You probably know the saying, “Just because you aren’t paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.” There are some people who see a conspiracy in everything, reading secret messages into documents, policies, and behaviors. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who figure that there aren’t many conspirators smart enough (or with enough resources) to create secrets as big as the conspiracy theorists suspect. My guess is that reality falls somewhere in the middle; however, an incremental change in how much I know about others’ secret plans probably won’t make a big difference, so I try not to spend a lot of time looking for what may or may not be there.
Always looking over our shoulder is a difficult way to live, though. Whether we are afraid of being caught for crimes that we have committed, or just trying to hide from a neighbor who wants back the lawn mower that we borrowed, it is emotionally demanding to be constrained in what we can do when we are afraid of something bad happening.
While there might be a lot of reasons for us to suspect others of plotting against us, or having a secret agenda, a common element in these situations is fear. We might put up a front and claim that “knowledge is power”, insisting that our awareness of hidden agendas makes us able to fight against them. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but when our concern (about what others are planning) limits our freedom and our joy, we are still the ones who end up losing out.
In the book of Isaiah, God included the following instruction in a prophecy to paranoid people:
“Do not call conspiracy
everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
and do not dread it.
Isaiah 8:12 NIV
Under the threat of invasion, the people were living in fear, and despite God’s offer to help, they were making bad choices. Their fear drove them – especially the king – to seek help (and sometimes pagan beliefs) from the lands around them, rather than turning to God in obedience, and trusting in Him to rescue them.
If this nation had listened to God, and accepted His prophecy of rescue, they wouldn’t have had to fear. Yes, our human natures sometimes worry about what might happen, but when we consider God’s faithfulness, we know that when He promises something, we can count on it.
Jesus explained that even those who might take our lives were not to be feared. No matter the mess that we endure on earth, a single lifetime is just a blip in the vastness of eternity.
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
Luke 12:4-5 NIV
It seems is that there are two kinds of fear: One is limited to this fallen earth. It is the belief that this life is all that there is, and those who can end that life (or take the joy out of it) are able to steal away all that we really value.
The other fear is that punishment awaits us, even as we continue to fight against temptation and struggle against our sinful natures. Despite wanting to do the right thing, we are painfully aware of our past and present sins. We realize that getting what we deserve someday is inevitable, even if we can avoid it for a while.
Jesus’ love provides a great blessing, though: a cure for both fears:
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:17-18 NIV
When we fully accept Jesus’ love for us, and receive His gift of reconciliation with God, neither kind of fear has any claim on us. When we realize that there is more to our eternal souls than just one lifetime on a now-cursed planet, we are no longer obliged to accommodate everyone’s demands, just so that we can live a long, pain-free life.
While I hope that none of us has to die for our faith, even that threat is no longer a compelling reason to fear. Neither is it a reason to compromise our behavior, as we rest in the confidence of God’s faithfulness. And, when we realize that we are made for eternity, and have also returned to the family of God (thanks to the pathway that Jesus forged for us), we no longer have to fear eternal punishment. The foundation upon which fear is built simply doesn’t hold together anymore.
Yes, corrupting voices may tell us otherwise, but the more we listen to God and His message of love for us, the more we can tell fear to “take a hike”. I’m not claiming that this is a simple step, but God’s love is the cure for our fears. That’s not a conspiracy, it’s the simple truth that God gave to us. May we dig deep into learning from and listening to Him, and welcome His love instead of our fear.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.