December 14, 2017

Another Look: If you are not afraid, you are not human

The-Fear

First posted in July, 2013.

• • •

Hello. My name is Mike, and I am afraid.

I am afraid of life, and I am afraid of life’s end. I am afraid of being alone, and I am afraid of being with people. I am afraid of hatred and I am afraid of love. Truth and beauty frighten me even as I delight in them. I especially fear pain, loss, unbearable sorrow, and death itself.

It has taken me years to realize how afraid I am, and I’m sure I still don’t know.

I do not always feel this fear, mind you. It is not as though I am consciously obsessed with it or paralyzed by it.

But the fear is there and I know it. Every once in awhile, it pokes its head around the corner and startles me.

I fear my past. There is a reason the psalmist prayed, “Remember not the sins of my youth.”At certain moments, mine continue to haunt me, even though I believe I am forgiven in Christ. I am not afraid of God’s judgment, but I do fear the corrosive effects of regret, guilt feelings, and unprofitable preoccupations.

And then, here I am, five decades and more into my life, and I am still afraid I will disappoint my parents.

The older I get, the more I see that I have an interpretation of my life. It is generally favorable and approving, but my own understanding is limited and skewed. Occasionally, one of my children or an old friend or even a stranger makes a comment that opens my eyes. They see me differently. They have an interpretation too, and it is not always as generous as my own. I fear my mirror lies. I fear I may be looking at a stranger when I think I am seeing someone I know deeply.

halloween-kids-scared-movie-theaterI fear things present. I fear the beautiful and terrible things of life. My current vocation finds me in companionship with those who are dying. I have learned that life surprises, and not always in happy ways. I have shaken my head and said, “I wish I had answers, but I don’t” more times than I can count.

I fear chaos. Crippling accidents. Losing a job. Making bad, life-altering decisions. Being the chance victim of crime. The death of a child. Missing opportunities to love. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hearing that most unwanted diagnosis. Speaking words I can never retrieve.

The profound beauty of life frightens me. The beloved ocean. The austere mountains. The night sky. Billions of light-years and space we cannot fathom, and an entire unseen quantum world, besides. And I, a speck of dust — I fear absolute anonymity.

I fear the future. I have been able to fool myself for many years, having known so much good fortune. My health and that of my family has been extraordinarily good. We have never truly suffered material loss or devastating circumstances. In my saner moments I realize that there are storm clouds on the horizon and that the wind may blow them our way at any time.

As I visit with older folks, I hear the stories of veterans, and marvel that any of us have survived such human cruelty. I read the news and weep to know that the drumbeat of war goes on. I fear for my children and my children’s children.

I am realistic enough to know that every human being leaves this world with unfinished business. I am also foolish enough to imagine that I could be the first to buck the trend. But I won’t be, and the best I can hope for is that I can whittle my unfinished business pile down to something those who come after me will find manageable. Will I have time?

I don’t want to die. At least not for thirty or forty more years. I don’t want to lose my parents or others I love. I’m afraid family members are going to ask me to officiate their funerals, and I’m afraid to say yes or no. It is a dreadful task to tell a life’s story, to attempt to summarize something so wondrous with words few and poor.

One of the things Michael Spencer wrote that drew me to him as a kindred spirit was his article, “Death, the Road that Must Be Traveled” —

Near number one on my list of things I don’t like about Christians is the suggestion I should have a happy and excited attitude about dying. “Uncle Joe got cancer and died in a month. Glory hallelujah. He’s in a better place and if you love the Lord that’s where you want to be right now. When the doctor says your time has come, you ought to shout praises to the Lord.” Or this one. “I’d rather be in heaven. Wouldn’t you? This earth is not my home. I’d rather be with Jesus and Mama and Peter and Abraham than spend one more day in this world of woe.”

Not me. Not by a long shot. I like this world of woe, and I really don’t want to leave it.

