And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Luke 2:8-9
Have you ever had anyone jump out of nowhere and scare you? Angels showing up is a big deal! Has an angel ever interrupted your evening? If an angel did, what would your reaction be? I would freak out! In the original language, it doesn’t come out as clearly in our English languages, but Luke the author uses the word phobia (where we get our word ‘fear’ from) twice, once as a verb and once as a noun. It literally reads “and they feared a great fear.” Translated: they FREAKED out! And I don’t blame them! They’re outside in the open plains, watching over their sheep, and all of a sudden this mighty, floating apparition just appears? They responded the way most of us would respond.
So, why are we afraid of the supernatural?
1. The supernatural is unseen. Years ago, right after I finished college I lived in Africa for two years as a missionary. One of the many neat things I got to do was go on safari. Now, if you’ve ever been to a zoo, where all the wild animals are nice and comfy in their little cages, it’s nothing compared to driving out and finding them in the wild, in the savannah. That’s the fun part. The not fun part? Trying to find them. You’re literally driving out into the middle of nowhere for hours upon hours, trying to find these wild animals, most of whom hunt at night and sleep during the day. And oh by the way, the savannah is really tall grass, meaning it’s really hard to see more than a few feet into it. Anyways, the one I’ll always remember is when we had been on safari for hours and I was on top of the range rover on the luggage rack as a lookout. Sort of like being up in the crow’s nest on an old pirate ship. I was up there, and after hours of nothing we came around a bend in the grass and stopped less than 15 feet from three lions, right there on the side of our little sand trail. Everyone in the car wisely rolled up their windows, because those were three female lions and there was no cage. And there I was, on the luggage rack, and I did some quick calculations. It would take no more than two steps and a pounce for those lions to be up on top of that car with me if they wanted to be. If I would have seen them, obviously I would have gotten in the car. But I didn’t, they were unseen, and when they appeared, I freaked out. I was afraid.
2. The supernatural is unknown. A second reason why we fear the supernatural is because it’s unknown. We don’t like what we don’t know, especially if it’s invisible. Here’s an example: Let’s say it’s late at night and you’re in a part of town that has a reputation for not being the best part of town. Let’s say it’s a rundown neighborhood with high crime and all the street lights have been shot out. Now let’s say I ask you to walk down a dark, unknown alley in that neighborhood. Yeah, who’s doing that? Could you see yourself walking down that dark alley and imagining all the horrible things that could happen to you? Since we don’t know much about the supernatural, and since it’s also unseen, many times our minds race to the worst possible version of what could happen.
If I say, “there’s a spirit that will visit you tonight,” are you pumped because it might be an angel or are you already deciding that you’re downing coffee and red bull and all the lights are staying on all night? We naturally fear the supernatural because it’s unseen and unknown.