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Need some perspective on overcoming fear

Hi guys. I know the community hasn't been super-active for awhile, but I'm hoping that maybe this post happens across some of your friends pages and I coud get some perspective.

I'm Courtney, I'm 30, and I've been around the comm for awhile, but I think this is my first time posting.

What I struggle with is fear, particularly fear of hell. I'm sure all Christians at some point or another have dealt with this, but mine is overly large, ongoing, and debilitating.

I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church, and while God's mercy and love were talked about, they weren't really emphasized. It was fire and brimstone, judgement, sin, etc. As a teen and even into college, I was pretty much the sterotypical super straight-laced good little Christian girl, and as result didn't experience much in terms of actual life.

As I got older, I realized that the things I was doing, my behavior, wasn't motivated by love for God or committment to Him, but rather out of fear and shame. I knew this had to change. But how does one begin to love a God who seems terrifying and harsh cruel? The very idea of the Gospel as I understand it seems cruel: Choose Jesus or burn.

Has anyone else dealt with these kinds of feelings? How does one begin to get a balanced view of God? If you've felt this kind of fear, how did you work through it?

I know this is a sensitive and harsh subject, so I appreciate any thoughts or advice you could offer.

Thanks.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
pastorlenny
Apr. 21st, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
The gospel is most certainly not "Choose Jesus or burn." This places the burden on us for our own salvation. Also, salvation is not simply the avoidance of hell. It is us perfected by and alive forever in the full presence of our triune God.

The religion you were raised in is a heretical offshoot of apostolic Christianity. It is good to be worred about one's behaviors, words and thoughts -- because there are right and wrong ways of behaving, speaking and thinking. But the idea is to have a conscience towards God, not a fear of something that 1) probably doesn't exist and/or 2) from which one is already safe.
princessodyssey
Apr. 21st, 2012 06:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your input. I definitely appreciate the perspective.

Some questions:

How would you describe the Gospel?

Why do you say hell probably doesn't exist? Are there Scripture pasages I'm missing or interpretations I've misunderstood?

Thanks again.
pastorlenny
Apr. 21st, 2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
Hell most certainly exists. It's just that most people's conception of Hell is derived more from Dante than from scripture.

I would describe the gospel as the good news that Jesus saves -- and that this salvation entials us being perfected by and alive forever in the full presence of our triune God.

I am not sure which passages of scripture you're missing or have had misinterpreted for you. But if you have a specific question about a specific passage, I would be more than happy to try and help you better understand it.

paedraggaidin
Apr. 21st, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
The gospel is most certainly not "Choose Jesus or burn."

Good luck getting the Fundamentalists down here to believe that. *sigh*
paedraggaidin
Apr. 21st, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
I think that all denominations are unfortunately subject to the error of believing that the point of the Gospel is "choose Jesus or burn." Although in my experience it's found more often in Fundamentalist churches (especially those of a more Calvinist persuasion), way too many Catholics, Orthodox, and mainline Protestants speak and act as if Jesus actually said "follow me or burn in Hell." And I suppose it's an easy thing for churches and Christians to slide into that error, when the focus of their faith is sin, instead of what (I believe) is the primary message of the Gospel, which is (a) in fulfillment of prophecy and the Covenant, Christ died to redeem our sins and rose to bring us to new life in Him, (b) we must practice the Greatest Commandment (thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and love thy neighbour as thyself) and what we Catholics call the Corporal Works of Mercy (feed the hungry. give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit and ransom the captive, visit the sick, and bury the dead), and (c) we must spread the Gospel to all the ends of the Earth.

Sin is real, evil is real, and teaching about sin and its consequences is, of course, part of the Gospel, but it is not the only, and certainly not the most important, part. Too many churches place an undue emphasis on sin, guilt, shame, and fear, without also emphasizing redemption, and especially the redemptive suffering of Christ on the Cross, and without emphasizing God's mercy. And way too many churches and individual Christians put a wholly undue emphasis on certain kinds of sin. Some churches place such a heavy emphasis on sin and fear of an angry God that I think all other parts of the Gospel message are swallowed up.

I'll defer to Pastor Lenny's advice here (he rocks), but just know that fear is not the basis of faith.
alasthai
Apr. 21st, 2012 08:36 pm (UTC)
Read Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:8, 2 Chronicles 30:18-20, Exodus 32:7-14, and all four chapters of Jonah (and, well, the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures, when you have time). Look at who God is, and what God wants.

Next, get a copy of the Desert Fathers, and see how they represent both God and sin.

Finally, think about God, and ask yourself what a good God would do, and how such a God would deal with people born in, for example, the Americas in AD 400: with such people having no chance of hearing the Gospel, either God is an evil monster and they were all created in an enormous act of mockery as fuel predestined for the fires of Hell, or else God is not evil, and provides some other option for them.
alasthai
Apr. 21st, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)
It might also be worth considering that the Greek terms for 'sin', both as a noun and as a verb, refer not to 'committing unspeakable crimes' but to 'screwing up'. An original usage was for missing the target at which you threw your spear (but most definitely not the target at which you fired an arrow, because only cowards used bows).
pastorlenny
Apr. 21st, 2012 08:55 pm (UTC)
Surely you're not calling Legolas a coward!!!
ext_2037238
Mar. 9th, 2014 11:53 pm (UTC)
I have a longer version of what I'd like to say. You can find it here: http://fallingskymin.livejournal.com/561.html if you care to read it.

That said, in short I'd like to invite you to just go by what Scripture says, and pray. Stay away from all the different teachings of man. We're not perfect like God, so we should turn to Him before we turn to other teachings.

I know, contradiction, read my stuff, then, don't read other peoples stuff, I know... my point is that we should turn to God's Word as the measuring stick. What people like me have to say may or may NOT be accurate/helpful, no matter how good our intentions.

In short, have faith, and I also think you might not be thinking of Hell, you're thinking of the lake of fire. You won't be going to the lake of fire if you've accepted Jesus and His atonement for our sin. Hell is simply the grave, where the thinking-feeling 'us' goes. One side is comfortable (for us) and the other side is a hot desert (for the lost). Reading the story of Lazarus and the rich man for clarification seems like a good idea on this.

While trying to not be vain, I think my article addresses the issue a little more and suckers in my first visitor, opening the door for all sorts of comments and abuse, I can't wait. Oops, did I write that out loud? ;)

How about this? We are the 'bride' of Christ, right? Why would the groom abuse the bride on their wedding day, especially if Jesus is the groom?

You'll be fine, Sis.


God Bless.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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