Two Ways to Reduce Fear
A few years ago, my new year’s resolution was to identify things in this world that will not be present in eternity. If death and evil will not be permitted beyond the pearly gates, what might that New Earth look like? I knew that there will be no more tears, and that lions and lambs will be friends, but I wanted to holistically understand the implications.
I decided to take an inventory of the objects of everyday life that will be absent.
God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. (Rev 21:3-4)
That was a very enlightening year.
I eventually realized that imagining the absence of death and evil is much more nuanced than I thought. It requires imagining the elimination of a myriad of other things. Entire professions will become obsolete, like mental health therapists. A world without death and evil is also a world without preventative measures like vitamins, guardrails and oceans full of paraphernalia that will be confiscated at the pearly gates.
As the list grew with everything from sunscreens to seatbelts, I noticed that the more we are exposed to occurrences of death and evil, the more we are exposed to the toxic exhaust of fear they leave in their wake. Long after the news stops reporting, fear continues to threaten our security with endless possibilities of future catastrophe.
We were clearly not built for a world with death and evil; or at least a world where we have the knowledge of it.
If fear is the result of exposure to death and evil, how might we become fearless in a land where most Americans are bombarded daily by ever-increasing reports of death and evil?
We are not just exposed to our fair share on a personal level, we also experience death vicariously through broadcasts, dramas, video games and a slew of other sources. We have screens in every square-inch of our existence to feed our eyes the death and terror happening to others in real time, as well as a Hollywood full of brilliant creatives to recreate endless possibilities.
This realization brought me back to the Genesis where we see the first and last completely fearless woman to ever walk the earth. Before the fall, Eve had zero fear. Eve’s fearlessness is evidenced as she stood in the garden, chatting with a snake about what to eat for lunch.
Here is a woman who clearly has no knowledge of evil, much less fear!
As admirable as Eve’s fearlessness may seem, we cannot give her any credit. Eve’s fearlessness was not a result of her intense regiment of fasting every sabbath, or the prayer huddles she had with the girls on Friday mornings. It definitely wasn’t her closets full of journals capturing her heroic faith journey.
No, Eve actually had zero things to do with her fearlessness. Eve did not experience the sensation of fear because her Creator fashioned her without so much as the ability to know evil. Eve’s ignorance to evil was a grace given with the knowledge that God’s management of death and evil was, is, and will always be so absolutely sufficient, that she need not be bothered by seeing it.
He also knew that the knowledge of death and evil would give way to fear, a sensation not compatible with her design.
Contrary to the teachings of my southern upbringing, Adam and Eve did not die from eating a poisonous apple. They simply died from the knowledge of evil!
Furthermore, they did not drop dead immediately after the first bite, but were exposed to death and evil for roughly 900 additional years. Their ability to know evil resulted in God cutting them off from their unending organic supply of the world’s finest produce locally sourced from the Tree of Life.
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever.” (Genesis 3:22 NIV)
Certainly, Pre-Fall Eve did not understand the luxury of her blindness to evil.
She likely did not yet cherish her perfection of faith in a God who is exclusively in charge of managing it. She had not seen the places where He kept her feet from slipping, or the teams of angelic defenders He gave charge over her to protect her. She just had the luxury of being.
We can learn a lot from that bliss of ignorance which, in conjunction with full access to the Tree of Life, must have made for a much different human experience than ours.
It is important to note that God was not withholding Eve’s knowledge of evil as a form of power abuse as the serpent implied, but rather as an expression of His protective love and grace.
He was the One who invented humans and He knew that knowledge of evil is the antithesis of our design.
Despite the serpent’s insinuation, Eve’s knowledge of evil did not make her a corporate partner in the Trinity’s throne room. Instead, it birthed a propensity to take part in the management of evil out of fear. It was Eve’s perception of powerlessness that lured her away from the epicenter of abundant life and into a land where fear would invite every generation since to pick up our anxious weapons and fight our own battles.
We return to our original question; How can we be fearless in a land where mass communication inundates us with the knowledge of death and evil every day?
If Eve was fearless because she saw no evil, and was filled with life from a heavenly tree, is it even possible to be fearless now?
How might we stay connected to the Tree of Life and see no evil in this world?
The enemy knew then, and he knows now, that the more we see evil, the more fear will hold us back from life.
1) Minimize on our knowledge of evil.
Exposing ourselves to death and evil, and the dramatized recreation of death and evil only gives birth to more fear. Our eyes were not built to see evil, so cleansing our fields of vision as much as possible and setting our sights on heavenly things will fill our bodies with light and drive away the darkness.
We have to drastically limit our exposure to evil; not to the point of ignorance, but certainly to the point of wisdom.
There are 24 hours in a day, and we have to take responsibility for the “knowledge” we absorb into our souls. Unlike Eve, we are able to know the evil in this world. But less evil seen is less evil feared. Increasing knowledge about heavenly things and decreasing knowledge about evil will significantly reduce fear.
The eyes are the lamp of the body, so we can fill our eyes with light. In fact, we can fill all five of our senses with heaven! It is a complete game changer.
2) Choose things that give life and not things that take it.
Revelation says that the Tree of Life will spring up on both sides of the river running through paradise. Oh, what a day that will be!
Meanwhile back at the ranch, we have been reunited through Christ with the One who planted the Tree; the Life Giver Himself. We can look into the world for comfort and protection from death and evil in a million different forms. But ultimately God is still our life source, defender, comforter and friend.
As we look forward at our eternal life spans that display the victorious works of Christ, we have hope and not fear.
When fear paints a scary picture, we can look instead at our eternal canvas where Christ assigned a victory for every evil that will ever intercept our journey. For those of us who are in Christ, we can thank Him in advance because every molecule of death and evil have been swallowed up by an eternal victory that results in life.
This does not mean there will be no suffering in this lifetime; but it does mean that even suffering is tethered to the victorious fact that it will end forever.
Through Christ, we have been reunited with the eternal Life-Giver. We have regained access to the Tree of life. If we truly understand that we are in Him, we can know that Christ fought and won a way for us to experience the same eternal benefits of the Tree of Life offered to Eve.
He also accomplished a victory over every evil.
Those victories cannot be un-won. Just because we “know” about evil, does not mean that we now have to manage it with unhealthy responses like fear, anxiety, worry, and hopelessness. God is still on His throne and He is still ultimately in charge of death and evil. There is tremendous peace in knowing that on the Cross, He was aware of every death and evil that we will encounter in this lifetime.
His victory over death was complete and final. All we have to do is reach out and grab it.
The two things that changed in the garden, are the two things that were partially set right at the Cross and will entirely be set right in eternity. We will regain our access to the Tree of Life and have no knowledge of evil. Meanwhile, we cannot completely shield ourselves from the knowledge of death and evil. But we can shield ourselves from excessive exposure to them and increase our knowledge of Kingdom things that are life-giving.
We do not have to give fear permission to project hypothetical visions of death and evil onto our future.
Anchoring into the truth in the scripture keeps our focus on life, not death. Here are some passages for reflection:
Sarah Probst is a Licensed Professional Christian Counselor in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about partnering with God’s intentional design of the human body’s own physiological and neurological systems to help clients heal and see significant changes that can not be achieved through “talk-therapy” alone! Her treatment plans incorporate various Biblical curriculums along with trauma-informed, brain-based therapies. She loves to help equip Church leaders to walk redemptively with individuals who have experienced trauma, and leads various trainings on trauma for organizations and churches throughout Portland.