If you haven’t already, there is still time to deal with the summer heat by hightailing it to the coast for some fun on the beach, for some exhilarating and relaxing swims, and for some good old family fun collecting seashells on the seashore. But considering some sightings recounted in the news recently, you may be a little hesitant to be a Michael Phelps in the ocean waves this summer. To what do I refer? You guessed it. Sharks!
Are you afraid of sharks? I am. And you should be. They have insatiable appetites, 15 rows of serrated teeth, and love to lurk in murky areas just offshore where you can’t see the bottom and you can’t move quickly in defense. But did you know that rounded to the nearest whole number, sharks killed only 1 person per year between 2001 and 2013. That is the same for alligators and bears, by the way.
Furthermore, sharks, gators, and bears combined killed half as many people as snakes (6 deaths per year) and spiders (7 deaths per year). Non-venomous arthropods — various ants and other terrible non-poisonous bugs — kill 9 people each year. But these pale in comparison to the deaths caused by nature’s silent, stealth killers – cows! According to one report from several years ago, cows killed about twenty people a year in the mid-2000s. That makes cows about 20 times as lethal as sharks!
Going beyond cattle, dogs kill 28 people per year (statistically speaking, you’re 28 times more likely to be killed by a dog than you are by a shark), and other miscellaneous mammals, like horses, pigs, deer and the like, kill 52 per year. But the number 1 animal killers on an annual basis are bees, wasps, and hornets, responsible for 58 deaths annually.
So, if you think about it, in comparison to other possible animal/insect threats, and not to mention other sources of dread (car accidents take approximately 33,000 lives per year and deaths by heart disease are over 600,000 per year), death by shark attack as a beachgoer is somewhat of an irrational fear that could prohibit us from some outstanding fun and exciting experiences.
We all have times when we are afraid, anxious, and overly concerned…and should be. If you live in a crime infested neighborhood, it is wise to be anxiously on the alert. If your child has run away from home, fear for the child’s safety is the natural response. Not all anxiety is sinful. But our fears and anxieties, sometimes irrational ones, are wrong when they control us, i.e., dominate our lives, thus evidencing a lack of faith in our Savior to help in our trying, challenging times.
Our fears or anxieties may be the result of unconfessed and undealt with sin, an uncertain future, a broken relationship, overwhelming and unexpected circumstances, etc. The Bible speaks of these examples and more. But regardless of the source of our anxieties, Isaiah 41:10 encourages us, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, surely, I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” In Matt. 6:25-34 Jesus tells us not to worry about the essentials of life or things we cannot control, but rather seek first His Kingdom. In Psalm 56:11 the psalmist writes, “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” This is a magnificent testimony to the power of trusting in God. Regardless of what happens, the psalmist will trust in God because he knows and understands the power of God.
The key to overcoming fear, even irrational fears, then, is total obedience to, and complete trust in, God. We may not be able to prevent anxious thoughts or irrational fears from entering our minds, but we can practice the right response to these “sharks” of life when they occur. Philippians 4:6-7 instructs us to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“
So, don’t let the sharks spook you from experiencing some great summer fun this year. More importantly, don’t let the anxiety sharks scare you away from experiencing God’s best for your life!
Your friend and pastor,