That’s why I love Michael. He wrote things that few other Christians have the honesty to say out loud. But then, Michael died. May he rest in the peace that knows no fear.

38.1I am afraid of the kind of “faith” that won’t acknowledge fearThis is the reason I write at Internet Monk. I hope to honor Michael’s legacy by refusing to settle for the life-evading, truth-denying, Polyanna BS that too often gets passed off as “Christianity” in our day. No amount of shouting, “Perfect love casts out fear!” can change the fact that human beings live with the daily reality of being afraid. No triumphalist trumpeting of victory and “overcoming” can eradicate the gnawing anxiety that besets us all.

Yes, there is hope. Yes, Jesus has risen. Yes, in the end nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ. The reason I need these great and precious promises every day of my life is because every day has its fears. Accepting the Gospel does not inoculate me from being afraid. It helps me. It encourages me. It braces me. It does not eradicate my humanity.

Perhaps seminaries ought to require every person who wants to become a pastor or minister of the church to memorize and internalize the Book of Psalms. Here is the complex reality of the utterly human life of faith:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1)

Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. (Ps. 55:5)

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Ps. 56:3)

If you are not afraid, I doubt if you are awake, or maybe even human. For all our talk of “conquering our fears,” we remain captives. Can we just admit it? Can we just be real? Can we just stop pretending we’re past that?

I am afraid that few will listen. And then the end will come.

Comments

  1. JoanieD says:

    I love this post, Chaplain Mike. Spoken from the heart. I, too, fear so much. I know they say “Perfect love casts out fear” but I do not yet exist in perfect love (or am not aware of it, anyway) and have many of the same fears that you have.

  2. I remember a priest saying to me “Courage is not the opposite of fear. Fear and courage are so often found together I think they are part of the same thing. No, the opposite of fear is obliviousness.”

  3. Robert F says:

    It’s hard for me to not see the hand of providence in this post. Just yesterday I was talking to my wife, and telling her how afraid I am all the time lately. It never lets up. I’ve had fear throughout my life, but there were always ways to escape it, at least for longer or shorter periods. But now, it’s continuous.

    I’m afraid of losing my job; I’m afraid because neither my wife nor I will ever be able to retire, but it also seems like we will not be able to work till the ends of our lives due to serious health issues; I’m afraid that we will become homeless; I’m afraid that we will die prematurely due to losing our health insurance (I can’t afford healthcare insurance, apart from my employer provided benefits; it’s just too expensive, despite the recent reform); I’m afraid of dying before my wife, and leaving her to fend for herself; I’m afraid of her dying first, and leaving me alone and afraid and lost.

    I try to pray, but prayer leads me back to fear, because I’m never sure that I’m not merely praying to an idol of my own making, and for things that it is an illusion to believe the true God would ever give. I try to think about my loved ones, but thinking about them leads me back to thinking about the ways I could become separated from them, back to fear.

    I’m always afraid, and I can’t find a way to relieve the fear. And all these fears are realistic, things are really that bad, and maybe even worse than I allow myself to see. I’m always afraid.

    Last night, before we went to sleep, my wife lovingly told me that she knows how terrible it is to be afraid all the time. She said, “Pray the 23rd Psalm; keep praying the 23rd Psalm.”

    The Lord is my shepherd….

    • Robert, providence is also having a lovely wife to pray with !!!!

    • Christiane says:

      Hi ROBERT,
      your wife has it right . . . the 23rd Psalm
      . . . we have a hymn based on it . . .
      “Shepherd me O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life”

      • Robert F says:

        I know the hymn. My wife has been regularly substituting as organist/pianist at the Saturday evening Mass of a local Catholic Church; I go with her as support, and this was one of the hymns for one of those services. I think CM also featured this on an iMonk post of his favorite contemporary Christian hymns. It is wonderful. Much of the music in the Catholic hymnal that my wife is playing from for the Masses is wonderful.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      Robert, you are not alone my friend. Many nights I fall asleep praying, Our Father who art in heaven…

    • David Cornwell says:

      Robert, about 15 years ago I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer (actually rectal). The early weeks when x-rays and tests were being run, and the endless waiting that this entails were some of the most fearful in my life. At that time I lived some distance from my place of work, and the places I had to drive for medical help.

      Some of those early trips before we knew what was happening were late night drives to the emergency room. I remember on one of them I had to swallow a glass of something terrible before the tests were given. On the way home I made my wife stop the car along the road so I could get out of the car and be sick.

      The nights were long and I had trouble sleeping. The thought of the word “cancer” would produce white-hot fear that started high and worked its way down into my body. Or was it an ice-cold fear? Whatever– it was gripping and all consuming. Anyway, I knew I might die and it might not be far off.

      At this time I also learned the comforting power of Psalm 23. I’d say it aloud to myself while driving, or silently during a sleepless night. It has power and brings real comfort; it brought the living presence of the Word into the reality of my life.

      Clay Crouch speaks of falling asleep praying “Our Father…” This joined Psalm 23 to speak my weakness, my fear, my loss of safety and panic. For many months these became the foundations of my prayer life. Through radiation, surgery, and chemo they delivered steadfast comfort. For years, each time I’d go back for tests, the fear, to a degree, would return.

      Robert, may the Lord bring you peace.

      • Robert F says:

        Thank you, David. It sounds like a harrowing time you went through, and of course, the fear that another cancer may occur is ever-present. God bless you.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And if anyone tried any of these on you, you have my blessing to either punch them in the junk or chemo-barf all over them:
        1) Unloading a copy of Flutterhands Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Cancer on you.
        2) Going “You Gave Yourself Cancer because You Eat Meat!” and waving their own Veganism as a magic shield.
        3) Discerning(TM) you must have some Secret Sin in your life such as “Not Spending Enough Time With The LOORD” (this justifies punching them in the junk more than once).

    • StuartB says:

      I try to pray, but prayer leads me back to fear,

      I can relate. Prayer just leads to more anxiety as I dwell on and pray through my problems.

      Prayers for you, Robert F.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        I wonder if it’s because so many of our prayers seem to go unanswered. I mean, would we fear prayer if we saw more results?

        Jesus asked the cup to be taken from him. It wasn’t. He still prayed for it.

      • This may not apply to some, but in anxious, fearful and urgent times, I find praying without words brings comfort and consolation. With words I get balled up on whether I’ve covered the bases, or said it right — an immature fallback to prayer. Resting in silence allows the relationship to occur and allows me to recognize that God knows the situation fully and the Spirit and the company of heaven is now free to pray for and with us.

      • Robert F says:

        Thanks, StuartB.

        And to Rick Ro. and Tom C for your thoughts.

    • Robert, obviously I have no words of wisdom, only the thin reassurance that I too have these fears. I used to beat myself up for my fears, but stopped when I realized everyone else felt the same, whether or not they pretended otherwise. Michael Spencer and Chaplain Mike had/have these too. John Donne, one of the more famous Anglican clerymen, said, “I have a sin of doubt that when I’ve spun/My last thread, I shall perish on the shore…”

      Nowadays (I’m 71), I take my guidance from the 12-step programs and try to stay *emotionally* in today, taking it “One day at a time.” (Anti-depressants help too.) Meantime, my cancer *might* return — probably will; most do. My money *will* run out in about 8 years, unless I get a big infusion of cash from somewhere — so if I’m lucky the cancer will be back in 7.5 years, eh? :-). And my middle-aged child lives, as she always has, a very marginal life, and I could no more rely on her to care for me in my later helplessness than I could on my beloved pets. Every person in America lives with the very realistic probability that one terrible illness, without insurance, can end every plan that’s been made for the future.

