Monday, December 11, 2006


The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

- Psalm 27.1

Does the imminent approach of a large and unknown danger make our daily worries pale into insignificance? Do our quotidian, pedestrian worries fade away at the approach of a new and greater terror? On the contrary, the daily battle against insecurities and anxieties is where the action is at. A thousand little fears can shrink our lives far more effectively than an illness or tragedy.

Why is it possible not to fear? Because the LORD is my light: not the comforting night-light to hold back the shadows of the dark, nor 'the lantern which a traveller in the dark carries in his hand - but the glow on his face of the coming dawn' (Lesslie Newbigin). It is because we believe in this one that fear no longer makes sense.

What does it mean to not fear? It is to trust this Lord to do his will, not mine. It is to love those around me without being lost in self-absorption, to give myself wholeheartedly to my neighbour and not hold back in case the potential loss is too painful. It is to remain thankful despite great loss and refuse the easy temptation of bitterness. To refuse also the pull of despair and instead to groan in hope; to look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come.

Let us fear not. This is our task and prayer.


Anonymous said...

Nice. I had a conversation recently about this with a friend. But what are we to do with the other biblical tradition surrounding fear, that the Lord is to be feared?

michael jensen said...

There is a good deal here that resonates with the Bonhoeffer of the Letters and Papers from Prison, especially as he moves beyond hope for release into the realisation that the future is pretty grim, and that he and Maria may never be married.

Meredith said...

thanks for your thoughts on this byron. i agree that there is a sense in which we don't need to fear because the future is not ultimately unknown for us. we know the risen christ, and he is the omega of all things. sometimes this makes the present even less bearable, though, and so i wonder if for the christian, frustration is the opposite of fear...?

p.s. the top picture is striking - i'll give you ten points if you tell me what / where it is :-)

byron smith said...

Drew - yes, I'd considered including this second thread (that is very rich scripturally), but (a) thought the post might get too long and (b) I'm not totally sure how to put the two together. More needs to be said than just that the smaller fears get swallowed up by the bigger one. What does John mean when he says that perfect love drives out fear?

byron smith said...

Michael - hope I wasn't sounding too morbid. I'm not dead yet (and I got the girl). :-)

Meredith - yes, totally. Moltmann's opening to Theology of Hope has always resonated strongly for me, picking up as it does on Romans 8.18ff. The relevant quote is here (and other relevant posts/quotes here and here. I also consider this to be one of my key posts on the matter). In short, I think frustration is a background against which the true virtue is a yearning hope, an eager expectation, a trusting dissatisfaction with present pains.

As for the image, it comes from one of the most powerful pieces of art in the very artistic Berlin. It is an installation in the Jewish Museum, located in one of several large voids found throughout this very unusual building. There are hundreds and hundreds of these sombre heavy metal faces stretched over a large area through which you walk and they make a dull crunching sound. The faces vary in size from about 10-25 cm in diameter and as you can see are 2 or 3 cm thick. It had an interesting name, but I can't remember it anymore. It is about memory and loss and I had been saving the image for a post more connected to these themes, but thought I'd use it to symbolise fear, even though it wasn't quite right.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, you've answered the question:

When some beloved voice that was to you
Both sound and sweetness, faileth suddenly,
And silence, against which you dare not cry,
Aches round you like a strong disease and new -
What hope? what help? what music will undo
That silence to your sense?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you on the length of the post. My friend I was talking about this with had rejected the idea that we should fear God - I wanted to put a little survey together of this scriptural tradition to look at together... and it was enormous.

Another post another day :)

Nice quotation Ali.

michael jensen said...

Oh, yeah, sorry... I didn't put this so well. Of course, Bonhoeffer doesn't sound morbid either... it is when he reaches this point that he gains new insight that future is NOT pretty grim - but in a way that he hadn't grasped before.

psychodougie said...

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
perhaps healthy fear is the order of the day. fearing the terrible, not the impotent.