Paper Tigers: Deconstructing Your Fears

Thomas Blevins

If you shop at Target, you’ve probably at some point drifted into the dollar section. In all likelihood, you’ve even seen my family there. Just the other day, our tribe was on a hunt to find a birthday present and we couldn’t help but beeline to that section. After a few minutes of the kids grabbing every pack of stickers and random thing they could find, our ten-year-old daughter, Emma Grace, found a tiny paper tiger. She started to chase her sister with it, making fierce roars while Ella Jay screamed at the top of her lungs, running in circles and yelling, “Daddy, save me!” While this paper tiger seemed like a relatively harmless thing, it caused enough fear in her to choose flight over fight in an instant.

But isn’t this true for all of us when it comes to fear? We get chased around by tiny, paper tigers every day.

Fear can chew up and spit out the best of us. It can paralyze us from making decisions and hinder us from living a life that is full and genuine. Fear will enslave even the most educated, well-informed, strong people, telling us where to go, what to wear, where to sleep, when to work, what to eat, when to speak, and when to be silent. It stops us from asking for that raise, proposing to the one you love, and even stepping into the life that Jesus has for us.

But fear is nothing more than a tiny, paper tiger. It can be deconstructed and tamed. You can rip it up, burn it, and laugh at it because it doesn’t bear much weight compared to the glory that will be revealed in us as followers of Jesus Christ. But that doesn’t mean we need to deny its existence or pretend that it’s not there. Matter of fact, it’s in our “Daddy, save me!” moments of us confessing our fears that we find freedom.

In the Apostle Paul’s magnum opus, the epistle to the Romans, he explains in Chapter 8 that there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ and we no longer need to live in the bondage of fear. In verses 14 through 17 he writes, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Jesus Christ has unlocked every chain of worry and fear through the cross and His resurrection. He hasn’t left us alone to figure out how to face and conquer our paper tigers; He sent the Spirit of God to dwell in us. When we receive the Spirit of God we are no longer slaves to fear. We’re image bearers, sons and daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; we’re heirs to every room in His kingdom.

So what fear is chasing you down today? What is your tiny, paper tiger?

Have you been afraid to speak up about your addiction because you’ll be rejected? Are you scared to step out of a dead-end job into a new dream? Dreading that hard conversation with someone who has been difficult to deal with?  

You don’t need to be unhinged when paper tigers start to chase you around! Turn around and let it know that you’re an heir to the the One who controls the cosmos and are no longer a slave to fear.

God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. – Galatians 4:4-7