      I’m a ray of sunshine, right? Job’s comforters would make a good act for Comedy Central, compared to me! But I guess what I’m saying, very clumsily, is: Your fears are realistic and intelligent, and so are you. I don’t have any answers to them, and of course you weren’t asking for or expecting any from me or anyone else here. But I will say my lifelong, almost morbid dread of death and all the indignities leading up to it has eased in the last decades as I’ve made every conscious effort to enjoy the little things of today — sunshine, cat sitting on the counter purring till she drools as I rub her jawline, purple irises in the front yard, etc. These things don’t make the dark vanish for me, but they keep it at bay for awhile (“these fragments have I shored against my ruin…), and over time, they have built up a counterweight to the dark, almost a foundation or at least a toe-hold.

      As for the big D, well, I’ve read some near-death stuff and it does look like there may actually be something afterwards. I know that’s not the good solid faith in Jesus that I’m supposed to have, but it’s kind of the best I can do now. Anyway, what I figure is: either it’s Go toward the Light, or, Fade to Black. Nothing I can do about it on this side.

      Well, I hope I don’t come across as preaching — just saying, I’m with you, brother. Maybe I’ll catch you and your wife on the flip side, and she can explain her good solid faith to both of us.

      • Robert F says:

        Thank you, H. Lee. Your intelligent and sensitive comments have been very meaningful to me over the last few years. God be with you.

        Note: My wife struggles with many doubts, too. Last night she was being strong for me. She, inexplicably, loves me.

    • Robert!
      You hit a nerve here. That could have been me writing.

      Thanks for being vulnerable

  4. Thanks for this MIke. Right now I’m locked in struggle in my church as one of the teaching elders/leaders about the direction or tone we are going to take. The senior pastor and the other main teaching elder are convinced that we must hide our fears, frustrations, and struggles and literally “put on a happy face.” The message last Sunday was “God is the salvation of my face” and the point was that we, as Christians, should NEVER show a sad face. OMG, I wanted to scream….

  5. Well you’re in good company.

  6. I’m finally getting around to reading N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope. Long overdue.

    I took a long hike with an old friend last week (he’s a pastor) and we commiserated about the state of modern religion, about the very concerns Michael Spencer had in the caption above—the “pie in the sky when you die” theology, that we’re all just passin’ through, that this world’s not my home. I mentioned Wright’s book, and the emphasis on resurrection, not merely (merely?) Jesus’s resurrection, but ours as well, and that of all creation, and that I’d started reading Wright’s book. Well it turns out that he’s been reading it too, and with positive influence, so I take that as a confirmation.

    Much of what we’re hearing about heaven is more gnostic dualism than Christian—as if our goal were an escape, and since it’s all gonna burn anyway, why bother caring for creation? I hear this all the time, and even when they don’t say it explicitly, they say it.

    One defense, I suppose, is to use the terms “stewardship” or “creation care” instead of those nasty liberal words “ecology” or environment.” Well, whatever works. But read N.T. Wright. Good antidote to the other bozos.

    • “as if our goal were an escape, and since it’s all gonna burn anyway”

      Genesis may say that God won’t destroy the earth by flood ever again, but there’s nothing in there about FIRE!!

      • The Lord gave Noah the rainbow sign
        No more water but the fire next time!
        Keep your hand on that plow.
        Hold on.

      • Does the Genesis account include a command for us to do the burning?

        But now we got weapons
        Of chemical dust
        If fire them we’re forced to
        Then fire them we must.
        One push of the button
        And a shot the world wide,
        And you never ask questions
        When God’s on your side.

        —Bob Dylan

        • Robert F says:

          God says to Abraham, “Kill me a son.”
          Abe says, “Man, you must be putin’ me on!”
          God says, “No.” Abe says, “What?!”
          God says, “You can do what you want, Abe, but
          the next time you see me comin’ you better run.”
          Abe says, “Where you want this killin’ done?”
          God says, “Out on Highway 61.”

          –Bob Dylan

          • Well, now! Since we’re on a Dylan jag, and the subject is fear…

            This is from “Masters of War.”

