourself for feeling afraid. But the truth is, fear is a perfectly normal thing to feel. Every person feels that feeling.
We’re right here, we live in… My wife Marisa and my family and I, we live in Kirkland, Washington. So we’re ground zero of the Corona virus outbreak in America here. And a lot of people feel afraid. And there is a lot of uncertainty. Just as I’m sure that wherever you’re listening to this, uh, that that’s how people are feeling. Perhaps it’s exactly how you feel right now. And I think that we need to stop for a moment and just recognize what fear is. Fear is a feeling that everyone feels. But we need to stop assuming that fear is just something that someone can just turn off like a light switch. That’s not the way that fear really works. What we have to do is stop telling people to be afraid because that’s just unfair and unrealistic or we have to stop telling ourselves to stop being afraid cause that’s not really how it works.
The question we need to be asking is, What are you gonna do with that fear? How are you going to process through that fear? Cause there’s a big difference between feeling afraid and acting out of fear. Now, I really want to encourage everybody to not act out of fear, but I would encourage everyone to recognize that it’s okay to feel afraid.
When King David, when he was in a place of feeling all-time anxiety and isolation, he wrote in Psalm 56, he said, “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” And I think that that’s an important thing to recognize is that everyone is afraid. There is a point when everyone will be afraid. And today is one of those points where I think most of the world would fit into that category. But what do you do with that fear?
There’s a great quote from Nelson Mandela’s book, Long Walk to Freedom, where he says, “Time and again, I have seen men and women risk and give their lives for an idea. I have seen men stand up to attacks and torture without breaking, showing a strength and resiliency that defies the imagination. I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”
In these unprecedented times we’re forced to get face to face with the way that most of us deal with fear. For example, some of the
three most common responses to fear are, number one, that people would freeze. Number two, they panic. And number three that they hoard. We’re seeing all of these happen in our world today.
We see people freeze. They get completely stuck feeling like there’s nothing that they can do that all they can do is kind of hide, and just hope that it all goes away.
And then there’s the second which is panic that we feel like we have total loss of control and it makes us feel helpless and anxious, when the reality is that I think all it’s doing is just uncovering that we really didn’t have much control to begin with. I mean, the only thing you can really control is yourself. You can control your responses to things. That’s, that’s pretty much the only thing in life that you may have direct control over.
And then the third thing is to hoard. And we know all of these people, the people that are hoarding the, the toilet paper. God knows why we need a bunch of toilet paper. But… You know, there’s people that are going out and they’re taking all of the things because they believe that they must survive. They think of themselves first, their family first. That that’s it. That everyone else doesn’t matter today, only they matter.
But today I just want to challenge you to go against those three responses to fear. It’s okay to feel those things. It’s okay to recognize those things. It’s okay even to recognize that that may be our knee-jerk response, the human response to fear. But today I want to encourage you to respond in a different way.
Number one is I would encourage you to prioritize community. I know that it’s tough because we’re being asked to stay isolated, to stay in our homes and to stay away from people. And so you’re going to have to get creative on ways to do that. But, thankfully we have great technology and that you can video chat people or, you know, it’s time to go back to the good old fashioned phone call and just call somebody up. Get voice to voice or face to face with somebody and just have a talk and check in and see how they’re doing and just prioritize community again. Because now we don’t get to hide behind being busy. You know, we love that, we love that. We get to hide behind being busy for most of our lives. And so then all the other stuff kind of falls to the wayside. But now we don’t get to hide behind that excuse. And so now it’s time to actually reconnect and make, uh, you know, keep building in to those community, in those relationships that we already have.
The second thing is that you’ve got to prioritize generosity. Now is not the time to only think of yourselves. Now is not the time to just hoard. Now is not the time to say, “Me first,” and “Family first,” or hide behind the excuse of family first, just so that you can justify your selfishness. Now is the time for us to shine, especially if you are a believer. Now is the time to not stop giving, to build God’s kingdom. I mean that would be the same as saying, “Hey, the world is on fire. Everybody hoard the water. If you’ve got water, make sure you hoard it.” This is our time. This is what we were made to be. As God says, he sends us out to be HIS hands and feet, to be HIS people, to build HIS kingdom. Now is our time to continue to make a difference, not shy away from it because now we’re thinking, “Well, you know, I dunno, is it wise to do that?” Yes, it’s wise to do that. Yes, it’s wise to be God’s people and to build God’s kingdom. It’s always the right time to do that.
And then finally, I would just say prioritize trusting God. That that’s where the faith piece comes in. And I would say instead of saying faith over fear, I would say faith in spite of fear. Because you can’t have faith without fear. There’s gotta be some element of fear there in order for you to make the decision then to have faith, recognizing that God truly is in control, that this is not a surprise to him and that even though all of us feel pretty helpless right now, we don’t have the answers. We don’t have all the information. We don’t know when this is going to end. We don’t know the longterm effects. What we are looking for is recognizing that we do know who is in control, and that we do know that his name is Love, and that we do know that he is a good father who looks out for his children. That we do know that over the course of all of mankind through history, that there is always a bend back toward good. That we have a good God who is and continues to be in control. The problem is, is that fear orients you away from God. But this is a time to reorient yourself toward God in spite of your fear.
Several years ago when my, um, when my two boys were much younger, I think they were like two and five years old, were at Cannon Beach in Oregon and we are on the beach and making sandcastles. And we were a good distance away from the ocean. Um, so we would go and we would get buckets full of the water and we would bring them back and then, they would, they would build the sand castles. And so my oldest son, Liam, he was just taking little bits of water out to just make the sand a little bit wet so that he could put together the sandcastle. And then Finn, who was two at the time, he just took the whole bucket and poured it completely out so that he could have a whole bunch of wet sand right in front of him. And Liam lost his mind. And they were both, they were both looking at me with their backs to the ocean. And, and Liam was so upset at Finn and he said, “Why did you do that? Now we have no more water!” And I said, “Buddy, hey, it’s okay. Literally turn around. There is an entire ocean behind you. Like, you could spend an entire lifetime bringing buckets full in and you would never run out.”.
This is what fear does to us. Fear reorients us away from God, that we would turn our back to the source of everything that is good and we would say, “Don’t! You got to keep it all to yourself! There’s only enough, a little bit. There’s not enough for everybody to go around. We just, you got to keep it all to yourself.” And God is saying, “Wait. Stop. Just turn back around and recognize there’s literally an entire ocean of blessing right here. You just have to keep me in front of you.”
There’s an incredible Psalm, Psalm 77 where they’re recounting the incredible miracle that God did when he made a way through the Red Sea, and I think that it’s, it’s appropriate for everyone right now. Anyone that’s feeling like, “I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I feel like there’s an ocean in front of me that there’s this, there’s something blocking me from being able to get on through this and into the next place.” And that’s how most of us feel. But we’re trusting that God knows, that God who has continued to do this through all of the history of mankind will continue to make a way for us. In Psalm 77 it says,
Your road led through the sea,.
your pathway through the mighty waters ‒
a pathway no one knew was there!
Today I hope that you trust that God is going to continue to make pathways even when you didn’t know they were going to be there.
DA: That was Jesse Butterworth. We are so grateful that despite being confined to our homes at the moment, we are still able to share stories and information that we hope will bring light and lifes to you and your family. The next episode of Together by AGCI features timely advice from Briana Currey, an AGCI social worker, teacher, and mother. She shares about how we can all adapt to life at home, learning to thrive in uncertain times.
If you want to contact us at the podcast, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, stay healthy. We’re all in this Together.