Throw out your couch

Do any of these words describe your state of mind?

terror, fright, fearfulness, horror, alarm, panic, agitation, trepidation, dread, consternation, dismay, distress

anxiety, worry, angst, unease, uneasiness, apprehension, apprehensiveness, nervousness, nerves, perturbation, foreboding

Is so, I can assure you that you’re not alone. These are synonyms for fear. An excerpt from Robinson Crusoe (chapter 12) may offer a helpful perspective for our ongoing struggle with fear. The book was published in 1719, so we’re walking a well-worn path.

Here’s the situation: Crusoe has been in exile for years on a deserted island. He first feared for his life; God provided food and shelter. He then cursed his loneliness; God provided companionship. Then…

Crusoe sees a footprint in the sand. It is not his own.

His terror at the potential for cannibals on his island nearly drives him mad. After some reflection, he reaches this assessment of his fearful reaction.

Thus my fear banished all my religious hope. All that former confidence in God, which was founded upon such wonderful experience as I had had of His goodness, now vanished; as if He that had fed me by miracle hitherto, could not preserve by His power the provisions that He had made for me by His goodness.

In a nutshell, he was consumed by what-could-be, instead of trusting in what-he-had-seen. I’m certainly not here to condemn. We’re all Crusoe. We’re all trying to figure this out.

The truth is that we already have the book, chapter, and verse with God’s answer. Here’s the solution to fear.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

This is the Message translation of the same passage.

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

As God moves in, fear moves out. God does the work; our job is simply to invite him into our circumstances. If you are exhausted with anxiety, open the door to your mind and heart and give God the run of the house. There will be some cleaning and you may need to throw out your favorite couch, but a new life awaits. Take my arm — let’s begin together.



About Tony Schmitz

Tony Schmitz received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Temple University in 1993, his MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1999. He is a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
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