The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear. It is the storm within which endangers him most, not the storm without.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am not a motion picture aficionado. In fact, I cannot even recall the last time I went out to “the movies”. I have a very nice home theater system and it provides me with all of the entertainment options that my heart desires ” sans the huddled masses. Needless to say, I have little to no interest in 99% of the rubbish produced by the Hollywood elite.
Recently though, I read that Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation of The Shining is considered the most popular Stephen King inspired film ever made. In the flick, well know actor Jack Nicholson plays a character named Jack Torrance, a struggling writer who accepts a job as the winter caretaker for some place in Colorado called the Overlook Hotel. Torrance is aware that the previous caretaker had gone insane there and murdered his entire family. Does that deter ol’ Jack from taking the job? Naw. In short order (this is a movie, remember) both Jack and his “psychically” gifted son are communing with the evil spirit manifesting at the Overlook. And, you guessed it, things go from bad to worse.
I would like to submit my own movie script for the consideration of the motion picture moguls. It is also a story of demonic possession, and it contains all of the wild, salacious, violent, and frightening elements that Hollywood loves. Here’s a plot synopsis: we begin with a naked man, living in a graveyard, scaring the bejesus out of the townspeople. He is so powerful that chains cannot hold him. Eventually, along comes the hero of our film who sets the possessed man free by exercising a legion of indwelling demons and sending them into a nearby herd of swine. The pigs, rather than live full of demons, rush off, wildly plunging headlong into the sea where they drown. Wow!
Fantasy? Believe it or not, it actually happened a long time ago. Here’s the historical account as written the Bible’s Newer Testament:
26 “So they arrived at the other side, in the Gerasene country across the lake from Galilee. 27 As he was climbing out of the boat a man from the city of Gadara came to meet him, a man who had been demon-possessed for a long time. Homeless and naked, he lived in a cemetery among the tombs. 28 As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell to the ground before him, screaming, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of God Most High? Please, I beg you, oh, don’t torment me!”
29 For Jesus was already commanding the demon to leave him. This demon had often taken control of the man so that even when shackled with chains he simply broke them and rushed out into the desert, completely under the demon’s power. 30 “What is your name?” Jesus asked the demon. “Legion,” they replied for the man was filled with thousands of them! 31 They kept begging Jesus not to order them into the Bottomless Pit.
32 A herd of pigs was feeding on the mountainside nearby, and the demons pled with him to let them enter into the pigs. And Jesus said they could. 33 So they left the man and went into the pigs, and immediately the whole herd rushed down the mountainside and fell over a cliff into the lake below, where they drowned. 34 The herdsmen rushed away to the nearby city, spreading the news as they ran.
35 Soon a crowd came out to see for themselves what had happened and saw the man who had been demon-possessed sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet, clothed and sane! And the whole crowd was badly frightened. 36 Then those who had seen it happen told how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 And everyone begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone (for a deep wave of fear had swept over them). So he returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake.
38 The man who had been demon-possessed begged to go too, but Jesus said no.
39 “Go back to your family,” he told him, “and tell them what a wonderful thing God has done for you.”
So he went all through the city telling everyone about Jesus’ mighty miracle.” (Luke 8:26-39 TLB)
If you are at all familiar with this story, your attention has most likely been drawn to the more sensational (and supernatural) elements of the narrative. Nonetheless, be you a seasoned Bible scholar or first time reader of this Newer Testament account, let me ask you, have you ever considered the underlying fear factor? Let’s talk.
Can you imagine a life with no fear? What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats?” – Max Lucado
Read that narrative again carefully. With the exception of Jesus, everyone was dealing with some form of fear. The good people of Gadara were certainly scared of their local bogeyman and later of the miracle man called Jesus. The disciples were creeped out by the crazy guy, and even the demoniac ” a deranged man who was known for his delight in frightening anyone who happened to wander by the tombs – showed fear in the presence of the great liberator. Yes, fear factored deeply in the lives of the Gadarenes.
