On Pain, Fear, Bravery, and Time

Last post, I wrote that I believe I am an expert on defense and gave some advice on the subject due to my feeling that there is a sharp rise in falsehoods with President Trump’s election. This post is additional defense advice. Bluntly, I am going to teach you how to be brave.

Many of you know that at the end of my time at the seminary I was fortunate to purchase the full set of Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World. I have slowly but steadily been reading through the set since last summer. I am officially on book five, having skipped the two “Synopticon” volumes.

In short, I am still in the (Trojan War-centered) plays of Greek Antiquity, though through Homer and Aeschylus. One line from Sophocles’ Trachiniae furnished unto me the motivation for this post. 

(These plays are always filled with great tragedy and accordingly the line is thus:)

“Which woe shall I bewail first, which misery is the greater? Alas, ’tis hard for me to tell. One sorrow may be seen in the house; for one we wait with foreboding: and suspense hath a kinship with pain.”

“…and suspense hath a kinship with pain.” That’s the part that leapt off the page.

When H-‘s mom and I were in lamaze class, the nurse leading the class informed the mothers (and fathers) of the relationship between pain, fear, and time. Apparently, we learned, part of labor pains–and fear of labor pains–in first-time mothers is simply created by some admixture of fear of the unknown, and the fact that the moments and duration of the pain are unpredictable and do not bend to the patterns of the clock. But if the new mother knows this, then supposedly her fears will be abated and the concordant pain lessened. At least that’s the theory.

H- is about to turn nine.

Although I have a bachelors degree and three years of graduate study under my belt, it fascinates me that only now do I read something which renders modernity’s lamaze class ineffectual.

“…and suspense hath a kinship with pain.”

But this got me thinking. I’m brave. I mean, I flew planes and helicopters. I even flew helicopters into combat. How does that work? Why didn’t I fear? Why didn’t the unknown cause me to tremble? Why didn’t the suspense, the waiting, cause me to fear like the new mother?

Then, as a Christian, I also got to thinking about the bible writers’ thoughts on fear, which range from “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” to “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?

Why was David able to live without fear? Why was I able to be brave? The answer is found in righteousness. The answer is found in walking according to the law of the LORD, that is, the law of Christ.

While I served in the Air Force, I had no fear because we knew we were on the side of truth. We studied long and we trained hard. We assessed our capabilities and limitations astutely and without embellishment. Then we imposed our will on evil men who slept under the false security blanket of darkness.

Now, as a Christian, I see how the LORD and his son Jesus the Christ have ordered our steps. Do you see it?

When I walk in love, I do not fear. The result is predictable and immediate: blessing.

When I walk in joy, I do not fear. The result is predictable and immediate: blessing.

When I walk in peace, I do not fear. The result is, again, predictable and immediate: blessing.

When I walk in patience, I do not fear.

And on and on. When I walk in kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, I do not fear.

I do not fear. I am brave.

Or as David put it so long ago, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?”

From the ancient Greek poets down to registered nurses of our day, those with eyes to see have observed that there is a time element to fear and pain. But fearlessness isn’t bestowed in the hospitals or in the theaters. It is found in the Word of God. It is given by the LORD; it comes from walking with the Holy Spirit.

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