Max Lucado. 2009. Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Do you believe in divine intervention? I do. Let me give an example.
In 2010, I signed up for a small group discussion at church. A couple days later the small group coordinator called to ask me: because the group that I have signed up for was over-subscribed, would I be willing to join another group? No problem, I said reluctantly thinking to myself–why would I want to join a group proposing to talk about fear? So I bought the book. As I started reading, I found my life jumping off the pages–not only had fear crept into my life; it was quietly dictating a lot of my decisions. Through almost no effort on my part, God had directed me to a major stronghold in my life and helped me deal with it (Psalm 18:2).
What was the book? It was Max Lucado’s Fearless: Imagining Your Life Without Fear.
Lucado observes that: ordinary children today are more fearful than psychiatric patients were in the 1950s (5). He goes on to observe that fear displaces happiness; fear is unproductive; fear is self-defeating. Jesus spoke out against fear, for example, after the storm on the Galilee saying: why were you afraid? (Matthew 8:26; 6) In suggesting the destructive potential of fear, Lucado (9) cites Martin Niemoeller’s observation in 1933 that the tyrant that Adolf Hilter became was born in fear. Is it any wonder that Christ is famous for bringing peace: Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me (John 14:1 NLT; 11)?
Lucado’s book is organized in 15 chapters. The first chapter, partially summarized above, poses the question: why are we afraid? The next 13 chapters focus on case studies of fears that we commonly confront–fear of not mattering, of disappointing God, of running out, of not protecting our kids, of overwhelming challenges, of worst-case scenarios, of violence, of the coming winter, of life’s final moments, of what’s next, that God is not real, of global calamity, of God getting out of my box. The final chapter concludes with stories reiterating the problems caused merely by fear and with people’s responses to tragedy. The final of these is the story of a young missionary who, as he watched his home burned the ground, recited a psalm and found solace in God (178-180). After the conclusions, Lucado provides a discussion guide with questions for small groups. In my own small group, we also viewed a related DVD based video.
Fears Need to Be Named
When Jesus cast the unclean spirit out of the man in the Gerasenes, he started by asking: What is your name? (Mark 5:9 ESV). Lucado approaches our fears in a similar matter. By naming our fears, he deprives them of their power. He then redirects us to God where the power of the Holy Spirit may be found.
Perhaps one of the most insidious fears is the fear of parents that they will be powerless to protect their kids. This is especially true of your first child because you feel totally unprepared for the job of parenting and terribly vulnerable. Lucado (57) notes that: fear distilleries concoct a high-octane brew for parents–a primal gut-wrenching, pulse-stilling dose. When our children have teachable moments, Lucado (60) observes that out of fear we often become both paranoid and permissive when we should be trusting God and modeling trust to our children.
He recommends that we pour our fears out to God, not to our children, and pray with them about the issues that they confront (61). The principle here is that: we cannot protect our children from every threat in life, but we can take them to the Source of Life (61). Remember that young children often look at their parents before they decide to cry–even when badly injured–and, when they see we are afraid, they cry. Throughout his discussion, Lucado looks to scripture for guidance. In this chapter, he reviews stories of Abraham (Genesis 22), Jairus (Luke 8), the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15), and the father with the epileptic son (Matthew 17), but lingers longest on the story of Jairus. He concludes that clearly: God has a heart for hurting parents (63).
Max Lucado’s Fearless is a book to read and pass around. His writing contains numerous stories which makes his writing both accessible and interesting. After 9-11, after so many years of the Great Recession and war, Fearless is clearly a book for our times.