For the week of May 21, 2011 / 17 Iyar 5771
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 26:3 - 27:34
Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19 - 17:14

You Don't Have To Be Afraid

I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. (Vayikra / Leviticus 26:6; ESV)

Like many others I was deeply moved and impressed by this past year's Academy award-winning film, "The King's Speech" (minus the crude language). The line that affected me the most was when speech therapist Lionel Logue said to King George VI, "You don't need to be afraid of things you were afraid of when you were five." This simple statement captures the depths of the kind of debilitating fear that continues to control so many of us. Logue is right. The traumas we experienced at a young age need not affect us now. But they do. They affected King George. They affect us. I appreciate how the movie doesn't cheapen the pain of childhood trauma by giving the impression that after Logue's statement, everything was okay. That the King was greatly helped by Logue and was able to give his historic speech in spite of his impediment is highly instructive and wonderfully encouraging. Yet, according to the film, the King's fears rooted in his childhood continued to plague him.

It was deplorable to hear of how the King was abused as a small child. No doubt many readers and listeners of TorahBytes have similar tragic stories to tell. Abuse and other types of hardships have profound effects on us. People who somehow escape such painful experiences are often surprised by how common such things are. Our desire to imagine that life is basically good clouds the reality of the brokenness of human existence due to our rebellion against God.

One of the reasons for God's choosing the people of Israel was to reveal the truth about human existence. In this week's Torah portion we read of God's blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Israel was to experience peace, security, and a sense of well-being as a result of following God's instructions, but devastating mental and physical anguish if they rejected God's ways. The result of rejecting God is not the story of Israel alone. Israel's story was designed to instruct the whole world concerning the truth about God and life, so that we could look at the overall human condition and realize that the cause of our brokenness is alienation from God.

The bad fruit of brokenness is different from person to person, nation to nation, but all of us can find ourselves in the terrible list included in the Torah portion. For some of us, like King George, fear is the predominate outcome of our alienation from God.

It is next to impossible for people who are controlled by fear to imagine that freedom from its clutches is a possibility. But it is. Not only was a lack of fear a promise of God to ancient Israel should they have been true to him, which they were not, but it is now a benefit for those who are restored to God thought the Messiah. This subject is much bigger than what we can cover in a short message, but let's be reminded of the great sense of security and lack of fear available to those who love God through the Messiah:

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:16-19; ESV).

"There is no fear in love"; "Perfect love casts our fear"; "Whoever fears has not been perfected in love." Followers of Yeshua who still struggle with fear need to accept that we don't yet fully grasp the reality of God's love as we should. The residue of fear that continues to choke us is a sign of our need to know God and his love better.

As one who continues to struggle with fear due largely to childhood trauma, I know the difference Yeshua has made in my life. Before coming to know him, fear was absolutely crippling and destructive. I am so grateful to God for the great level of freedom I have enjoyed due to his deep work in my life. Like King George getting to the place where he could deliver his speech, so God has enabled me to live an effective and blessed life. But at the same time I believe there's more for me. I need not put up with the remnants of the chains of fear that continually threaten to choke my life. I need to look to God to perfect his love in me, so that fear will be cast out once and for all.

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