The Fear of The Unknown (Xenophobia) (six of nine)

Uncertainty and the Future

From children fearing a bogyman under their beds to adults fearing future employment, the fear of the unknown or the uncertainty of the future are common fears. Doubt feeds on the unknown. Fearing what we can’t know causes irrational fears and behaviors. It produces a prejudice against anything other than what we do know.

God's finger upon a person

Salespeople use the fear of the unknown to sell everything from extended maintenance contracts on electronic to sowing seeds of doubt that a competitor’s product is as good as theirs. The trifecta of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) all relate to each other, thrive in an environment of misinformation, and lead to a gamut of fears from racism to fearing anything unfamiliar.

The fear of death is the strongest xenophobia. No one knows or can know what to expect after death. It isn’t something we are able to test or repeat and prepare for. Since no one has ever returned to talk about it the fear of death is a compound fear. We fear death itself and we fear it because we are unable to know it until it happens to us.

Fear signThe fear of the future is another xenophobia. Like death, we are limited creatures and can’t know the future. Not only do we lack the ability to see into the future– no one else can either, so we have no one to turn to for advice about what’s on the other side of death (Dan 2:11). King Saul quit trusting and obeying the Lord along with his only godly counselor, the Prophet Samuel, who had died. He was left without another good counselor. He faced a fearful situation. The Philistine army was about to engage him in battle and he wanted to know ahead of time if he would win.  But, rather than repent and return to the Lord, he sought the counsel of a witch (1 Sam 28:7). Saul was driven by Xenophobia and sinned against God.

Worry is another form of xenophobia. It’s an unwarranted response to not knowing what the future holds (Mt 6:34). Things related to heaven and hell like angels, Jesus’ second coming, God’s wrath and judgment, and death are fearful subjects because they are humanly unpredictable (Ps 90:11). All the while, the God who claims to meet all of our needs chooses not to reveal the details of the future to anyone. He must have a good reason for not sharing future details with us.

There are exceptions. The Old Testament prophets spoke of unknown things such as future events (Isa 48:6-7, Rom 16:25-26). Daniel was given insight into the King’s future (Dan 2:29-30, 47). Isaiah was given a frightening vision that predicted the fall of Babylon (Isa 21:1-4). Jesus spoke of frightening things yet in the future (Mt 24:2). John, the Apostle, was given visions of what the last days would be like before Jesus returns. These are exceptions to the general rule because God rarely reveals future events.

Learn to trust another

The only solution to the fear of the unknown is to trust in the knowledge of someone who knows more than you (Pr 27:1, Ecc 11:5-6). Daniel knew that God had the power to accurately reveal future mysteries so he trusted in the Lord (Dan 2:28). God, being the only one not bound by time, is able to see into the future. He knows things before they happen because he is beyond time, space, and matter. (I Cor 2:9-10). Not only does God know the future—he plans direct future events. Nothing is going to happen in the future that he is not aware of. Nothing will occur that is outside of his sovereign plan. No event is independent of his will.

Is there someone who knows the future? Yes. Jesus is God and he knows what the future holds. He reigns from beyond time so he can see what the future holds. But he does more than see future events. He directs the future by the power of his will. Jesus is the one who knows more than anyone else, and he knows what lay beyond the grave. Jesus died, rose from the grave, and returned to the earth. He made a round-trip quest from life to death, and back to life again. He is the only one who has returned from the grave. This offers us great assurance about the nature of death and what lies beyond the grave.

In Jesus, we have found another who knows things we are incapable of knowing. And because he is kind, he has chosen to reveal the things that would otherwise cause us fear so we don’t have to fear (Lk 10:22-24). Jesus rose from the dead and with such power comes a mastery of knowledge about what is beyond the grave.

The fear of the unknown affects what experiences a person is willing to face. If a person is afraid they might encounter an unfamiliar situation and stumble they may shy away from such encounters (Pr 4:19). People go to great lengths to avoid the unknown. At great expense, they try to push back death’s hand. Avoidance of responsibilities also can be motivated by a fear of the unknown. Life is full of events where we can’t know the outcome. Life, in general, is uncertain. God doesn’t remove the unknown from us, so he must have a better plan or purpose for us facing uncertainties.

The foundation for overcoming the fear of the unknown or of anything uncertain is first to know the Lord (Jer 4:22-23). The beginning (foundation) of wisdom is in honoring God as Creator (Pr 1:7). From this vantage point, we can trust Jesus Christ as the risen Son of God who knows all things (Lk 24:44-47). When we live based on this truth we have good news to share with others. Knowing God who knows the future is more powerful than knowing what will happen in the future. The exercise of such knowledge manifests itself in the form of becoming a witness to the power of God over the fear of the unknown (vs. 48). Jesus promised that the Spirit of God would teach the believer all they need in order to speak the truth about God. It is God’s Spirit who gives the human heart peace and boldness to share such things (Jn 14:26-27).

It’s not about knowing more but about knowing someone

The fear of the unknown is not overcome by knowing more than others, but by knowing the one who knows more than any other. It’s so important for everyone to know the all-knowing God. Unless we conquer the fear of the unknown we may never reach the next level of life’s experiences. How many opportunities have been missed because people are too afraid to trust God for things beyond their grasp? How much potential has been lost because of a lack of trust that God will see people through even the most trying of times?

Christians are not to be afraid of the unknown for God has been pleased to give us his kingdom (Lk 12:32-33). That knowledge is more satisfying than knowing the future. We are to treasure in our hearts what God has revealed and not worry about what he has not revealed (vs. 34). The Gospel includes God’s perspective on the value of humans and their need to trust him for their future. Faith in God is the answer to any fear related to unknown things. He alone knows and plans the best life for each person (Jer 29:11-13).

If we needed to know the future, he would have told us. All things important the Father gives to those he loves. If he did not spare his own son, will he not also graciously give us all we need (Rom 8:32)? We are God’s greatest possession. He treasures us. We have no need to fear the future, the unknown, or anything we can’t understand (Ps 17:8, Zech 2:8, Mt 6:26).

Personal Time: Read a number of the Scripture references. What generates fear of the unknown or future? Is there a connection between trusting or not trusting the all-knowing God and fear because we trust ourselves to know all things but can’t? How does fulfilled prophecy counter fear in the future? How does having a personal relationship with Jesus relieve the burden associated with planning for the future? How does Xenophobia restrict our involvement in evangelism? How does a person advance from fear of the unknown to peace regarding their personal future?

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