I’m beginning to wonder if our modern world is any different where fear is concerned. Seems like just about everyone is a tad apprehensive these days. How about you? What are you afraid of? Terrorists? Serial killers? Catastrophic storms? Road rage? Burglary? Be honest. I know people who fear they might fall into poverty, contract a terminal disease, or suffer violence at the hands of the felonious.
And what about the fear of man? Pardon me, you’ve not heard of this? By definition, the Fear of Man is an inner dread of rejection, ridicule, or disapproval. Now that covers a lot of ground. Is it any wonder that the great book of wisdom known as Proverbs declares,
“The fear of human opinion disables us; trusting in God protects you from that.” ” (Proverbs 29:25 MSG)
The result of all these fears? Survey says: we buy guns for protection, build walls, install alarms and cameras, move to gated communities, live in isolation or simply try to escape our worries through drugs, alcohol or excessive “entertainment”. Those who suffer from the fear of man become incessant people pleasers. And let’s not forget the biggest fear of all – Death. That one terrifies the multitudes.
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” – Anne Frank
Sometimes I pass a familiar local bag lady on my excursions around town, disheveled, half-crazed looking and always talking to herself. On this particular day, licking wounds from one of my own mental scuffles, I thought to myself, “At least I’m not her.” After all, “She’s plain nutty.” And then it hit me; there but for the grace of God, go I. When you stop to think about it, she wanders the streets in open turmoil talking to herself out loud. My relentless self-dialogue is kept bottled up inside. Are we any less tormented because we can manage to contain our fears better than her? And therein lies the problem; we are not supposed to contain fear at all.
The Newer Testament writer Paul once wrote a letter to his young friend Timothy saying,
7 “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
The Living Bible translation of this verse reads:
7 “For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them.” (2 Timothy 1:7 TLB)
Like today, there was much to fear in those ancient times. But Paul reminded Timothy that an enlightened child of God is given the powerful Spirit of love and sanity to replace the demonic spirit of excessive uncertainty (fear) and madness.
Another Biblical writer named John put it like this:
18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
So the Divine Spirit replaces our fears with His powerful love and clarity. When we experience the “perfect love” that IS, and comes from the Almighty One, the fear factor cannot control our lives ” unless, of course, we allow it to do so.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure to it. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” -Helen Keller
We all wrestle with fear and doubt from time to time. Honestly, I do not believe that true mental and spiritual freedom is possible as long as we run from our uncertainties or simply pretend that they do not exist. Why not face your fears and take a good look at what troubles you. Do it now. When you finally see that mess before you; that frightened little inner child that has become so proficient at the game of pretense, remember this: there is an all-consuming Spirit of mercy and grace who can help. All He asks of you is honest humility in facing who you really are. I like what a very early follower of the Galilean Prophet wrote in a letter that eventually became the Bible’s Newer Testament book of 1st Peter:
6-7 “So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties (fears) upon him, for you are his personal concern.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 PHILLIPS)
It is no easy task to practice genuine spiritual humility. Placing our lives in the hands of an invisible entity (God) does not come natural to a fallen, spiritually deadened race of beings who are deceived, distracted and hopelessly stranded on a dying home world. Do you have the courage to let the liberating Spirit of truth (Jesus) call out and name your demons? Are you ready to replace your broken paradigms – even if that means leaving behind everything that does not conform to the “Way, Truth, and Life?” Then take my hand friend, let’s walk on the wild side together and watch as the god of our egos – driven by our fears – is replaced with the God of compassion driven by perfect love. What do you have to loose – except your life among the walking dead? Today, the Creator of all things, the Divine Spark, and our Kinsman Redeemer invites you to abandon the fear factors controlling your life by fearlessly reaching out to Him. I hope you will.
Almighty Creator, I am asking you to make the reality of your presence known to my friends today. Help them to release their fears to you. Let them know you are with them, so that they can find liberation in the message and mission of the man we call Jesus – the one you once sent on a rescue mission to free the captives on spaceship earth. Amen
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656