Among the longest words I have ever seen: hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. If you are still reading, then you likely are not plagued by this mental disorder. The 15-syllable word is the term used to identify persons who have an overwhelming fear of long words. Like symptoms associated with many other fears, a person with this disorder may experience dry mouth, panic, crying, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and so on.
I have not found a website or institution that identifies the exact number of registered phobias, though one article suggests that there are more phobias than there are people! These phobias are more than simple fear, but an overwhelming anxiety that cannot be controlled. They include something as common as a fear of heights (acrophobia) to the almost nonsensical arachibutyrophobia (the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one's mouth).
Even if they are merely perceived, fear is real to the person experiencing it. And while you may not suffer from a debilitating phobia, all persons experience some level of fear in certain situations, based on a real or perceived threat or danger. One imagined solution would be to call on that super-canine who always spoke in rhymes, "There's no need to fear, Underdog is here!" But is there a more realistic answer?
The Bible's repetitive exhortation to not be afraid appears not as a chastisement, rather, it is a word of hope and encouragement, in that it usually appears in context with the promise that the Lord can be trusted in every circumstance. Peace, like fear, is an emotional reaction to one's state of mind, which is strengthened by confidence in God's power, wisdom, and grace.
I was shopping in a store last week where there was a sizeable display of cowboy knickknacks. There was a John Wayne coffee mug with this quote on it: "Courage is being scared to death -- but saddling up anyway." Take heart today in the promise of Jesus to those who follow His Way, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." You can trust Him today.
Steven Callis is the minister at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville.