It seems that when tigers hunt, they have a remarkable capacity for causing their prey to paralyze with fear, a size greater than any of the other big cats. As the tiger charges toward its helpless victim, it lets out a spine-chilling roar. Now you’d think this would be enough to cause the prey to turn and run for its life, but instead, it often freezes and soon becomes tiger food. At the turn of the 21st century, scientists at the Fauna Communication Research Institute in North Carolina discovered why you’re likely to freeze to the spot rather than run when the tiger charges. When a tiger roars, it lets out audible sound waves – the ones that sound terrifying – and it also lets out sound at a frequency so low you can’t hear it, but you can feel it. And so, as the tiger emerges from the undergrowth, the flashing of its colors, the sound of its roar, and the impact of the unheard but felt sound waves combine to provide an all-out assault on your senses. The effect is that you are momentarily paralyzed, so even though there may be time to avoid the tiger, you are tricked into standing still long enough for the tiger to leap on you.
I believe our adversary, Satan, uses this same tactic on his unassuming victims as well. In 1 Peter 5:8, he is compared to a lion, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” How does Satan act like a lion and paralyze us into not moving? Fear. Our fears often make us resemble the unfortunate animal who is startled by a lion’s attack. They paralyze us into inactivity, even when a real threat is not immediately upon us. The Buford Youth Group (BYG) had a retreat this past weekend that sought to study this very idea. Our weekend study had two intentions. First, we looked inwardly to answer the question, “What haunts you?”. For someone to overcome their fears, they must first identify what fear is haunting them. After we defined our fears, we then looked more in-depth into how Satan uses them against us to stunt our growth and paralyze us into spiritual stagnation.
The most common fear that Satan will use to haunt us are things from our past. For as long as man has had a history, Satan has been using it as fuel for fear. Turning to Acts 7, we find a retelling of the story of when Moses struck down an Egyptian and how this mistake haunted him almost forty years later. Acts 7:22-25, “Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.” In this passage, we find out a lot about what Moses knew about his role in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. He already knew that his people weren’t the Egyptians but rather the Hebrews by his journey to see who he calls “his brethren.” Looking to verse 25, we are also given the idea that Moses already understood and was ok with the idea that God could deliver his people by working through him. His actions back-fired, though, and ultimately drove him out of Egypt and into the land of Midian. It’s here in Midian some forty years later that God decides to call him back into the business of deliverance, although this time, Moses is a lot less sure of himself. Is fear of failing again the motivation driving Moses to be so apprehensive in Exodus 3? As God calls him into action, Moses only responds with complaints and excuses as to why he is no longer the man capable of fulfilling this task. One wrong decision decades ago in Moses’ life was still plaguing him to the point where he believed that he could not do what God was asking of him.
How many times in our lives have we been haunted by past decisions that attempt to sell us on the lie that we aren’t good enough even with God’s help? The fear of failing again, or the fear of trusting in God completely, will halt our progress in our spiritual lives and stiffen our efforts for His Kingdom. Satan will use these past decisions, and especially our past sins, to try to keep us in the position those decisions/sins led us into. Satan didn’t want Moses leaving Midian because he knew what he ultimately was capable of doing for the Lord. In the same way today, Satan doesn’t want us to forget the shame and embarrassment we experienced in the past so that we don’t reach our potential in the Lord.
How do we overcome this fear that Satan uses against us? How do we remove these past decisions and sins that seemingly cling onto us and paralyze our movement forward? We remember the power of our God and His ability to call us up from where we are. God calls Moses back into action from where Moses was. Moses made a poor decision that led him to become an alien in Midian, and it’s here in this place that God calls him back to his purpose. Moses was always meant to be the deliverer of Israel, and even though his own decision had led him away from Egypt, God was able to bring him back. No matter where our choices have guided us, God is still able to use us for His divine will. We are never too far gone that God is unable to call us back and restore a sense of eternal purpose into our lives. Satan will use our past to haunt us, he will use the problems of our present to haunt us, and he will even use our anxiety for the future to paralyze us with fear. Thankfully, our God has instilled in us a spirit created to combat these fears. 1 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Let us always remember the words in Isaiah 41:10 and that God so often tells his children, “Do not fear, for I am with you…”