God's Sovereignty at 35,000 Feet

Those who are close to me know that I hate to fly. And when I have a trip coming up that involves flying even the stranger on the street knows I hate to fly. I suppose it's some crazy way of coping with the fear, but when I have to fly every conversation leading up to the flight entails my deathly fear of the coming trip. The conversation usually goes like this:

Nice Person: “That’s so exciting that you get to go visit your family.”

Me: “Yes it is, but I hate to fly.”

Nice Person: “You know you are more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash.”

Me: “Yes I do, but I still hate to fly. I don’t want to be the statistic that doesn’t make it.”

Awkward. Actually it’s just plain ridiculous.

A few weeks ago I flew to visit my parents in Florida. It was a short, last minute trip, and while I was looking forward to seeing my family, I was not looking forward to the flight by myself. I've made numerous flights by myself in the last few years. The week leading up to every flight is always a battle with my fears. I talk about it. I over analyze it. I think of a variety of scenarios which only lead to more fears. My very active imagination runs wild in these moments. This time was no different. But this time something else happened. I was deeply convicted of my sin.

Yes. My sinful fear of flying.

Many of us face fear in a variety of ways (and I have written about that before on the blog). But while there are things to genuinely be afraid of, not every response to fear is appropriate. In my case, I was responding to my fear of flying with anxiety and worry. I believed my fears rather than God.

Our fears will drive us to something. The real test is if they drive us to the only one who can conquer our fears and provide the hope and security we long for. Fear should force us to cry out to God. Fear should drive us to the Bible. Fear should drive us to the Cross. I was convicted because for so long I have allowed my fear of flying (and a host of other things) drive me to my thoughts and my imagination rather than my Savior.

Dr. Stuart Scott, in his little booklet called Anger, Anxiety and Fear, has this to say about our fears:

“The more a person acts on his fears instead of going against them or pushing through them, the more afraid he will become. We must be willing to endure fear if we have to in order to obey God, to be responsible, and to love others (2 Tim. 2:3-4, 1 Peter 4:1).”

That is what I was doing. I was acting on my fears. They ruled my life, so much so that I started believing the anxious thoughts that consumed my thinking. This had tremendous implications for how I related to those around me. Anxiety and fear are self-focused by their very nature. My fear of flying was all I thought about whenever I had to fly. Those days leading up to my trip were all about me and my seemingly insurmountable fears. This self-absorption is the antithesis of what God calls me to as a follower of Christ.

So what happened when I flew a few weeks ago? I was still afraid to fly, but it was different this time. I wasn’t convinced the plane was going to crash. I didn’t tearfully say goodbye to my husband thinking it was the last time I would see him on this earth (yes, I’m a little dramatic). I didn’t close my eyes and nervously chant prayers while the plane took off. Sure, I was afraid, and I really don’t think I will ever get to the point where flying is my favorite thing. But I did have a trust that God would take care of me. He is just as much in control of a little plane in the sky as he is over everything else in this world that he has created. The most dangerous aspect of my anxiety over flying is that it takes me away from believing in my sovereign God. It’s a slippery slope to a whole host of other areas of unbelief.

All of the references to fear in the Bible are reminders that God cares about our fears. He wants our fears to be rightly directed towards him. This is our hope when our fears threaten to overtake us.

Because we live in a fallen world fear is inevitable. The sad reality is that planes do crash. Bad things happen to people all of the time, and many times to Christians. Until Jesus comes back we will face a constant struggle to not “fear anything that is frightening”, and steadily look to the one who is worthy of the right kind of fear. He holds our lives in his hands. He knows the outcome of every fearful circumstance we face, whether real or imagined, and he promises to keep us to the end.