In possibly his most popular read to date, New York Times best-selling author, Max Lucado, confronts the proverbial elephant in the room. In his words, “if you’ve ever feared being sued, finishing last, going broke, the mole on your back, the new kid on the block or the sound of the clock as it ticks us closer to the grave” (and that’s just for starters!) you too have faced it. Here he discusses the root cause and ramifications of fear’s oppressive grip—and shares the hope and the freedom of living fearlessly.
Link2Us: This is an interesting subject matter. Why write a book about fear, and why now?
Max: Well, there are several reasons. First, we live in a day that is fearful, after all, what generation has lived under such ominous circumstances’ in which we now live. Things like the threat of a nuclear attack, worldwide famine and economic devastation makes for frightening times. To top that, with such proliferation of news media, there’s a constant reminder of all the bad things that are happening, which makes it difficult to insulate yourself against bad news. And thirdly, I think that the media has picked up on the fact that bad news and fear sells—it keeps us glued to our seats. All day long we are having these reminders of fear and many of them are legitimate, while some are a bit inflated. Unfortunately it’s the reality of our day.
Link2Us: Can we actually avoid fear in a world so often bombarded with worst case scenarios?
Max: We shouldn’t try to lead a life without fear, but we should aim to be fearless. I believe that fear at its root, causes us to think the world is out of control. When I think the world is out of control, I panic. Consequently; if I think that the economy is out of control, the government is out of control, or even my family is out of control, that’s going to place me in a state of fear. So the question becomes, when I feel like things are out of control, what should I do? Well, I have two options; one, is to try to control things myself. And sometimes it works. But 99% of the time it doesn’t. Because in most instances we’re facing circumstances greater than ourselves. I cannot control the government (I wish I could), I cannot control the economy (I wish I could), which leads to frustration, defeatism, and further anxiety. I think the better way, is to go to the one who has the power through the bible. Jesus said “do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you”. Every time Jesus talked about fear he talked about trust in him. I think that fear will always be a part of our lives; it just doesn’t have to dominate it. There is the one healthy fear in life and that is the fear of God. The bible declares that “the fear of God is the
beginning of all wisdom”. As long as we have that fear it puts equilibrium in our lives. I’m not talking about a fear that causes us to run from him, but rather one that comforts us because of who he is. When our fear of God is great our fear of life is small.
Link2Us: Why is the fear of insignificance so prevalent in today’s society?
Max: The fear of insignificance is the fear of not mattering, which is the main culprit from which other fears seem to flow. There so many reminders in our culture that would
suggest that we don’t matter, which makes it difficult for us to stand in the belief that we matter to God. Our culture, places a high value on accomplishments rather than our
spiritual ancestry. And If your value is based on what you’ve accomplished, then your value will come and go depending on what you are wearing and what you earn—and that’s a scary posture in which to live. But if your value is based on the fact that God knows you and his love never changes, then that’s a great foundation in which as a person you can stand, not being worried about your performance.
Link2Us: Fear is a powerful emotion. How does faith counterbalance it?
Max: Fear overtakes other emotions because as a default emotion; it’s what comes natural. On the other hand, faith is one of those emotions that demand a decision. By nature, we are fearful people, so we have to consciously decide to have faith, and we have to choose to have hope. There’s a quote that says “courage is fear that says its prayers”. Faith gives us a place to go with our courage. But if you don’t have a person in whom you can put your faith in, that is greater than your fears, then you’re in trouble. For example, I love my wife, but as wonderful of a human being as she is and being absolutely essential to my life, she’s not big enough to handle some of the fears I have in my life. I can’t expect her to take care of my fears because just like the rest of us, she has fears of her own. I need someone who is greater than I am. I can’t expect the government to take care of my fears. I think we have strong government, and respect it—I’m very patriotic. But like everything else, it’s not going to last forever. So where do I put my trust? Faith tells me to put my trust in a loving and living God who watches over me every day of my life, and who always tells me “don’t be afraid”. More than any other thing Jesus tells us (in his word) over twenty-one times “don’t be afraid”. Many people feel that they have to live in a state of fear, and they don’t, instead they can choose to live in a state of faith. However, what’s really important is that you learn to deal with your fears. The minute those little pangs of anxiety stir in your heart you should immediately take them to your heavenly father. And treat fear like it was a mosquito on your arm, just flick it off.
Link2Us: In your book you equate the practice of prayer with sitting calmly in God’s lap and placing your hands on his steering wheel as he handles the speed and hard curves of life and ensures our safe arrival. Through this process, we sometimes ask God to “Take this cup away” The cup of disease, betrayal, financial collapse… joblessness. Are there specific steps to dealing with such dire circumstances?
Max: We see a great example of this in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before the crucifixion. Although as far as we know he (Jesus) never felt fear, in that situation
he was afraid. Let’s look at how he dealt with that. He went to the garden to pray, and took with him three friends (disciples) who should have stayed awake during the prayer, but that’s another discussion. Now what Jesus did when he felt fear was to immediately go to the heavenly father. When he prayed, he spoke specifically about his fear, and said “Lord if its possible take this cup away from me”. Here he was specifically speaking about the challenge he was about to face. Three times he prayed, and each time he woke up his friends to pray with him, and he cried out in prayer. He was specific in prayer; he went to a
community of faith (the garden) to pray. Now I believe that our garden of Gethsemane is our community of fellow believers. Be it friends at your office, at church or possibly
a small group in a bible study, these are the people with whom you have agreed to pass through life and encouraged them to be your family. Remember we’re not in this thing
alone; we have to have people that we can call on in a moments notice for prayer, because we are feeling fearful. So the issue of prayer becomes very, very important in dealing with fear. If we are living in a state of fear, we haven’t been praying. We must begin our day by listing out our fears and talking to our heavenly father about each of them.
Link2Us: In 1992 you launched your inspirational radio broadcast UpWords; could you share with us its purpose and give our audience some insights on how it all came about?
Max: UpWords is one of the ministries in which I record sixty-second radio spots. These are brief words of inspiration and encouragement. We make those available to radio stations all over the nation, really all over the world. According to the last report, we have over twelve-hundred radio stations that feature us daily. We’ve been doing this since 1992. Initially it began as a fifteen minute program. But after a while I realized that I had reached my capacity. Sometimes we need to cut back when we’re doing so many things all at once.
Link2Us: You have been named America’s Best Pastor. Is there any particular challenge in living up to such a title?
Max: I don’t pay much attention to titles. But that’s a very kind thing for someone to say. As a pastor, I have served in the same church for over twenty-one years—now in San
Antonio, Texas. I love that part of my life. I’m not a pastor in the traditional sense whereby I’m not in charge of budget meetings, hiring and firing—we have someone who does that. My job is to preach fifty-percent of the time and just be a part of the leadership. I really love what I do at the church, especially since I don’t have to go those budget