Archives For Fear

The Day Between

Joshua Walker —  April 4, 2015 — Leave a comment

Celtic CrossOn this day 1,982 years ago the men and women who had devoted their lives to following Jesus for the previous three years locked themselves in a room and brooded in despair and fear. Their Lord, the one they thought was the Messiah, was dead. Some of them had even been the ones to wrap His body and bury Him.

What transformed this group of fearful, despairing men and women into the group that would turn the world upside down? It was their witness of the risen Lord and the subsequent gift of the Holy Spirit 50 days later at Pentecost.

The full scope of what Jesus had accomplished at the cross was brought to light through those events: He had made a way for all men to be reconciled to God; He had initiated New Creation in the resurrection; and He had initiated the New Covenant which includes the incredible gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit!

Here we are, almost two thousand years later, and I want to ask you: Do you live in the Day Between, in fear and despair, or do you live in faith in the risen Lord and the power of His Holy Spirit given to us? Although today is the day that we remember the Day Between, we never have to live there again. He rose and is risen today! We can live in that reality each and every day: we don’t have to wait for tomorrow!

My prayer is that you would be encouraged in the reality that we serve a risen Lord! May we live in faith and power and not despair and fear. What is our King asking you to do today that requires faith and the power of His Spirit? Obey His calling with His power as you walk in the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Frozen CastWith the video release of Disney’s Frozen this week, I have been doing what parents everywhere are doing: seeing bits and pieces of Frozen on a regular basis. I’ve written briefly about the movie already (here and here), but I feel compelled to add one more post.

As I watched Frozen again with my young daughters, I was struck by how clear the themes of love and fear are throughout the movie. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the whole movie is an exposition of a Bible verse (whether the filmmakers intended this or not is a different question):

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18a)

Think about how this plays out in the movie. The older sister, Elsa, has an incredible power. But because that beautiful gift has proven dangerous, she grows up in fear of the gift. In the film, she imprisons herself through fear, repeatedly mentioning her fear.

And then how is that fear overcome? Love. Love casts out fear. Anna pursues her sister, continually offers to help her, and eventually sacrifices herself out of love for her sister, which is the greatest form of love (John 15:13). And in the end, it’s love that shows Elsa how to control her gift, using it for beauty and keeping its danger at bay.

I’m convinced the whole movie could be summarized with John’s phrase: “Perfect love casts out fear.”

But I do want to be careful. While I do believe that Frozen is built on this biblical concept (and I don’t have any reason to think the filmmakers started with 1 John and built the movie from there), I want to emphasize that 1 John 4:18 means more than we will find in Frozen. Here’s the verse in its context:

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:16–21)

Let me just point out a few things here. First, notice the judgment theme. John is talking about fear of judgment, fear of punishment. And he’s saying that God’s love is so powerful when we truly come to recognize it, to believe it, our fear of punishment disappears. That’s profound. We don’t fear judgment because we know that God loves us. In this sense, John goes far beyond Frozen. For Elsa, love casts out the fear of hurting people she loves. For John, love casts out the fear of eternal punishment.

But also notice the last verses. John insists that if we love God, we will love our “brother” as well. And once again Frozen comes to my mind. Many of us would love to see a movie like Frozen explicitly speak about Jesus’ love for us. But even without that level of explicit theology, Frozen is showing us a fundamental piece of John’s message. Anna and Elsa (and Kristoff and Sven and Olaf) spend the film loving their brothers and sisters, whom they can see. And John tells us that without this kind of love, whatever love we claim to have toward God is a sham.

So Frozen is actually calling a lot of attention to the fundamental portion of this passage. Yes, John is talking about a far deeper love: the love of God that removes our fear of judgment. But John says that if we don’t love our brothers and sisters, then we know nothing of that profound love of God. And he says that our love for our brothers and sisters can only be shown because God has “first loved us.” So 1 John 4:18 means more than Frozen conveys, but not less.

Go ahead and watch Frozen again. If you’re as emotional as I am, you’ll be moved by this powerful representation of a message that’s at the heart of the Bible.



MummyIf you went outside last night, or went anywhere in the past month, you noticed that things tend to get creepy around Halloween. Our stores fill up with skeletons, ghosts, mummies, and zombies. New horror films are released and old ones are resurrected. What do we make of this morbid time of year?

I recently explained that I’m okay with my kids trick-or-treating, but I’m not okay with them dressing up as witches, ghosts, devils, etc. (Click here for my rationale.) But I do think there is something to be learned from this fascination with various stages of death.

I am intrigued by the reality that people can’t seem to let the dead go. Think back to ancient Egypt. They buried their dead pharaohs, but they also built expansive burial chambers filled with stuff so that the pharaohs would be comfortable in the afterlife. Or take the ancient Greeks. The believed their dead went to Hades (the underworld), but there also seems to have been a sense that this world of the dead was not entirely separate from the land of the living, as evidenced by tales like Orpheus’.

Haunted HouseThroughout history and around the globe we find beliefs in the need to appease dead ancestors, contact with the deceased via witches and mediums, encounters with ghosts, hauntings, and on and on.

Call it paranoia, but it seems clear that humanity has always been plagued by this disconcerting thought: What if the dead don’t stay dead?

Indeed! What if they don’t?

Hebrews 2:15 says that humanity has been subjected to lifelong slavery through the fear of death. What could be scarier than entering the great unknown? What is more disconcerting than losing everything we’ve ever gained? Whether we spend our lives literally afraid of dying, or whether we spend our lives in the relentless pursuit of the here and now for fear of missing out when death ends it all too quickly, we are all slaves to the fear of death.

Since death itself is so scary, it makes sense that contact with those who have tasted death would be terrifying. We put these people in the ground, knowing that they have experienced the one thing we want at all costs to avoid. But what if that’s not all?

Empty TombI’d say that this fear and fascination is legitimate from every vantage point but one: the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. In the death of Jesus, death itself has received a fatal blow (read 1 Cor. 15). Death is “the last enemy to be destroyed” (v. 26), but even now it has been triumphed over (v. 54). It has lost its victory; it has been stripped of its sting (v. 55).

It would appear that humanity is on to something here. The dead do not stay dead. Though death seems so final, we are right to be suspicious that it is not the true end. In some ways, humanity is right to be fearful of this reality. Jesus warned, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). As scary as death is, judgment is far scarier.

But death need not be fearful. Hebrews 2:15 says that humanity has been subjected to lifelong slavery, but it also provides the solution:

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Heb. 2:14–15)

As we are surrounded by our culture’s fascination in the uncertainty of death, we can turn our thoughts to the certainty of the resurrection. We know what lies beyond the grave, and that reality is nothing short of the hope that we are called to spread throughout the world.