            You’ve thrown the worst fear
            That can ever be hurled–
            Fear to bring children
            Into the world.
            For threatening my baby
            Unborn and unnamed
            You ain’t worth the blood
            That runs in your veins..

          • Little-known fact about the song Highway 61: Although the song never had wide public appeal, Dylan’s home state of Minnesota saw fit to name a major highway after it.

            Although some claim that the highway in Minnesota is named for the one in the hills of Canaan where Abraham is said to have offered Isaac. I think archaeology will disprove that, however.

          • Robert F says:

            Now Ophelia, she’s ‘neath the window,
            for her I feel so afraid.
            On her twenty-second birthday
            she already is an old maid.
            To her, death is quite romantic,
            she wears an iron vest.
            Her profession’s her religion,
            her sin is her lifelessness.
            And though her eyes are fixed upon
            Noah’s great rainbow,
            she spends her time peeking
            Into Desolation Row.

            –Bob Dylan, from Desolation Row

        • Robert F says:

          After the fire
          the fire still burns…

          –Pete Townshend

      • Robert F says:

        “Bhikkus” (iMonks), “form is burning, feeling is burning, perception is burning, volitional formations are burning, consciousness is burning.” — From the Buddhas “Fire Sermon”.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Genesis may say that God won’t destroy the earth by flood ever again, but there’s nothing in there about FIRE!!

        So SELL THAT FIRE INSURANCE!!!!!
        With Free Complementary Rapture Boarding Pass!!!!!
        Don’t be Left Behind!!!!!

  7. SottoVoce says:

    Time has three horrors.

    The past cannot be changed.
    The present cannot be left.
    The future cannot be known.

  8. Stephen says:

    If people don’t feel fear it’s usually because they don’t feel anything at all. A terrible fate. I speak as one who sometimes has a hard time finding it inside. Culturally we actually admire the so-called “Man with no Name” movie character who can make love and kill with equanimity. In real life such a creature would be an unspeakable monster.

    Primitives dress in feathers and masks
    To scare away their enemies
    The frightening thing is not dying
    The frightening thing is not living
    Scientists guess which is worse we will ask
    The medicine or the disease
    The frightening thing is not dying
    The frightening thing is not living

    -“Primitives” T Bone Burnett

    • Rick Ro. says:

      If you’ve ever read or seen “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy (book) and the Coens (movie), the character Anton Chigurh is just such a monster.

  9. This is the kind of piece that makes IM and the comments here so unique.

    Yeah, you get the productive sparring and (at times) nastiness that seems so prevalent in the blogosphere.

    But you also get the brutal honesty that makes confession of pain, fears and doubts both safe and a perfectly normal part of life. Thanks CM.

    • Amen! Thanks, Chaplain Mike, for keeping this board alive and for your wonderful observations.

  10. “Yes, in the end nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ.”

    One of my most significant aha moments was when I finally accepted that the gospel of Evangelical Christian faith (as it was presented to me) was fundamentally driven by fear. That verse about NOTHING separating US (key qualification)? Pious nonsense with a multitude of qualifications in the context that it’s been given to me. There are about a million things that can separate us both now and FOREVER.

    In the context that it was given to me its more like “nothing can separate you from the love of Christ…..with the exception of all those things that can and will ultimately separate you from the love of Christ. Permanently. So work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You may not actually be one of the “us” who get the benefits as evidenced by your faithlessness. Worldy fears and cares are nothing next to ETERNITYYYY”.

    Still working my way through this.

    • And in that sense the faith that I was given contributed to and exponentially increased my fears.

      • StuartB says:

        nothing can separate, the flipside being, if you did things that could potentially separate you, you were never part of Christ’s love to begin with…

        ugh

        • Rick Ro. says:

          LOL. Ugh indeed. I HATE that line of thinking. Terrible theology!

