The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


April 16, 2008

Leading with fear

This morning I began thinking about what I'd use for devotions at this weekend's Associated Church Press board meeting, and I found a wonderful and thoughtful prayer in Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle by Ted Loder. This prayer asks God to listen underneath his words "where the shivering is, in the fears which freeze my living, in the angers which chafe my attending, in the doubts which chill my hoping, in the events which shrivel my thanking, in the pretenses which stiffen my loving."

I began thinking about how fear surrounds us these days—about how much fear leads the way in so much of our lives in church and society. In our workplaces we fear losing our jobs, messing up, rejection by colleagues and more. In our relationships, we fear changes, rejection, losses. We fear what might happen to our church when we discuss sexuality, full communion agreements and other big issues. We fear what the economy is doing. We fear that the war in Iraq will never end. The media and others play on those fears big-time. Can you even think of a news broadcast in which the stories aren't mostly fear-based? I can't. So many of the stories are based on something that's generated by fear.

So I wonder: What does it mean that "perfect love casts out fear"? What difference does it make that Jesus is our guide, the Jesus who loved life, celebrated life, came that we might have life and life abundant? What difference does it make that we have a God in whom we can place our trust, a God who has the final word?

I have my own fears. And I wrestle with these questions regularly. Can I let go of my fears? My worries? Can I leave things in God's hands? In all likelihood, worry is simply stressing me out and shortening my life anyway. It certainly isn't productive. Hmmmmm, lots to think about as I answer that request to lead devotions on Saturday. As usual, I'll probably gain much more from preparing them than anyone will from hearing them.

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