Fear in the Headlines

(I wrote the following in the year that followed the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks in the United States.)


Daily the headlines are filled with threats, potential threats, and new safety precautions as national leaders assure us that another terrorist attack is "not a matter of if, but when, and where."


A nuclear power plant? A national landmark? Washington? London? Los Angeles?  Airplanes?  Bio-Terror?  Suicide attacks?  There seem to be as many threats as there are ideas we can dream up for devastation. How can we win the battle against fear in our hearts? Can we ever find peace? Consider some of the headlines in just one week: 5/20-5/26 (2002)


Monday
Airlines Warned of Terrorist Threats
Cheney Predicts More Terrorist Attacks
Suicide Bomber Kills Three Israelis


Tuesday
Bush says Al-Qaeda still a threat
FBI warns of attacks on New York Landmarks
US Treasuries rise on weak stocks, due to terror fears
Rumsfeld Sounds alarm on Terrorists
FBI says suicide attacks likely in America


Wednesday
NY on attack alert, suspicious bag shuts down bridge
US Treasuries rise upon terror warnings
Extremists will get mass destruction weapons, says US
US Stocks sink in Europe


Thursday
Bin Laden Aid Talks, sets off alerts in US
Envoy Sees more Pakistan Attacks
US stocks set for soft start, as tensions sweep the globe


Friday
Rail Systems given terror warning
FBI Warns of possible scuba diver attacks


Saturday
FBI Warns about Small Planes
Nuke Plants put on high alert


Any single one of these headlines is enough to cause considerable stress in our lives -- piled on top of one another it is easy to just block out the grim truth altogether.


In some ways, we have to do that. We have to go on living. There will always be "threats."


But deep within us, we know that there is much to fear, that nothing is really secure. We all know that one day one of the warnings we hear will come true, and it will wake us up afresh, like the half-asleep watchman in the cold, early hours of the morning.


But how can we deal with fear in the meantime?


The way I see it, fear has three primary causes:


Lack of knowledge. Probably the biggest "fear-maker" is the unknown...we want the security of knowing all that the future holds, but such security alludes us. Instead, we have to catch the news every few hours...wondering when the next major event will happen. Like the little boy (or big one) who is afraid of the dark, we are terrified of what we cannot see.


Lack of trust. Another major source of fear is lack of confidence in oneself, in the government, in God's protection, etc. When we lack the confidence that an issue is being handled well, our hearts quickly give way to fear.


An over-active imagination. When we hear noises at night in the basement, or when we walk through a dark parking lot, what causes the adrenalin rush of fear? Our imagination. We see things that aren't there, and hear things that don't exist. We see shadows shifting and hear floors creaking. In the same way, when it comes to the news events of our day, we often allow our imaginations to take over our logic. Perhaps we've seen too many disaster movies, or heard too much news commentary about what "could" happen.


Overcoming fear in our lives will not happen until we can learn to deal with these three "fear makers." How can we do it?


Realize that God is bigger than any fear. Nuclear power plant meltdown? God is bigger. Radiological weapons? God is bigger. Terrorist plots? God is bigger. God has more power, more resources, and more intelligence than anything this world could ever offer. We must learn to trust Him to deal with the "unknown" things we cannot see. No matter what happens, God will be there.


Realize that God is worthy of your trust. Trusting in God means that you recognize His authority and power over everything that may happen on earth. When you trust in God, you put your faith in Him, instead of in money, people, government, etc. Those things will all fail one day, but God never will. Trusting God doesn't mean you'll never have problems in life, but it does mean that you can always look to Him for comfort and hope. It does mean that you don't have to worry...because God will be beside you. Remember those nights when you were young that you got scared in your bedroom, all alone? The lights were out, and the covers were your only security. Your eyes were like saucers...open wide, straining to see what horrible monster was lurking in your closet. But suddenly, mom came in the room, and the "monster" disappeared. You took a deep breath and drifted off to sleep, knowing that as long as mom is around, you can sleep in safety. That same feeling of relief comes to us now, even in these troubled times, when we realize that God is in the room. Bad things will still happen...but you'll never be alone.

"Think on things that are true," the Bible explains.
Nothing can run faster than our imaginations. If you want to be free from fear, you need to make a commitment to obey what the Bible says in Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Don't dwell on what "could happen"...dwell on things that are truth.


There was once a soldier in England who feared greatly for his life. The enemy army was camped just a few miles away, ready to strike at any time. All the soldiers knew that this day could be their last. The fearful soldier couldn't get to sleep that night...his mind full of panic and questions...and it was then that he looked at the man next to him. That soldier was sleeping soundly--quiet, peaceful rest. The next morning the tired, fearful soldier asked his friend, "How can you sleep when you might die at any moment? When the enemy might spring a surprise attack on us?"


The peace-filled soldier replied with words that we should take to heart: "My friend, God is watching me wherever I am. He knows what is happening. If he let's me die, then I can go to be with him. If he protects me from death, then I can live for him. Either way, I have peace that I can trust Him with my soul and my life."


There is no guarantee of tomorrow. Terrorists may strike again. Or sickness. Or a car crash.


We may wake up tomorrow in a different world.


We may not wake up at all.


But if we place our faith in God, and what He did for us in Jesus Christ, we can be sure of our future with Him. We need not fear. Whatever turn life may take, we can say that our motto is: "In God we Trust."

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