I wonder how many people would agree with the Bible’s assessment that we’re not really in control of our lives at all. According to Paul in Romans 8, our lives are controlled by either one of two spirits – the spirit of fear or the Spirit of sonship. In verse 15 he writes, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.”
That’s an enlightening statement, because Paul is saying it’s only after we receive the Spirit of sonship that the spirit of fear loses its control over us. Up to that point, therefore, he’s saying we were totally controlled by fear. Were we really, though? Did fear really dominate our thinking?
Well, if it isn’t fear of spiders, or fear of the dark wreaking havoc in our heads, it’s fear of what we look like, what people think of us, what’s going to happen to us as we age, or what will happen if the world has another pandemic or financial meltdown. Our lives are filled with phobias, worries and anxiousness about our families, our health, our finances, or becoming helpless in our old age.
Even Christians can revert back to being fearful, as the Galatians did, thinking their eternal life depended on their own efforts (Galatians 3:1-5). But isn’t that the fear in all religions, that our future forever is determined by our efforts now? But what if we aren’t good enough now? Panic. We might go to hell, forever, say several religions. No wonder religious people can end up feeling like hunted animals.
So what does the Spirit of sonship do in our heads instead? According to Romans 8:16, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” According to Paul, then, the Spirit cuts through the fog of fear enveloping us, by helping us realize who we are. We’re God’s children, and being his children he’s always close and we’re never without him.
And the Spirit helps us sense that, just like Lucy sensed the presence of Aslan the lion in Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). She couldn’t see Aslan but she could sense he was there, close by and watching over them. So when scary things happened to them on their journey through Narnia, she knew Aslan was always in control of the outcome and she didn’t panic.
And when, at last, all four children on their journey through Narnia cottoned on to that, they lost their fear too. Sensing his presence was a great gift. And according to Paul, the Holy Spirit has given us the same gift, so that on our scary journey in this world we too have a constant antidote to fear.