Halloween is near, and some of you clever readers may think this is about that. Smart, but no.

Of course Halloween is associated with being afraid. Movies have made it that way, and before that books.

The name itself is an 18th century contraction of All Hallow Even, which is the evening before All Hallow Day. (All Saints Day.) Wikipedia shows it nicely: “(All) Hallow(s) E(v)en became Hallowe’en.”

Trick or treating seems to be a relatively new addition to Halloween, while witches and ghosts and evil spirits have been part of it for centuries. Telling scary stories that take place on the evening when dead souls roam the earth for their last night (they’ll be saints in the morning) makes sense.

Being afraid, not so much. And yet we often are.

Fear — the universal negative emotion

To say Jamie Winship has had an interesting life is an understatement. Both as a Metro Police Officer in Washington D.C. forty years ago, then as someone helping stop terrorism in the Middle East for thirty years, he has stories to tell.

He also knows a lot about fear, partly because he kept having to deal with it.

Today when he speaks to a group of people he will often ask them, “What is the primary negative emotion you are dealing with in your life right now?” One by one, he reports, most will say “fear.”

That could be the fear of flying, the fear of losing a job or promotion or relationship, the fear of running out of money, or the fear of dying. I could go on, but we all get it because we have all experienced fear. Many have it now, as the real-time question above indicates.

But isn’t fear a good thing? Doesn’t it keep us from getting hurt? Can’t it be our friend?

No, with one exception.

The Bible teaches us “the fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge.” This is not the same kind of fear the devil hopes you will feel, causing you to not be at peace. Instead it means to rightly understand who God is: the creator, the all powerful and only true God.

From that understanding, your knowledge can grow. Begin with some other premise and your knowledge can run amok.

But far more often than the Bible says “fear God,” God says “fear not, because I’m with you.”

What does Hamas want?

Almost two weeks ago, the terrorist group Hamas invaded the southern section of Israel, murdered many people and took hostages. Why, and why then?

As Reuters reported on October 13, “Until Iran-backed Hamas sparked a war on Oct. 7 by launching a devastating attack on Israel, both Israeli and Saudi leaders had been saying they were moving steadily towards a deal that could have reshaped the Middle East.”

That deal would have normalized relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, and been a major step toward peace.

Hamas does not want peace, and so they (successfully, for now) disrupted that peace process with their attack. The fact that they killed more than 1,500 Jews was, for them, a bonus.

Now it seems the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), has joined in the fray. In an “errant” firing of a rocket they hit a hospital where many people living in Gaza had taken refuge, then blamed the explosion on Israel.

PIJ, like Hamas, does not want peace.

All of this chaos, along with the actual invasion, brutal massacre of so many, with horrific killings and rapes being broadcast online is designed to invoke fear.

That is what Hamas wants, and it is exactly the opposite of what is desired by most: peace.

It was natural that on October 8, many people in Israel and around the world were calling for the immediate destruction of Hamas. Hamas counted on that kind of reaction. Hiding in tunnels and among ordinary Palestinians in Gaza, a quick and violent reaction from Israel would have killed many innocent people.

Hamas does not care about innocent people, it cares about building fear and eliminating peace.

Getting out of fear

Have you ever had someone intentionally make you deeply afraid? If you’ve been a victim of domestic or parental abuse, you have. If you have been bullied in school, you’ve experienced some of that.

People who want to control you by making you afraid are terrorists. They invoke terror (fear) in order to get their way. Almost all terrorism has at its root a war against the hearts and minds of others. They want their victims to be afraid. Be very afraid.

Think for just a moment about how you respond and how you make decisions when fear becomes a driving force in your life.

In times like that, your goal will be to mitigate the situation to avoid the thing you fear. That shows that fear is in control, at least to some degree. It’s why a wife or child who is beaten and injured will swear they fell.

What if it isn’t physical fear? Let’s say you have a job in IT that pays well and has made you somewhat well known, at least in your small circles. Let’s say also that you love to sing, and you sing at church or at karaoke nights on occasion.

Now a fellow comes up to you and says, “I’ve heard you sing. I’m an A&R rep for a new but solid record label, and I’d like to sign you to a record deal. It isn’t a lot of money to start, but I believe in you and think in a few years you could be a star.”

Next steps?

Is the fear of losing your income and reputation greater than the desire to do what you love? If fear controls you, the answer is yes, and fear of the unknown is especially good at that.

The first step is to recognize that fear is real, powerful and controlling. Making any decision while fear is exercising control is unwise.

The second step is to put an end to fear. Much more on that next week.

In the meantime, do good. Fear does not live there.

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