In 2010, 33 Chilean miners were buried 2000 feet underground for over sixty-nine days. They were trapped in a large area called The Refuge. They had no idea if anyone would come for them. http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2015/june/3060115.html
After many days of being trapped, a Christian man named Don Jose Henriquez turned to a fellow miner named Mario and whispered, “God is the only way out of this.” (Ibid)
Mario got the miner’s attention and he said, “Don José, we know you are a Christian man, and we need you to lead us in prayer.” (Ibid)
From that moment forward, Henríquez became known as “The Pastor.” (Ibid) Through his ministry, he helped calm their fears.
Being buried 2000 feet below the ground for over three months, these men could have been consumed by their fears had they not called on and felt the presence of God.
Psalm 56:3-4 says, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (NIV)
If you want to let go of your fear, you have to learn to place your trust in God.
These miners had worked beside each other every day, but now they were stuck in a black tomb day and night. They had to spend 24 hours, seven days a week together talking about life and death, family, hopes and dreams, and whether their faith meant anything at all.
After Mario asked Henríquez to lead the men in prayer, he dropped to his knees and told the men they should also do so, “because when you pray you have to humble yourself before your Creator.” (Ibid)
So, he prayed, “Nosotros no somos los mejores hombres, pero Señor, ten piedad de nosotros. ” (“We aren’t the best men, but Lord, have pity on us.”) (Ibid)
It was a simple statement, but it struck several of the men hard.
Víctor Segovia knew he drank too much. (Ibid)
Víctor Zamora was too quick to become angry. (Ibid)
Pedro Cortez thought about the poor father he had been to his young daughter: He left her mother, and he had not even done the basic fatherly thing of visiting his little girl, even though he knew his absence would leave a lasting wound on her. (Ibid)
You see, men mask their fears in many ways. That’s why a lot of men drink. It is why a lot of men are angry. They feel threatened and are afraid to face their fears so they get angry. Men often run from intimacy. They are afraid to be vulnerable.
Down there in the deep, dark hole where they worked every day, the men were used to burying their fears. They were used to coming up at the end of every day and seeing just enough light to feel normal, but now the darkness didn’t cease. Their fears closed in on them. Men like Victor Segovia, Victor Zamora, and Pedro Cortez found themselves face to face with their fears every day. The darkness that was right in front of their opened eyes wouldn’t go away and neither would their fears. They could not run away from them.
If you want to let go of your fears you cannot bury them, you must own them.
You need to name them and acknowledge that they exist.
If we do not do that we hold on to our fears. Some people have made fear a part of their identity. Fears are so common, there is a phobia and a word associated with just about any thing imaginable. These fears can alter behaviors and lifestyles.
People are afraid to ride elevators and airplanes. People are afraid of doctors and taking medicine. People are afraid of cats, horses, birds, and insects. People are afraid of religious stuff like the number 666, clergy that wear collars, and graveyards.
People are afraid of clocks, clowns, crowds, and children. People are afraid the world is ending. People are afraid of aging and afraid of dying. The list seems endless but you can see how these fears can alter our behavior and lifestyle.
Consider that these men were 2000 feet below the surface of the earth. They were in a place that could become their grave. 69 days below the surface of the ground would might threaten their sanity.
“Consider this moment of difficulty of ours.” Fear is a moment of difficulty.
Have you ever heard the term, “Scared to death?” If fear never left us, if we were afraid all the time, it would be the death of us.
Don Jose’s prayer was a prayer of hope, that their fears were only momentary, that their situation would not end in death.
As Pastor Henriquez called out to God, every man got in touch with his fears. “Consider this moment of difficulty of ours,” he prays.
“We are sinners and we need you.”
If we are going to let go of fear, we need to learn from our fear.
Fear is a neutral emotion. It can be helpful or harmful to us depending on the situation. Fear doesn’t mean we are weak. However, fear can be debilitating.
Our parents instilled healthy fear into us. They said,
“Don’t touch that hot _______?” Stove.
“Don’t speak to any________?” Strangers.
“Look both ways when you cross the _______?” Street.
“Never play with a box of _________?” Matches.
These are examples of healthy fear. Our parents wanted us to fear things that could harm us as children.
However, if we are afraid of all stoves because we are afraid of being burned, that’s debilitating. if we hyperventilate every time we meet a stranger because we think we are going to be abducted, that’s debilitating. If we can’t walk in cities because we are too afraid to cross the street, that’s debilitating.
Fear is a natural reaction to a threat or a perceived threat. God made us with this emotion to protect us. When the treat is over, the fear should go away. It should be a momentary thing. We should learn to let these fears go. It’s in God’s design.
However, as with all our emotions, the Evil One wants to use fear to entomb us in darkness.
On any given night our emergency rooms have patients that are unstable or suicidal. These people are afraid of living and facing their fears and they no longer have a healthy fear of medicines, sharp objects, guns, traffic, ropes —any thing they can think of that they might use to harm themselves.
Because they have not learned to let go of their fears, their fears have overtaken their lives and consumed them. Fear can take over our lives.
Instead, we should learn from our fear and then let it go.
