During a “girls’ day” shopping trip—as we dug through trinkets and treasures—one of the women expressed her fear of gnomes. I could tell by her reaction to our curiosity that her distress was genuine. What disturbs me the most, she said, is “sometimes you can’t see their eyes!” I learned that this irrational fear is called “gnomophobia.” Who knew?
My oldest daughter has an inordinate fear of clowns—to the point that she cringes and becomes visibly stressed by the mere mention of the word. This is known as “coulrophobia.” It: A Novel, Stephen King’s book (and now a movie), may have triggered others to fear clowns. I have only one major fear—of snakes—and I venture to guess my terror at seeing them is relatively common.
I was shocked to discover there are phobias aplenty. “Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia” is the fear of long words; “pogonophobia” is the fear of beards. In learning about “asymmetriphobia” (the fear of mismatched socks or, generally speaking, anything asymmetrical), I thought I may have to add a fear to my personal list. I have a basket of single socks for which I obsessively attempt to find matches, and I often berate my children for wearing unsuited socks. Admittedly, I think that is prompted more by feelings of frustration than fear.
This talk of fear segued me into an “aha” moment. When it comes to our Christian journey, fear—being afraid, not reverential awe—and faith don’t jibe. Consider: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). That’s not to say fear and faith can’t coexist, but at some point, in order to cultivate growth, one has to win out and subdue the other.
Faith “by grace…is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8), and faithfulness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Fear holds tightly to the reins of control, whereas faith relinquishes the command to God. Our faith is steeped in a confident assurance of God’s infinite love and wisdom. He knows our thoughts, fears, and joys. God understands our deepest needs. Our Creator does not wish for us to be oppressed by fear. After all, “fear not” appears in the Bible more than 300 times.
This Christmas, as you nestle the Divine Infant into the manger of your Nativity scene, may your anxieties fade away. Delight in the angel’s words to shepherds near Bethlehem, with Mary, Joseph, and the Baby nearby: “Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy….For today…a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Luke 2:10–11).