Are you and arachnophobe? The irrational fear of spiders which is believed to affect as many as half of women and girls, and up to one in six males?
Our church building seems to host a range of quite large spiders, especially during the autumn season, and our congregation seems to include more than its fair share of confirmed arachnophobes, because when one of our eight-legged residents marches down the aisle during a service I see people scattering in all directions. Last week I read about a study of arachnophobes, which found that the worse their condition the larger they estimated the size of spiders they were shown. And while it may seem ridiculous to those of us who aren’t reduced to jibbering wrecks by an 8 legged creepy crawly, I'm sure that this disproportionate perception of things that we fear must apply to more than just spiders, and we’re all fearful of something or other, to a greater or lesser extent… with me it’s dogs, needles and tax returns!
All fears have some sort of logic behind them... spiders (particularly for our Australian cousins) can be dangerous, although not the British varieties... The difficulty is when those fears get out of proportion or cause distorted perceptions of reality.
And the the fact that we all fear something or are afraid at some time or other, may go some way to explain why the command “Do not fear!” is the most common command in the Bible… Now a lot of crackpot theology and dangerous pastoral teaching has been appended to this fact. Last year, whilst coming out of a period of prolonged, chronic anxiety, I remember getting particularly tetchy with a member of my congregation who quoted from one book where worry and anxiety were described as "respectible sins". I actually believe that God/Jesus repeatedly tells people not to fear because fear is simply a function of living in a fallen world. In itself it is not a sin (respectable or not), but as the speaker at our Thinking Day Service, Jenny Lily said (after I had completed the first draft of this) we need to remember that:
"Our God is bigger and stronger than all my worries and fears."
Actually at one of our Thinking Day Services a few years ago we sang the following children's song by Ishmael:
I ONCE WAS FRIGHTENED OF SPIDERSI once was frightened of the darkI once was frightened by many, many thingsEspecially things that barkedBut now I'm asking JesusTo help these fears to go'Cause I don't want them to be part of meNo, no, no, no, no
When we realise that the God who tells us not to be afraid is bigger than all possible fears and phobias, worries and anxieties, it might not make them go forever, but it might help to get them into a proper perspective…
So in the words God said to Joshua and the people of Israel…
“Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1: 9)
This is an extended version of the Just a Moment that I recorded for broadcast on Downtown Radio this morning.Ian Smale