Welch in this chapter discusses some of the general themes we hear when we listen to what fear is saying.
1. “I am in danger.” We live in a dangerous world; and “We are ultimately powerless” (38).
2. “I am vulnerable.” A dangerous world implies vulnerability, and, again, speaks into the soul of the afraid that he is not in control. It “is the gnawing awareness that we are merely human”, suggesting “that authentic humanness was never intended to be autonomous and self-reliant. Humans are needy by design” (40). We need God and we need other people. Often, in the midst of the junk of life, I have found that I cannot bear up under the strain. Even when I throw myself on God, I still do not seem strengthened. I think that this is because I more easily admit my dependence on God, but not on others. Depending on God in secret, but wanting not to invite other people into the struggle reveals a deep streak of rebellion against dependence. I stay that I trust in the Lord alone; but why does that same mindset not then humble me toward help from others? Because in those times I might not actually be trusting in the Lord.
3. “I need (and I might not get).” Welch explains, “There is a close connection between what we fear and what we think we need” (41). Often this breaks down into two categories: money and people.
4. “I am needy, body and soul.” Personally the things I fear are more psychological and/or spiritual. (Of course I fear physical dangers also, but mainly the gnawing and overwhelming worries I have are mostly related to intangibles.) I worry that I’m going to screw up my marriage, or that I will not persevere in faith. Or_____, or______.
5. “That is valuable to me: I love it and have put my trust in it.” Here Welch explains the progression he has been meditating on in this chapter:
Fear links with danger. Danger links with God, being vulnerable, being out-of-control, and need. Need, then, links to other experiences. When we need money, we are saying that money is especially valuable to us, and anything especially valuable is some we love [….] Love, an intimate relationship, is linked to trust, a personal allegiance. Trust reveals the center of our worlds (44).
When I sat down with Laura to talk about this chapter, I came to the realization that I have mis-diagnosed my problem in significant ways. About five years ago, while going through some difficult stuff, it was brought to my attention that I have a deep problem with worry. That insight helped me, but it only states it negatively. “I have a problem with worry” is a true insight. But it is also, “I have a problem with trust.” A worry problem is a trust problem. That’s obvious, and I realized that before. What I did not see, however, is that I am trusting in something when I worry. And, of course, that something is not the Someone I ought to be trusting in.
6. “I could die.” I have not worried about dying at many points in my life. But I have worried about loved ones dying, so the point is still taken. Welch points out, “If you could erase all other fears except death, persistent anxiety would still be our common lot” (45).
The chapter ends with a personal reflection, and a question to the reader:
“Of the different words and ideas that cluster around fear, work with “trust”. Review some of your fears and ask: What do these fears say I trust in? What do my fears say I love?” (48).
I have been in process on this point. It is a difficult thing — coming to terms with the fact that I love and trust in false hopes. I do, though. I can’t deny that, because my fears speak too loudly. I know who I need to trust in, but, often, the way to get there seems like a steep climb. Sometimes it feels impossible for a change to happen in my heart and feelings. But I know and trust that the Bible describes my God truly — that he is the one who gives his people a new heart. He is a heart- and feeling-changer. I am praying that he will change my heart toward a restful, Christ-like truster of him, who loves him fully.