The fear of sin

By Jenna Ebener

I turned the corner on the mountain trail and froze. A rattlesnake was sprawled on the path basking in the sun. Though it was not rattling yet, I gave it plenty of space and waited for it to leave. In another setting, a wasp buzzed close to my face. I quickly backed away, waiting to see what direction it took before continuing on my way.

I have had numerous hikes in the mountains dictated by rattlesnakes. I may have a set route in mind but change or delay it when I see that length of a venomous snake or hear that threatening rattle. While the wasps and other smaller dangerous critters do not cause me to change my course, they do cause me to pause and disrupt my peace.
As I reflect on these scenarios, I find it interesting that such small creatures can have so much control over us. The fear of danger and pain, either for ourselves or others, can take over the rational thought that we are bigger and more intelligent. That fear can cause us to quickly change course.

How would our lives be different if we reacted to sin like we do to those creatures or situations that instill fear in us? The bite of a rattlesnake or the sting of a wasp has instant pain and could lead to long-term consequences, even death in some circumstances.

Sin, on the other hand, is even more deadly. Sin weakens our relationship with God, but it may be in subtle ways. We may not notice the short-term impacts at first. We may even feel we are benefiting. Then we are tested and realize that what we are depending on is not enough to get us through the trial.

God provides us with what we need. If we do not rely solely on God, and instead rely on sin, we will slowly spiral into darkness. The bottom of that darkness is real but it is so hard to fathom. While the bite of a rattlesnake is immediate and easy for me to comprehend because I have been faced with that risk, the concept of hell is harder for me to concretely see. I know it is real, yet when I am faced with sin, I do not react with the instinctual fear I have when I am faced with a rattlesnake. That delayed response, I think, is why sin is even more scary. The devil masks sin with pleasure and false happiness.

If sin caused us fear at first glance, there would be a lot less sin in the world. Instead, we are lured by worldly pleasures — such as food, other people or power — in ways that do not bring God glory. That fear may come later, and though we may be deep in sin, it is not too late.

God is always waiting to catch us when we fall and to show us the path back to him. One thing I am really working on this year is depending on God for everything and over everything, especially food. I have a rewarding but very stressful job and can turn to earthly things when I am overwhelmed, such as a favorite food. While there is nothing wrong with that, I want to make sure that I am not relying on that food to fix my stress. Instead, I can enjoy it as a special treat and give my worries to God. For God is always enough.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40: 28-31).

(Jenna Ebener, who has a Master of Social Work from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with disabilities.)

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