Many of us don’t know we are afraid of something until that something is placed in front of us.
How do you know whether you are afraid of failure until that possibility confronts you? How do you know whether you are afraid of being alone, unless you are faced with that reality? How do you know if you are afraid of suffering unless you are faced with suffering? How do you know whether you are afraid of something happening to your children unless something threatens them?
When you are confronted with theses fears, you are learning something about yourself. It’s very important not to suppress this new information. This is mistake so many people make.
Do you think you are to first person to ever be afraid to fail, to retire, to be alone, to go through surgery, to go through chemotherapy, to grow old, or to leave home? It’s normal to feel some fear.
What makes fear healthy or unhealthy is what we do with it.
“When I am afraid,” (said the Psalmist), not “if I become afraid,” but “when I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Fear is a given. We are going to experience fear.
Yesterday I went scuba diving for the first time in my life. The moment I was face with going under the water and breathing through the mouth piece was a moment of fear for me. I wasn’t expecting it. It looks so easy and free. I had to admit to my son who is an expert instructor and diver that I was afraid and I that to trust him.
That’s what God wants us to do with him. Admit our fears and trust Him.
Since God made us with the emotion of fear to protect us from danger, we should understand the redeeming value it has for us spiritually so we can use it to our advantage before we let it go.
Don Jose Henriquez has shown us in his prayer that our fear is likely to show up in a moment of difficulty. That is because we are responding to a treat or a perceived threat. Fear is one emotion we might experience when we are threatened.
Once it shows up, we need to recognize it and allow God to use it to teach us what He wants us to learn about ourselves. However, fear can overwhelm us. We can be paralyzed by fear. If that happens we have a difficult time letting it go.
The Old Testament prophets had a unique perspective on those times when fear gripped the Hebrew people and threatened to overwhelm them.
Instead of being gripped by fear, the prophets wanted the people to see fearful times as opportunities to get in touch with the Spirit of God and rely on His strength and not their own to overcome their fears.
The analogy they used is that of a refiner. In the refining process, metals were subjected to extreme heat causing the impurities in the metals to separate and rise to the surface, leaving only the pure gold or silver behind.
Being familiar with this process, when Israel went through a difficult time, the prophet Jeremiah said, “This is what the Lord Almighty says, ‘See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people?’” Jeremiah 9:7
Malachi asked if God would be “like a refiner’s fire or launderer’s soap? He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former days. (Malachi 3:3-5)
Our fears will overwhelm us when we rely on our strength to overcome them. That is when our fears produce unhealthy life choices.
In order to let go of our fears, we need to rely on God’s strength and not our own.
Difficult times can bring our fears to the surface and show us what behaviors, attitudes, or feelings we need to eliminate. We can flag our fears as emotions that are either hurting us or helping us. As we pray, God’s Spirit will help us discern this.
So, as Pastor Henriquez prayed, “Consider this moment of difficulty of ours. We are sinners and we need you.” The power of that moment, the difficult situation that those men were in, caused many of them to begin to think of the flaws that they had in their lives.
The heat was turned up like never before. They were in darkness. They were staring the death angel in the face. Their fears were floating to the surface like the impure metals in a refining process.
If you are going through a dark period in your life and fear is rising to the surface, you can let that fear go by placing your trust in God. If you will listen, God will use your moment of difficulty to show you areas of your life that need to be changed and refined.
You may be having fear about some rational and normal issues, but are relying on your strength and not God’s strength to get you through this difficult time?
That leads us to the last part of Henriquez’s prayer.
“We want you to make us stronger and help us in this hour of need. There’s nothing we can humanly do without your help. We need you to take charge of this situation. Please, Lord. Take charge of this.”
Ah, the letting go. Men especially have a very difficult time letting go. Men like to be in charge. Men like to be the boss. Men like to be the head. Men do not like to admit that we need help. We don’t even like to say it publicly, “I need Jesus in my life.”
Does it really take a moment of crisis for us to get to a point of humility? Do we really have to get to a point of self-destruction before we confess that our way of doing things isn’t working? Do we have to wait till we are begging God for our child to return home safely or for him or her to get a good job; for a grandchild to be born with good health or to be healed; for a marriage to be saved or financial graces to be met or that the life of someone we love will be spared.
The hour of need isn’t just when we come to a difficult time. The hour of need is every hour. Can we confess, “Lord, I need thee every hour?”
So what are you afraid of? Be honest. Are you afraid that real commitment and deep discipleship will be unfulfilling or just too demanding? That Jesus wants too much of your time and money? Are you afraid that if you confess your fears and your sins that you will not be able to maintain a commitment?
Letting go is about having faith in God. It’s about trusting God and submitting to God. It’s not about knowing what is going to happen in the future but knowing that whatever happens, God is with you. When has that not been enough?
Lord God, we aren’t the best of people, but we ask that you have mercy on us. Jesus Christ, our Lord, let us enter the sacred throne of your grace. Whatever moment of difficulty people may be experiencing, we acknowledge that we are sinners and we need you. We want you to make us stronger and help us in our hour of need. Help us let go of our fears and place our trust completely in you. For we acknowledge that there is nothing good that we can humanly do without your help.