Statistically speaking, a lot of people are happy for the coming of October. In multiple surveys, people identify October as their favorite month. There is a lot to like about October. The leaves change color, the temperature reaches perfect bonfire weather, and it is cool enough to justify wearing a hoodie everywhere. For other people October is their favorite month, not just because of the weather but because of the holiday. For roughly 10% of Americans, Halloween is their favorite holiday. There are a lot of people who see October as “Halloween month” and seek to spread the spooky festivities out for all thirty one days. Unsurprisingly, the Venn diagram for people who love Halloween and love horror movies is almost a perfect circle.
Horror movies are not for everyone, and they are really not for me. The popularity of horror movies seems a little paradoxical. Horror movies tend to be full of suspense, create feeling of fear, and display graphic, gory images. These stories are designed to elicit feelings of dread, terror, and fear. These are negative emotions, which we often go to great lengths to avoid. Psychologists have done studies to determine why people seem to enjoy horror movies so much. One of the leading theories for why people like horror movies is that they are safe. Feelings like fear or revulsion from seeing gory images are not particularly pleasant or comfortable feelings. However, horror movies have a level of detachment. We know they are not real, so it allows us to engage with emotions we normally avoid in a safe and non-hurtful way.
The bible takes a different approach to fear. From invading armies, to swarms of locusts, to demonic possession, the bible does not shy away from presenting us with things to be afraid of. However, when faced with truly scary situations the bible has a consistent message: “do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid is the most common command given by God in the bible. In some variation it appears nearly 120 times.
Situations in life that we encounter can still be scary, but we have nothing to fear because God is with us. The Creator of everything is on our side, and the scripture promises that God works for the good of those who love him. The command do not be afraid is found throughout the Bible, so it is not a surprise that the long running kids series VeggieTales hit upon this theme in their very first episode. In teaching the concept not to fear the show features a song where the talking vegetables sing, “God is bigger than the boogeyman.”
With its ghouls and ghosts and things that go bump in the night, Halloween reminds us that we all have boogeymen. There are things that scare us, keep us up at night, and fill us with a sense of dread. Whatever that is for you, may your remember that God is bigger than your boogeyman. When you face what you fear, may you remember Deuteronomy 31:6: “ Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Many people will celebrate scary and spooking things for the entire month of October. May you use those times this month as a reminder. When you drive by Halloween decorations, see an advertisement for a haunted house, or even watch a horror movie of your own, may that be a reminder to you that God tells us “do not be afraid” because God is bigger than any boogeyman, fear, or anxiety that we might be haunted by. May that fill your heart and soul with peace, and may you remember the Lord your God goes with you and God will never leave you or forsake you.