“Once, an engine attached to a
train was afraid of a few drops of rain.
It went into a tunnel and squeaked through its funnel and wouldn't come out again!”
You may remember that the engine was Henry and his fear was that the rain would spoil his green paint with red stripes. The story (at least in its original version) has a sad end. Having failed to get Henry to come out, the Fat Controller has the rails taken away and the tunnel bricked up with Henry still inside.
Healthy fear is good: those without fear should not be allowed near busy roads; fear of the sea is a qualification for being a sailor, not a handicap. But fear can be misdirected or disproportionate. If I am so afraid of traffic that I never leave my house then I am trapped by my fear. If I am so afraid of flying that I choose instead to travel by motorbike then my irrational fear is putting me in even greater danger.
Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). God (like the sea) is good, but God (like the sea) is dangerous too. Jesus knew that he could not offer his brand-new disciples a ‘safe working environment’. As he sent them out to be his representatives they would be like sheep among wolves, in constant danger of being hated, arrested and killed. But the greater danger was that their fear might lead them to abandon their trust in Jesus and let go of his promise to give forgiveness and abundant life to those who keep trusting him to the end. We understandably fear anything or anyone that has the power to end our life but Jesus wants us to be much more concerned about meeting him as our Judge.
The Fat Controller may have lacked warmth and compassion in his appeal to Henry but Jesus does not: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father … So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29,31)
Does your fear face in the right direction?