February 2021 was a month like no other. Not for me personally, you understand. For the life of me I can’t remember what I was doing or where I was (I’m not sure if this is an age issue or just basic insanity) but for Joe Davis it was his best ever time. Joe was doing some landscaping work at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve in the UK, when he came across something odd sticking out of the mud. Uncovering a little more, Joe saw what he thought looked like an enormous jawbone, and immediately contacted the local council. ‘We don’t have a dinosaur department yet,’ they said, primly, ’so we’ll have to get someone to call you back.’
In time, a team of palaeontologists arrived to take a closer look.
Joe told his mates he’d found a dinosaur, but they thought he was crazy. Imagine the conversations in the pub that night! Rutland isn’t on the coast (a small geography lesson for you there), and nothing like this dinosaur skeleton had ever been discovered so far inland. But Joe stuck to his guns, put up with the taunts and laughter, and held on to his belief that he’d found a real-life sea monster.
Fortunately, Dr. Dean Lomax from Manchester University confirmed that Joe Davis had indeed discovered an ichthyosaur in the mud of Rutland Water, where higher sea levels had once covered the area. You can imagine Joe’s relief. He wasn’t a twit after all. He really had discovered a dinosaur.
Joe is a chap who knows the fear of not being believed. He understands how it is when people think you’re a nitwit for speaking out. I mean, imagine if he’d been wrong about that pile of bones. What if they’d simply been a collection of random rocks in the mud? He’d have looked like a right wally! But they weren’t and he didn’t. He followed his gut instinct and, helped in no small way by the expertise of Dr. Lomax, he thumbed his nose to the naysayers. Now Joe Davis stands in history as the ‘Man Who Discovered The Rutland Ichthyosaur’.
When I first had the idea to write a blog, I buried it. When I first set out to write a blog, I didn’t. When I next had a thought to write a blog, I sat on it. And then I left it for a while. Eventually, when I decided enough was enough, I sat and I wrote. What do you think stopped me writing all those times before?
But more than anything, I didn’t begin because I was afraid. Now, you would think, with repetition, publishing posts for a while, the fear would abate and confidence would grow simply by doing the task, but that’s not the case. It’s been weeks since my last post because I’ve been hiding. Hiding because I allowed someone to make me feel I don’t have what it takes. Hiding because I don’t think my voice is worthy enough or that anyone wants to hear. Hiding because I don’t think what I write is any good. But when I sit and really look at it, what has kept me from writing is fear. Fear of insignificance. Fear of getting it wrong. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of someone discovering my ‘dinosaur’ isn’t real.
Such a waste of time.
Naturally, I’ve had a bit of time to sit and think about this thing we call fear. If we were to take a poll, I think most people would say that fear is an emotion, and they wouldn’t be wrong, of course. But I believe it is both a feeling and a spirit.
Before I say more about that, I think I need to preface this next bit by saying that I set out with the intention of writing a blog for anyone to read, regardless of beliefs, age, music preferences, gender, skin colour, or preferred pizza toppings, and you’ll have learned by now, if you’re a follower of this blog, that I’m a Christian. There might be a lot of things I try to disguise, but I don’t pretend about that one. And blimey, it’s made things a bit complicated if I’m honest. I’ve got myself in a right pickle trying to ‘tone down’ my Christian expression to be more inclusive, just in case I somehow unwittingly offend someone who doesn’t think the same way I do. I guess I was even afraid I wouldn’t be liked if I talked about God too much. I see now that if you choose not to read my blog because it offends you or it’s really not your thing, then that’s okay. I mean, it’s not my intention to offend you, but you don’t have to like what I say any more than you have to like pineapple on your pizza. Whilst I very much want to bring joy and make people smile, I can’t pretend I’m something I’m not just to keep people entertained. That’s not my responsibility.
So there you are. This is me. Present. Now. And I’m really glad you’re here.
Let’s have a brief look at this idea of fear having twin personalities: spirit and feeling. Remember, even if you’ve not made the distinction between these two aspects of fear, we’ve definitely all experienced them.
If you know anything of the Bible, you might remember that the Israelites of the Old Testament had to deal with two things before they got into the Promised Land: unbelief and fear, and these are things we all struggle with too. When we’re trying to navigate the busyness of life, no prayer time, no meditation, no flavour of Ben and Jerry’s, is going to change that struggle. Truly. I’m now 49 years old and I keep thinking that I shouldn’t have to deal with the rubbish of the struggle. I’ve been a Christian most of my life. I’ve lived in faith—and sometimes fallen out of faith—but most of the time I’ve lived obedient to what I felt God was asking of me. Yet even in the midst of having a reasonably good track record with God, I’ve still encountered fear. I am not fearless, not by a long stretch.
Fear Is A Spirit
I began by saying that fear is a spirit, and it’s a spirit we need to throw off. We see in Scripture that God told loads of people to not be afraid—Mary, Joseph, Peter, Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah, and so on—so He knows it happens to us. In fact, fear is mentioned around five hundered times in the Bible, and it’s very sneaky. Fear just wants to hang out with us, dominate our thinking, our words, our relationships, our dreams, our activities, and plans. But in 2 Timothy 1: 7 (Amplified Bible), we read:
‘For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of a calm and well-balance mind and discipline and self-control.’
God didn’t give us a spirit of backing-off, but of power, love, and a calm, and well-balanced mind. You, of course, know that fear hangs out in the mind. Fear loves to convince you that it’s telling you the truth, and because of its snidey, sneaky way we believe it. (Please know that truth and fact are two different things to God. Facts are reality, but truth is HIS reality, and we need to learn how to distinguish that.)
