The Problem of Fear

This past weekend, I had the privilege to preach on internship.  The challenge: Find something about the story of David and Goliath that connects to people’s lives.  Challenging indeed…

Most people will read this as the classic underdog vs. the superpower story.  Others will dig a bit deeper, and look at the power dynamics present in the story.  And both are pretty good ways to read it.  However, in today’s present time, both versions will eventually lead to a interpretation on politics or social justice.  In normal people terms:  99% vs. 1%.  Conservative vs. Liberal.  Corporate vs. Communal.  The list goes on….and for me, you’ll probably quickly find out, I’m not much for politics when it comes to my faith.  As my last post about Urban Tragedy & the Suburban Dilemma points to (as my friend Adam commented on so well), I’m much more interested in issues of humanity, and our relationship with God.

When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.”  (1 Sam. 17:11)

Now if you remember the David & Goliath story at all, Goliath comes out of the Philistine (bad guy) army and wants to fight someone from Israel’s (good guy) army…settle it head-to-head.  Why bother with all the bloodshed when we could do it this way?  But Goliath, heavily armored, a professional mercenary, someone who had won many battles for the Philistines to this point is no simple adversary.  Goliath is an imposing force, and intimidating one, and Israel full well knows that such a force…there is no one in Israel – the army or the nation – that can overcome it.  They’re driven into fear – the kind that paralyzes you, the kind that leaves you hopeless.

In comes David at this point.  In short, David convinces the King of Israel (Saul, who he’ll eventually take the place of, but not after Saul tries to kill him a bunch of times) to let him face Goliath, and David kills him with a slingshot and a stone.  But here’s the big thing, the thing that gets left out:  It’s what David says while facing Goliath, the ultimate force that terrorizes and kills, that matters.

This very day, the Lord will deliver you into my hand….So that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by the sword and spear; FOR THE BATTLE IS THE LORD’S, and he will give you into our hand.”  (1 Sam. 17:46-47)

THE BATTLE IS THE LORD’S.  Or said another way: VICTORY IS THE LORD’S.

This is radically different…what does it mean that God has already triumphed over those forces that drive us into fear – the type that paralyzes us’ that diminishes us to less than what God created us to be that causes us not to act, speak, and live with passion and with great conviction; the type that keeps us from being open and vulnerable in our relationships with others?  What does it mean that God has already freed us, so that we can live out who we are and out calling as God’s people – that even in the presence of fear, it is still possible for us to live and relate with others?

I think this is much more radical than trying to overcome our fear or any of those things that cause fear.  Overcoming them, or our attempts to, means we’re still trapped…and in some ways, we’re left on our own to figure it out.  And to be honest, I fail at that; we all fail at that.  But, what if we’re free from the very beginning?  It means those steps we take in faith, no matter if we screw it up, bumble our way through it, or if we get rejected – it doesn’t define us.  If this is true, that VICTORY IS THE LORD’S, our failure doesn’t define us; our status as beloved (and baptized, in my tradition) people of God does….

I like that.  I like it a lot.  And even in a story like David and Goliath, as I wrestle with those voices inside my head and heart, that instill fear in me, that intimidate me – I can still wrestle, because I’m free to.  VICTORY IS THE LORD’S.

Ponder that today…and if you feel free to, please share what it means for you and your life today.

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1 Comment

Filed under Church Devotions (Advent/Lent, etc)

One response to “The Problem of Fear

  1. Living with an anxiety disorder, I confront fear a lot. Sometimes it seeps into my life subtly and at other times it’s overt and paralyzing. What can be most frustrating are the points when I begin to doubt everything, including that the “victory is the Lord’s.”

    Thus, as a Christian, I have found that it generally takes more than “knowing” that God has the victory, but living life in such a way that I observe all the different ways in which God is achieving the victory. In short, you could say, I look for the stories of God’s victory (those “David and Goliath” moments). But I think it’s more profound, as if those stories are being retold and rewritten in our lives today as completely NEW stories.

    That seems to be the way God achieves that victory in my life, in constantly new ways, almost as if the battle is God’s before it starts.

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