Control Freak: The Anatomy of Fear

It's Halloween. At this time of year ghouls and goblins run the streets, houses are adorned with ghosts, skeletons, and carved pumpkins, every front yard displays a homemade cemetery with a dozen plywood headstones, and every channel on television is showing a scary movie. One look at this culture and you would think that we are in love with the macabre, even somehow nourished by a sense of fear.

I was watching a show on TV; several filmmakers were discussing the popularity of zombie movies. They were talking about how these movies have changed so much from the black and white Night of the Living Dead to the newer movies like Resident Evil. What these filmmakers see as differences were to me the same old zombie story, retold and retold, only in different settings.

The plot of any zombie movie is that some force, whether it be a nuclear bomb, or a genetically engineered virus, causes people to become cannibalistic and spread the disease around the world, while a small group of people barricade themselves in some sort of building, like a mall or military base, and try to survive.

These filmmakers, impressed by their own work, pondered, what is it exactly that make these movies so terrifying?

I allowed my mind to ponder the question as well. And I realized that the premise of these zombie movies is actually terrifying, but also very simple. The reason they are so scary is that there is a situation that is beyond our control. Another trend in these zombie movies is that not a one of them have a happy ending. The disease always spreads, and there is nothing that can be done about it. It is out of our control.

I realized that not only is the aspect of losing our control the motivation of fear in scary movies, but it is in fact the root of every phobia...

- 1 John 4:18 -
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

To understand this scripture we must know what the term fear really means. The word has never been clearly explained because it has always been thought to be understood, but what is fear? The truth is there is really only one fear, but many variations thereof; the fear is that we individually could somehow not be in control of our own lives. We are control freaks. To illustrate my point, let's go over just a few phobias.

• Claustrophobia – the fear of confinement. The walls are closing in around you; there is nothing you can do. The air is growing thick, if only you could breathe. Oh you’re trapped, stuck, locked in a cell. Your freedom has been denied. YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. The root of this fear is obviously your lack of control.

• Lygophobia – the fear of the dark. A Gust of wind rattles your windows. The power flickers and the room goes dark. Without even a candle you are left alone in the blackness, at least you hope you are alone. But then again you don’t really know, do you? Without your eyesight you cannot be sure of your surroundings. You are so vulnerable. You hope your eyes will adjust to the darkness, but for the moment at least, you have completely lost control. You cannot even move from your seat for fear of tripping over the rug. Again you are trapped.

• Odynophobia – the fear of pain. Have you ever had a toothache? That kind of pain is very relatable to claustrophobia. - There is no escape. Pain holds you captive, it controls you. YOU ARE TRAPPED. It is terrifying to say the very least.

In these three examples, you can see how when our comfort is taken away, we completely lose control to our fears. Those fears are circumstantial, they manifest when the situation presents itself. But there are other fears that are constant, that haunt us daily, and if we aren’t careful, or if we aren’t properly educated in what the Word tells us, these fears could be crippling.

• Rhytiphobia – the fear of getting wrinkles or growing old. Every day we get a bit older. You know it is a mistake but you look through some old photos, yes those were good times. Your skin was so fair, your smile so bright. You can hear the second hand of a clock ticking behind you. Tick-tock, tick-tock, a constant reminder that you are getting old, by the year, by the day, by each second that passes. If only you could control time, but the seconds still tick by.

• Necrophobia – the fear of death. This is obvious; it is an undeniable part of all of our futures. But it could happen at any time by any cause. So very random the ultimate loss of control.

Fear traps us, gets us in a place, Isolated, alone. It torments us, but we do not talk about it, to do so, would be to admit we have a weakness. To do so would mean something has control over us. So we stay there, complacent, pretending that we are in control, we sit there, seething in our own phobias, afraid to make a move.

• Tropophobia – the fear of moving or making a change. Tropophobia refers to a physical moving from place to place, but it is the same spirit that holds us from spiritual growth. If you are afraid to make a physical change then odds are you are unwilling to make a spiritual one.

You sit in your seat, worship music is playing. You like this song. You see people around you, they have their hands raised to the Lord, they are dancing, singing. You sit there, your hands neatly folded in your lap. You tell yourself, “This is how I worship,” but something inside wants to experience what they are experiencing. You sit there; this is where you always sit.

Oh what a tricky phobia this is. The first three phobias controlled you by taking your comfort away, oh but this one; it controls you by giving you comfort. This phobia yields considerable influence and you give in, all the while thinking that you are the one who’s in control.

• Theophobia – the fear of God or religion. Sunday is here again, your family is going to church, you have been before, but you say “it is just not for me.” The truth is you just can’t face the presence of God, not after the way you felt last time. Those church people called that feeling conviction. But you call it judgment. You just can’t stand the thought of being held accountable for your actions. Not when denial is so much more comfortable. So you sit there pretending that you are in control.

We cannot become complacent, apathetic, trapped within our own comfort levels. No. As Christians we are always changing, improving upon our walk with God, never staying where we are at... unless of course, our fear prevents us from moving.

There is one last phobia; this one last fear is what I have been building up too. This is by far the most the most prevalent fear in our world today, but you have probably never even heard of it.

• Soteriophobia – the fear of depending on others. There is nothing scarier than completely depending on someone else – for that person would have complete control over you. Again the root of this fear is losing your control.

The interesting thing about this word is its prefix, Soteri. This is from the Greek word soterion, meaning salvation.

Soteriophobia is the fear of salvation, the fear of surrendering your life to the Lord. This is the fear that is mentioned in 1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Do not be Soteriopobic, do not be a control freak, surrender to the Lord. Do not let your comforts deceive you, surrender to the Lord. Give yourself to Him, hold nothing back. Lose control!


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