If you have the spirit of fear on you, you don’t get to operate in the spirit of power, the spirit of love, or the spirit of a sound mind. When you’re full of fear, you can’t be honest, loving, or have clear thinking. So let me ask you a couple of questions. Are you going to operate in faith, or fear? Are you going to believe the enemy, or believe God?
Fear Is A Feeling
Whilst fear is also a feeling, that doesn’t mean we have to be full of fear—fearful. The only power the enemy has is if you believe what he says about you. We all experience fear, and we can own it and live it, or we can choose not to believe the lies. It’s as simple as that.
Just because someone says something about you, it doesn’t mean that’s who you are. Just because your parents had a different plan for your life and you didn’t follow that plan, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Just because that boy or girl didn’t pick you to marry doesn’t mean you’re unlovable. Just because you were denied that promotion, doesn’t mean you’re bad at your job.
When we’re afraid we can’t think straight. We’re confused, irritable, and we push people away. Fear robs us of love, power and a sound mind. I’ll say this over and over because I’ve lived it.
Fear only has power if we feed it.
The first fear I remember having to face was the fear of insignificance. (And that fear bred fear-children, namely Fear of Abandonment, and his siblings: Fear of Rejection, Fear of Failure, and Fear of Looking Stupid. Yuck.) No one wants to reflect on their life and feel they missed the boat. Maybe even Joe Davis now feels like he’s made it big with his ichthyosaur discovery.
But perhaps you’re more like me and you think you should have dealt with stuff by now. Maybe you’re in your 30s, 40s or 50s and you’d imagined you’d be more successful than actually you are. Maybe you thought you’d be married, or have received that award. Perhaps you imagined you’d have achieved that lifelong dream, or cracked that dilemma that’s been chasing you.
If we don’t deal with insignificance then we’ll do a lot of things to try and engender significance, and we most often make our worst decisions when we feel insecure. For me, insignificance manifested itself in me being easily humiliated and untrusting, and seeking affirmation from external sources rather than having reassurance from within. I used to pray that God would make me a rock star in just one skill so that I could do something incredible for God with that one strength. I thought if I could just find my ‘one thing’, that thing that I could do amazingly well, then I’d be set and with God I’d move mountains… I even tested myself in different skills, trying to find that ‘thing’ that was the thing that would be, well, my thing. I tried singing. I tried teaching. I tried origami. I tried parenting. (Still trying with that one.) I tried circus skills. Crafting. Gardening. I’ve even tried to imagine myself in different roles. A zoologist. A nun. An explorer. A geologist. A minister. A psychologist.
Yep. I guess I’m still looking.
Significance is still an issue for me. I’ve learned that the biggest lie of the enemy in my life is, ‘You don’t have what it takes. You’ve never had what it takes. You’re not, and won’t ever be, enough.’ He works overtime on us to let us know that we’re not capable of what we’re called to be. So we check out, and we refuse to be powerful because we believe we don’t have what it takes.
Significance is an inside job, not an outside job. It comes from knowing you’re loved and that you love God, and therefore you’re successful. Significance is about more than what you do. What we’re doing in life is simply an assignment, but it’s not who we are. We might be a CEO, a parent, a cleaner, a teacher, a spouse, a shop worker, a pastor, a police officer, but it’s not who we are.
The only way to get rid of insignificance in your life is a love encounter. That’s it. If you don’t know God loves you from the deepest core of yourself, that you don’t need to do anything to get His attention or impress Him, then you’ll not feel safe. BUT if you know how God sees you and feels about you, then your security is, well, secure. Our only job is to give Him that one talent, or even the half a talent like I feel I have, and it’s God’s job to multiply it.
I know what it is to feel discouraged in life, to feel like you should have got that job or the education, or that marriage or baby. But your timeline is not God’s timeline. He tells you in Scripture that He’s begun a good work in you and He’ll continue doing it (Phil. 1:6). He’s not done yet. We live in a cultural pressure cooker which says we need to have achieved certain things by a certain age. But it’s a huge lie. If my fear is that I have to be the best, there’s always going to be someone better right behind me, so I better just be obedient to what God’s asked me to do. It’s an assignment and it comes and it goes, but it’s not who I am.
It doesn’t matter what you feel about God, it doesn’t change His character. Honestly, you have no idea what He’s about to do with your life, but let me tell you that He’s thrilled with it. The Bible says that God made you for this generation. He said He wanted you for this time, where you are, because you have the likeness of God in your workplace, in your community, in your family. Only you can take that there. And if you’re still looking for your place, uncertain of what you should be doing, please don’t stress. You’re just in your wilderness and you’re not going to miss the thing God has for you. God wants you to get it more than you want to get it. Just trust Him. He’s not mean or cruel.
So where am I going with all this? I don’t have it all worked out, but I do know that if you don’t see fear as your enemy, it will one day defeat you. If you don’t recognise that fear is more than just a feeling, you’ll never be able to fight andgrow effectively. And if you keep searching outside of yourself for significance, you will never be satisfied.
Thinking about the story of Joe Davis, I couldn’t help but reflect on that poor dinosaur, stuck in the mud for generations, hidden away and mucky. But the mud didn’t destroy that creature. Conversely, the dinosaur was preserved, preserved for a time when it would once again see the light. You may feel the best of you has been buried, that you’ve had to hide away who you really are in order to feel accepted and significant. And those fear-lies have come crowding in and robbed you of joy and freedom. But I promise you, if you’ll just work on scraping back the silt and dirt, that treasure is going to stun the world. Don’t allow fear to contain you, rob you, keep you small. Don’t believe that you’re not enough.
Remember: Fear is a liar.