The Nature of Fear

Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

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When I consider the prospect of fear, it amazes me the ways that fear dictates the worlds response. The stock market makes people fearful of losing money, natural events cause fear of sudden disaster, people fear certain interactions, and the fear of death is ever present in many.

Is there ever a time that fear is justified?

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Some would say fear is often justified. Many wouldn’t walk down a dark alley at night for fear of being accosted. Most wouldn’t swim in shark infested water for fear of being eaten alive. What about the fear of death, is it wrong to fear death considering the magnitude of its finality?

When I was a kid a had a couple different paper routes. For millenials who aren’t familiar with paper boys, we would pick up our stack of papers, wrap them, and place a rubber band around them for delivery. After loading the papers in a delivery bag, I’d hitch the bag over the handlebars on my bicycle and ride off each day delivering my wares. Invariably, there was always a dog on the loose that would act like it wanted to eat me. On a couple occasions a loose dog would attack me and try biting my leg, after pedaling for my life I would always think I cheated death once again. My paper route lead me to becoming fearful of strange dogs, I simply wouldn’t trust them since they would attack without the slightest provocation. The fear of dogs carried with me into adulthood until I realized the fear was unhealthy and I needed to do something about it.

Addressing fear, rather than avoiding it, is critical for maintaining a right perspective.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

If we allow fear to control us, we are giving in to the prospect of self-sufficiency. This thought is a continuation of a humanistic centered goal for survival of the fittest. “Survival of the fittest” is a phrase that originated from Darwinian evolutionary theory as a way of describing the mechanism of natural selection.

I don’t want to go too far down this rabbit trail of evolutionary theory but since this doctrine has been flushed down the minds of so many people in schools and universities, the world’s view of species survival can subconsciously dominate our thinking.

“If I don’t look out for myself, no one will” is the common refrain. Yet the idea that I must ensure my own welfare is not biblical and does not espouse the attributes of a follower of Christ.

I’m not saying we should act foolishly and place ourselves in harmes way, but allowing fear to dominate our thinking can affect other areas of our lives we have less control over.

Psalm 56:3-4 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”

Human Emotion

I posed a question in a recent blog on anger….are natural human emotions acceptable and should they be embraced?

Not unlike the emotion of anger, when fear arises in the minds of an individual, is that emotion appropriate and if not, what can we do to bring it into subjection to God’s will and purpose?

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

I’d like to make a suggestion…

Human emotions are affected by our Imago-Dei—our image of God.

This imago-dei has been described as the metaphysical expression, associated uniquely to humans, which signifies the symbolical connection between God and humanity. In connection to fear, this “image of God” connects our emotional response to how we view God’s position in the world and in particular, how God views us.

If we think that we are just another face in the crowd, that God is just too busy to concern Himself with our circumstances, or if we attribute God’s goodness to our actions, we might think we are vulnerable to unexpected suffering in some manner.

Psalm 27:1 “Of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

If our image of God is obscured by our own “self-actualization”, then we leave an element of success with our ability to make right decisions, and this leaves an air of doubt in everything we do.

We must come to understand what God’s Sovereignty implies.

  • The Lord establishes peace and guides His people by His hand.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Godly Strength

Can we admit that we question God’s love, His faithfulness, or His ability to lead us through trouble?

Most christians would not admit these things, it would be likened to admitting blasphemy against God’s throne, but we admit these when we act out of fear.

1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Our words are meaningless if our actions don’t follow.

We can declare that we trust in the Lord, we can sing God’s praises and rejoice in His love, but we deny all of these things when we walk contrary to God’s commands. The command to “fear not”, is not an idle suggestion but demands our full attention.

It is crucial we gain a right perspective regarding fearful emotions otherwise we simply do not trust God.

Isaiah 35:4 “Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

Regardless of the situation, health, finances, relationships, our future…everything we hold of value must be given to Christ. If we don’t lay these at His feet but rather attempt to hold onto them, protect them, or try to manage them on our own, these attributes of life will become idols in our lives and will rise in value over our relationship to God.

When the prospect of losing something we are attempting to protect becomes a reality, fear inhabits our thinking and we don’t act in faith, we strive by our own understanding.

Psalm 27:1-3 “The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.”

Our Assurance

When we place our confidence in Christ, our fear of God usurps the fear of the world.

The fear of God is the only fear that produces righteousness.

Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

The next time you sense fear arising, ask yourself the question “why am I afraid?”

Apply godly reason to your concerns and remind yourself of God’s promises. Lay hold of those promises. Claim those promises for yourself.

For all who profess Christ, there remains a sacrifice that endures for eternity. Nothing can harm you when you remember that God is faithful to complete His work in you. Nothing can change God’s plans for you. When the time comes for God to take you home, fear is no longer an issue, it holds no power over you, because you are secure in Christ.

Isaiah 12:2 “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

The song of the redeemed is the song of victory. Victory over fear, over death, over any of the threats this world can conjure up.

Our God is greater…never forget this.

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