          • Rick Ro. says:

            In fact, when I hear people spout “He must not have been saved,” my reply is “No, maybe he’s saved anyway.”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “He must not have been saved” = “I THANK THEE, LOORD, THAT I AM NOTHING LIKE THAT FILTHY PUBLICAN OVER THERE!”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          nothing can separate, the flipside being, if you did things that could potentially separate you, you were never part of Christ’s love to begin with…

          Especially when the de facto definition of such things are “Whatever YOU do that *I* don’t!”

    • StuartB says:

      Dude…lots to think about here. Thanks.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      This is one of the reasons I’m drifting toward universalism these days. I mean, c’mon, if you over-think this kinda stuff it’ll drive you insane. That’s not what God wants. He doesn’t want us to create a theology that drives us insane, He just wants to love us and us to love Him (and love others).

      It was like something my pastor said at our church board meeting last night, something about finding the balance between pursuing spirituality not in a prideful way, but letting it be from the heart. And I commented, “Trying to find the balance between heart and brain (or works) and wondering if you’re doing it right and always fearing you’re messing up is enough to drive a person insane. I can’t go there anymore. All I can do is worship God and Jesus the way I feel led. Overanalyzing my approach is unhealthy.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        As someone who’s struggled with Analysis Paralysis most of my life, I concur.

        A dose of Judaism’s “Keep My commandments, but LIVE YOUR LIFE!” is also in order.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      It just dawned on me –

      If my sins separated me from God, as Campus Crusade’s Second Spiritual Law tells us, I’d cease to exist.

      • StuartB says:

        Look at you, all living and existing in sin in full view of God’s presence, lol

        but but buh buh

        Kind of really just throws that apart, doesn’t it?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Campus Crusade is Amway with Souls(TM) instead of soap.

        And their Four Spiritual Laws are a direct knockoff of the chapter headings of The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola.

  11. Interesting post. I don’t know if I am unusual in this but fear is not something I usually experience. I can think of only a handful of times when I have felt fear, and almost all of them had to do with clinging to the side of a mountain or some similar perilous climbing position.

    That however points to one of the strengths of Internet Monk. Not all posts are going to be relevant to all readers. And that is okay with me. If a post is not speaking to me, it may be just what someone else needs to read.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      +1.

      Not all posts will interest me, or you, or everyone. That became apparent with yesterday’s Michele Obama commencement speech post, and also the re-post on Sunday of Michael Spencer’s baseball article. Neither of those tickled everyone’s fancy, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be posted.

    • Hm. We actually have something in common, Mike 😉

  12. Thanks for this, Chaplain Mike. Your honesty and vulnerability has encouraged me at just the right time.

  13. Rick Ro. says:

    Very honest, very raw article. Thanks, CM.

    To me, fear – or rather, the “Biblical approach to fear” – is one of those things that’s easier said than done. Clearly, we’re not to live in fear. We’re not to let fear guide our path, we’re not to let fear prevent us from doing good, we’re not to let fear become our master. Like Dr. Fundystan quoted John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”

    I’m facilitating a class on the gospel of Luke and one of the questions I continually ask the class and myself is, “What is Jesus unafraid of?” It’s been a very profound question for me, for regardless of what Jesus was afraid of, he “saddled up anyway” and faced all sorts of things that would’ve scared the bejesus out of me: the temptations in the desert, his initial reading of the Isaiah scroll, his continual entering into what would become “enemy camp” (the synagogues), his walk to the garden and the trial and the cross. Jesus’ life continual tells me, “Walk through your fear with courage.”

    This idea of not living in fear will become critical as election season gets closer and closer. Both sides and all people in-between – Dems, Reps, Tea Partiers, Libs, Socialists – they’ll ALL be playing on FEAR, playing on YOUR FEAR. They’ll all be telling you why a vote for THE OTHER GUY/GAL will end in disaster. It will be critical for you to not let the politicians TAKE YOU THERE.

