He was my constant companion, sort of a silent co-star in my life’s play from the time I picked him up as a little puppy at a kennel, until the sad day of his death. I named him for one of my favorite cities, which was also where I had completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Texas. I had always wanted to move back to Austin and he was a constant reminder of that unfulfilled dream.
While I was in law school, he went with me to school and stayed in my Jeep while I was in class. After class, despite having stayed in the car for at least a couple of hours, he was always excited to see me. We rode home together and talked about events of the day. Austin never asked for much of anything, except for the occasional belly scratch and he absolutely loved pig’s ears. For the uninitiated, pig’s ears are exactly what you might think- pig’s ears, glazed and cooked expressly for use as dog treats. To the human eye, they are simply disgusting. But to the keen eye of a Labrador retriever, they are filet mignon, ahi tuna and Dom Perignon all rolled into one. I always felt bad for the pig donor, but seeing the look on Austin’s face when I gave him one eased that pain.
I had finished my law studies for the day and it was the first time in a long time that I closed the books before nighttime. Feeling a sense of temporary freedom from my studies, I decided that I would take Austin for a walk. We walked slowly through the neighborhood. Austin stopped for a minute, sat on his hindquarters and looked up at me in a pleading sort of way. This was his way of telling me he needed a bathroom break. Unfortunately, there were no doggie bathroom spots in sight; instead only neighbors’ well-manicured lawns. I tugged his leash, which was our tacit signal that this particular yard was not intended to be a place where he could relieve himself. The pointed look on his face told me that we had but a few minutes to make it to the vacant field just outside our neighborhood, otherwise, I would be reduced to using every dog walker’s emergency kit- the plastic bag in my pocket. And this was something that I certainly avoided whenever possible. So, we ran for it, tearing down the hill and made it to the field just in time. We both looked at each other in genuine appreciation. Afterward, we walked along the path next to the field for a few minutes.
As we walked along the path, I wasn’t really paying much attention to anything other than the beautiful day. Suddenly I felt the leash go completely taut. All ninety pounds of him pulled against the leash, as if the end of the world was right there. I looked behind me and realized that Austin had “the look” on his big face. “The look” was that of abject and utter terror. When Austin got it, he froze completely. And “the look” always meant one thing- some sort of storm was coming.
Austin was completely and unabashedly terrorized by thunderstorms. The amazing thing was that his senses were so keen that he knew when one was coming long before it actually arrived. And at least for the moment, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I said to him, “Come on boy, everything’s fine.” But Austin wasn’t buying it. I tried to distract him. “Austin, look there’s a squirrel!” I said, “Let’s get him!” He still wasn’t buying it. I pulled on his thick leather leash. I tried to drag him toward home. But nothing I could do would persuade him to go with me. So, I did what I had done countless times before. I put my arms around him, grunted and picked him up. Carrying him back up that hill was like moving a piano on my back. I started to scold him as we struggled up the hill, but when I saw the look of terror remaining in his eyes, I kept it to myself.
He could sense when a storm was coming. This meant that he would begin to shudder and shake, long before the storm arrived. This meant that he had to deal with the storm twice- not only the storm itself, but also the fear of the storm as it approached. And sometimes his fear of the coming storm was worse than the event itself.
No matter how I would reason with him, comfort him or attempt to reassure him, Austin had the same abject terror any time he sensed a storm coming. Although he trusted me completely, this was one area where no amount of trust could overcome his raw fear.
Austin died a number of years ago and I still miss him. He was the best animal friend I’ve ever had and a strong rival to many of my human friends. We were as close as a man and his dog can be. But somehow, I could never get through to Austin about his unjustified, irrational fear of storms.
And one day, it occurred to me that in some ways, I’m just like Austin was.
This is because God is to me, like I was to Austin. Whether he realized it or not, Austin was always safe when he was with me. Whatever it was, I had it under control. If a thunderstorm approached, I took Austin into the house where he was safe and cozy. There was no way that he could be harmed by that storm. And I proved it to him, time and time again. However, each time a storm approached, Austin had a choice to make. He could either trust in me, or not. But even if he didn’t trust in me, I would still take care of him. And this is how our relationship with God works.
The Bible uses the term “fear” throughout the old and new testaments approximately 325 times. The word “afraid” appears approximately 206 times. Generally, “fear” in the Bible refers to either fear of the Lord or fear of men. Fear of men is how we ordinarily think of fear. We are afraid of being hurt or injured in some way, either physically or emotionally. The definition of “fear” also includes “extreme reverence or awe, as toward a supreme power.” This is how the Bible refers to fear of the Lord, in the reverential sense. In the Old Testament, “fear” is primarily used to mean fear of the Lord. In the New Testament, many of the references to fear are used in the way that we traditionally think of fear, as defined in the first part of the definition. The New Testament writers talk about fear of the Romans, fear of the Jews, and the like.
In the grand scheme of eternity, our lives here on earth are the blink of an eye. So anything that happens here to us is, by definition, pretty insignificant. At the same time, God will take care of us while we are here on earth, if we will allow it. Faith allows it; a lack of faith interrupts it. Even Jesus was unable to perform miracles in his hometown where there was little faith.
God tells us not to worry.  Fear unchecked interrupts our faith and is the single biggest impediment to a meaningful relationship with God. I think it is also the biggest reason new Christians fall away from their faith. This is because the entire basis for your relationship with God is faith. The more faith you have, the better the relationship. And fear is a result of the absence of faith. So fear means that you are not fully trusting God with your life. And this makes it the ultimate sin. You can overcome any kind of sin in your life simply by trusting in God to fix it. But if you doubt God, then your very relationship with Him is jeopardized. The problem with fear is that it is so subtle and sort of sneaks up on you. Big fear, such as that you might experience in a traumatic event is pretty obvious. But much of the everyday variety of fear lurks quietly in the background. The line between prudence and fear arising from a lack of faith is one of the most difficult you will ever face. If you believe that God loves you and will take care of you, then you can deal with much of what life throws at you.
If, as a Christian, you are still handicapped by fear, worry and doubt, then you will have a very limited and unfulfilling relationship with God. Fear is a response to perceived danger. Worry is a response to fear that is not dealt with. Fear is anxiety caused by immediate danger, whereas worry is anxiety over the prospect of danger. Fear is what Austin experienced during the storm; worry is what he experienced while waiting for it to arrive. People worry about the possibility that the things that they fear will actually occur. Doubt is the opposite of faith. If we doubt God, we will be afraid and worry.
The recurring theme throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testament, is that God wants us to surrender every detail of our lives to him. As Jesus taught His followers time and time again, God will take care of everything in our lives, including the details. But until we fully surrender these details to Him, fear and worry will continue to control us.
So, the moral to Austin's story is this: trust your Master. He has everything under control. No matter what it is, give it to Him. The thuderstorm will pass. God will take care of you. He just will.
 Mark 6.
 Romans 6.
 Luke 12:22.