Veterinarians at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium regularly run blood tests on their dolphins to check for disease since a dolphin conceals its illness because in the wild a dolphin that appears sick becomes at target for lunch to its predators. In a similar way people mask their fears to avoid becoming the emotional prey in unsafe schools, homes, jobs, and churches.
A key component of disciple-making is addressing your disciple’s fear. It is not possible for him to follow Jesus and to fear because fear will inhibit him from forming a love relationship with God and others and it will keep him from obeying the Lord. (Jesus leads his followers into the teeth of their fear.) But to come along side of your disciple to help him face his fears is one of the more difficult and challenging aspects of making a disciple for a couple of reasons:
1. People avoid fear.
Your disciple will avoid whomever or whatever he fears to the point that he would rather lie than face his fear even if it means his demise. (As illustrated by the Priests and Elders lying to Jesus when he confronted their fear of people. For them to have followed Jesus would have meant that they would have to face their fear of people, which was the core of their existence. Matthew 21:23-27) Your disciple imagines that irreparable harm will come to him if he faces his fear when in reality calamity will mark his life and the lives of those whom he touches if he does not confront his fear.
2. To untangle fears requires perseverance and patience.
Your disciple has masked his fears for so long that it can be difficult for him to discern reality from a lie. One fear led to a lie, which led to the dread of getting caught, which led to another lie, and so the tangled knot was formed. Although love, grace, and belonging, will provide a new perspective for him, you cannot expect him to be able to untangle years of fear in a short time.