    Fear is okay, but don’t let it ruin your life. Don’t let people use it against you. Do what Jesus (and John Wayne) do…saddle up anyway.

    • Christiane says:

      John Wayne: the American Way . . . our unique brand of the British ‘stiff upper lip’ . . . a kind of ‘cool’ in the face of danger 🙂

      or, as Mark Twain put it: ” My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes – most of which never happened.”

      but for those of us with actual terrible misfortunes,
      there seems little opportunity to vent outside of ‘support groups’, or ‘the shrink’s office’, or maybe sometimes on a certain blog where honesty is not seen as a weakness of character, thanks to its beloved founder, Michael Spencer

      • Rick Ro. says:

        I agree. Support groups are great. I had the fortune of having a counselor who gave me TOOLS to work through issues when the popped up. Fear was definitely one of my worst enemies. Still is at times, but nothing like it used to be.

    • Robert F says:

      Yeah, but John Wayne only saddled up on a horse; Jesus saddled up on a cross.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        “John Wayne only saddled up on a horse; Jesus saddled up on a cross.”

        And that’s the keeper quote of the month!!!!

  14. Thanks for this. I really appreciate the raw honesty; it’s what originally drew me here and it’s a big reason I keep coming back. This post in particular helps me by reminding me that I’m not the only one.

  15. Adrienne says:

    I already know the opinion of folks at the Monk about John MacArthur. But I used to be a big “fan” of his books. Until I read his book on anxiety. He talked about a time when he got a call that his wife and I think one of their children had been in an auto accident. He responded, according to him, with absolute calm. He had no fear or anxiety as he drove to meet them because he knew they were in God’s hands. Now maybe the man has a faith I cannot grasp but at any rate the book went on to just about “bash” anyone who struggled with anxiety which I did very badly at the time. He had no clue – no clue.

    That was years ago and now I am so appalled by that kind of thinking I can barely think back on it. THANK GOD for Christians who are honest enough to share their struggles whatever the nature of them might be.

    Wonderful post Chaplain Mike and thank you for calling us, once again, to be authentic.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I think he was mistaking “numbing out” for Great Faith.

      Reason I say that is when my mother died in ’75 after a six-month bout with small-cell lung cancer + chemo, I numbed out immediately & completely; my emotions didn’t come back for a few months. Not quite “absolute calm”, more like the circuit breakers finally tripped and took months to reset.

      • StuartB says:

        I’ve never heard that term before, but it makes sense, and I think I’ve been there as well. 6 years ago a really close friend at the time went missing and turned up dead a week later, cause of death unknown, suspicion of foul play, but no info to this day really. I think I numbed out hard, but it was mostly a “take care of others first” thing. But, months later, things broke, kept on breaking, and I didn’t really snap out of it for a while. And didn’t really wake up, and realize how messed up I was and things were, until a year later.

        Numbed out. Yeah.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I think it’s related to PTSD, where part of your psyche shuts down as a survival mechanism and tries to reboot when it’s safe. (And with PTSD, you get some bad/buggy reboots.)

    • In other words, he responded like a sociopath. That doesn’t surprise me, and I don’t say that to demean or discredit the man at all. It just is in keeping with his behavior. I think in times long gone he would be considered a “manly man” for his lack of empathy*.

      But maybe not. The actual anthropology works I have read all indicate that the majority of cultures and societies, while seeing male roles centered on some things that require internal strength (e.g. war), all provide a – sometimes heavy – social cost to un-empathetic behavior. We seem to have developed an early and specie-wide understanding that sociopaths are dangerous.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Ah, good ol’ John “Grace to You” MacArthur. “Grace to you,” as he clubs you over the head with his interpretation of the Bible.

      Good thing Jesus’ grace trumps MacArthur’s.

    • Glad you got out. I have a family member who is a JMac follower for about the past 10 years. Too long a story for here but suffice to say that the changes I’ve seen in this individual’s attitude and actions have not been for the better.