Well, which one is it?
Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote a short story. A first person narrative called “Underground”. It’s the first part of a (slightly) larger work called “Notes from Underground”. In it, the unnamed narrator is monologuing to you—presuming to know everything you think in response. His voice is one of utmost certainty, having lived forty years underground and surfacing now to spew his diatribe at those who’ve kept him under. You realize very quickly that not only is he intelligent (he admits as much), but that there’s something lacking in his introspection. Namely that very thing: the capacity for objective and impartial introspection. This warrants more than I have time to elucidate here, but suffice it to say, when one doesn’t view things from the right perspective, their vision is skewed and everything following after will be askew, as well. Inwardly and outwardly. One point on which I agree is where he speaks of man’s capacity to create, his proclivity to creativity. He reflects also on man’s innate tendency to destroy. And in referring to both states (creation preceeding destruction), he makes an interesting comment: “he (a man) is himself, instinctively afraid of acheiving his goal and completing the edifice (building, monument) he is constructing.” Because, he later goes on to say, once the thing is done, he will feel the need to continue on and either create something else, or destroy that which was created. In other words, true satisfaction is not acheived from doing either thing. When I was a kid, I’d get a new Lego set and it would stay built for a day or two at the most. I’d take it apart and let my imagination run. Nothing wrong with that, I’d say. But…
“The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17) What Paul is saying here is that the things we do on the outside do not make for a life well lived. “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Luke 12:15) Nor does creativity that’s devoid of God’s touch. Creativity is certainly one of the best things that we as humans can do. To bring to life an invisible notion that rests—unseen by everyone else—on our insides. But! None of these things bring true, lasting contentment in and of themselves. And I think this is what we fear. This is what the unnamed man in Dostoevsky’s story is trying to explain.
Marianne Williamson writes in her book A Return to Love: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
I think I see what she’s saying though I can’t say I agree a hundred percent. To feel empowered to overcome the obstacles of daily mundanity and every other foul tempest that life and the world tries to throw at us is certainly one of the greatest desires of life. But please understand, fear based on our inadequacy and powerlessness is borne by not viewing those two states from the right perspective. Paul in his temptation, encounters Jesus, who tells him, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) The truth is, as Jesus says in John 15 (verse 5), “for without me ye can do nothing.” It would seem that Paul is dealing with this very declaration. He was powerless to deal with his “thorn in the flesh”. So after Paul suffers a little, he declares the truth as he’s experienced it when he writes to the Philippians (4:13): “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” We very well may be powerful beyond measure, but it’s only when we see that power as having come from Jesus and to be used as He shows us. To love, to listen, to learn. And to bless others. Jesus makes us adequate. “My grace is sufficient for thee.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, emphasis mine)
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Anyone who has submitted to the teachings of Jesus for their life, and continues on learning from Him is His disciple. He didn’t have just twelve. “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32) Oswald Chambers tells us what he says that the disciple’s greatest fear is. Listen: “The greatest fear a disciple has is not that he will be damned, but that Jesus Christ will be worsted, that the things He stood for—love and justice and forgiveness and kindness among men—will not win out in the end.”
I suppose that is a concern. A slight nagging doubt that flares up every once in a while. When you look out at the world and how so many people wallow in their unbelief. Wanting them to see the beauty of God and to reject the blindness they don’t realize they’re inflicted and infected with. But again, without seeing things from the right perspective, fear is understandable. But fear is not the right reaction. When Jesus tells Paul that His “strength (power) is made perfect in weakness” it’s understood that it’s God’s desire, not just our own, to see the world come to Jesus. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men (and women) unto me.” (John 12:32) Our responsibility is to remain connected to Jesus. Through worship, fellowship and communion. Let the fears and concerns inherent to life come and go. Like water under the bridge or over the dam. His “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18)
“For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:13)