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- April 12, 2005 /
- by Stonebriar Counseling Associates /
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Eileen’s face lit up when she spoke of her courtship with her husband Steve. “He was so tall and handsome and I was so in love. When he would put his arms around me, I knew that nothing could hurt me.” After they married, the relationship grew to be strong and supportive. “Steve was somewhat opinionated and a bit of a worrier, but these traits were very manageable and we got along just fine.” In time, things began to change and Steve fell into a severe emotional state. Eileen realized Steve had a problemwhen business, family, and social activities-that were not in anyway threatening- would begin to make him anxious. He experienced continuous excessive worrying. She also realized that most of his family had similar behaviors. Steve’s condition worsened. He began to suffer with insomnia, severe headaches and other physical aches and pains. The marriage became strained because Steve began to transmit his anxiety to his family. Steve could not recognize that his problems were emotional even after a series of medical tests were negative and a thorough examination by his family doctor resulted in a clean bill of health. Finally, he lapsed into a severe state of depression. Because life is full of dangerous situations, fear is not only unavoidable but often necessary. In the realm of emotions, fear is like friction. Too much friction heats things up, wears them out prematurely, and hinders movement. With too little friction, things can quickly get out of control and dangerous. That’s true about fear as well. We need fear to keep things fromspinning dangerously out of control. But too much fear can suffocate creativity and reduce life to mere survival. As an emotional component within each of us, there is a certain amount of fear that is healthy. Healthyfearcanserveuswell.I vividly remember years ago in Arizona having just finished working in my office one evening late at night. After I locked up I noticed a stray cat peering over a concrete fence next to my car below. Between the fence and the car were four steps that directly led to where the car was parked. Typically the cat never made such a hissing sound as it peered down towards the ground. So while I stood at the top of the walkway looking to see what the cat was so upset about there at the bottom was a 3’ diamond back rattlesnake curled up in the path for someone to step on! I still remember how frightened I was as fear shot through every fiber of my being. The primary function of healthy fear is to warn us of danger. It alerts us to our vulnerability and urges us to take precautions. Each of us would be foolish to ignore a warning signal that danger lurks nearby when we are at risk. The Bible illustrates the healthiness of self-preserving fear in the presence of danger such as David who fled for fear of his life from the presence of a jealously murderous King (1 Sam. 19:10-12; 20:1; 23:17). The dictionary defines fear as a painful emotion or passion excited by the expectation of evil, or the apprehension of impending danger; apprehension; anxiety; solicitude; alarm; dread. Philosopher John Locke wrote: “Fear is an uneasiness of the mind, upon the thought of future danger likely to befall us.” Last month we saw several examples of physical and psychological dangers from fear. And in someinstances, the rippling effects overwhelm relationships with those closest to us.