When blogging about the Thick-Skinned Critique a few weeks ago, I began thinking about that phrase, “thick-skinned.” Recently I found I need a thick skin when it comes to my writing. I need it because there are going to be plenty of people with plenty to say-some of it mean. But I can’t let it get to me. I also need a thick skin because when someone tries to genuinely help me or my writing, I can’t get defeated when they say it needs some work.
So I got to thinking. If it’s beneficial to have a thick skin in writing… might it also be beneficial in other areas of life? What about fear? Yeah, I decided. It would be nice to have a thick skin when it comes to fear.
What does a thick skin mean? A thick skin means not much can penetrate. A thick skin towards fear means not letting the economy determine what you believe about the future. It means ignoring someone who says, “You’ll never make it.” It means shutting off that child of doubt within you that cries “wolf!” every time something new happens. It means not letting anything but God’s Truth penetrate, because everything else is just an arrow from the devil aimed to hurt you.
Let’s be real, Christians. One of the devil’s best tactics is fear. He’s no dummy. He knows what frightens us the most and where our greatest weaknesses lie. So what are we doing letting him sneak up on us like we don’t know he’s coming? As God’s kids, we should know better. God’s children have never been immune to fear.
What was it that drove Abraham to conceive Ishmael with Hagar instead of waiting for the son the Lord had promised him? What was it that made Jonah flee straight into the belly of a whale? What was it that prompted Peter to deny his best friend three times?
The devil may not be a dummy, but he is a loser. Our Jesus has triumphed. Our God is greater, stronger, and smarter. Still, we live in a sinful world and unfortunately still stumble.
Fear, I think, is at its greatest when it can catch us unawares. At that moment in the middle of the night when its cold hands can grab hold of our throats in a warm bed and sound sleep. That’s why I think the recession threw us for such a huge loop. We had become comfortable, and it caught us unawares.
Another thing that causes fear is change. Some are more flexible than others when it comes to change, but flexibility doesn’t matter when it’s your kids on the line. The job you’ve had for 15 years. Your health. For my own family right now, we’re facing a lot of change. For my dad, it’s looking into writing a resume for the first time in twenty five years of owning his own business. For my mom, it’s watching her kids grow up after being a stay-at-home mom for the majority of her life. For me, it’s just trying to figure out all this “grown-up” stuff and what it means.
But what if we stopped listening to the devil’s lies? “But what if it isn’t lies? What if what I’m afraid of really happens?”, you ask. Good question, but here’s another one for ya: was that inward question your Heavenly Father speaking, or was it something else? As a child, I knew I only had to start worrying when my parents did. I learned early on when my parents said not to touch the stove that they were right when they said it. I didn’t always listen, but I learned to take heed when panic or concern came into their faces.
As adults, we still have a Father to look to. If he’s starting to look worried, that’s when we should be worried. Just like when we were little and about to run in front of a car but caught sight of Mom’s face, so, too, can we look to God. Here’s the cool thing, though- are you ready for it? Never will you look into the face of Almighty God and see him quivering with fear.
Never will you see him scratching his head or pausing in worry. You may hear God say, “Slow down,” “Wait,” or “Yes, things are changing,” but you will never catch him pacing heaven about what to do with your problem. Instead, if you ask him and really pay attention, you’ll probably feel peace you’ve never known. You’ll probably see him smile and say, “What are you worried about, child of mine? I got you.”
If the LORD of Heaven’s Armies isn’t freaking out, then why are we?
The problem is, most of us don’t go to God seeking his opinion before making our own. We actively listen to that whisper of fear until it encircles our hearts like a snake, constricting every last drop of hope. What if we started by not only going to God with our fear, but by listening to what he says about it? By observing his face when we tell him what it is?
So we won’t be caught unawares by fear. We know it’s coming, so we will expect it. When it comes, we will be prepared to fight it. We will fight it by, “Not worrying about anything, but instead praying about everything. By telling God what we need, and thanking him for all he has done.” (Paraphrase, Philippians 4:6.) We will learn to develop a thick skin when it tries to invade our lives again. Because it will keep trying.
A thick skin to fear and other lies like it, an open heart to the Word of God. It’s the only way to live.