No Fear?

I’ve had several occasions recently to have some good conversations on fear and since this is such a prevalent emotion, especially in today’s climate, I thought I’d share some of the things that I’ve been contemplating.

I’m sure you’ve seen or heard the saying that the Bible says over 365 times not to fear. It’s a cute, memorable saying, but it’s not accurate. Despite the inaccuracy of the saying, God does command us many times in the Bible not to be afraid or not to fear.

Fear, the noun, is defined by Oxford as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat”. The verb form is defined as “to be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening”. The word afraid can be defined as “feeling fear or anxiety”, but it can also be defined as “unwilling or reluctant to do something for fear of the consequences”.

Is being afraid a sin? I believe it depends on your reaction to the fear and whether or not it is preventing you from doing something you know God wants you to do. Fear is a valuable emotion that can protect us from things that ARE harmful to us. If you encounter a poisonous snake on a hike, fear will instruct you to stay away from it. It’s kind of the same thing as pain. When we’re down with a migraine it’s easy to wish we never had to experience physical pain, but pain serves a protective purpose in our lives. It alerts you to something that is wrong, something that is in need of attention. Fear alerts you to something that needs attention.

The problem comes in when our attention is so focused on that thing that we lose sight of God and lose our faith in Him. Fear can drive you closer to God or further away. An excellent example of this can be found is Psalm 56.

“Be gracious to me, God, for man tramples me; he fights and oppresses me all day long. My adversaries trample me all day, for many arrogantly fight against me. When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Psalm 56:1-3 (HCSB)

David was running for his life from King Saul. If a king is hunting you down to kill you, it’s pretty natural to be afraid. To make matters worse, he ended up being captured by the Philistines. Being captured by anyone is bad enough, but the Philistines had a very large bone to pick with David. If you’re a little dusty on Biblical history, Goliath was a Philistine, and not only had David killed Goliath, but at the time he was running he was also carrying Goliath’s sword- the same sword he had used to decapitate Goliath. (1 Samuel 17:51; 21:8-10) Things went from bad to worse pretty quick! But look at Psalm 56:3 – “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” When – not if.

David wasn’t afraid to admit he was afraid. But David also knew where his salvation would come from, and that was God alone. He owned his fear and gave it to God. These weren’t just words to David, he meant it. We can read later on in the chapter where he says “In God I trust, I will not fear”. Praying our fears out before God invites in His peace. It’s reframing the situation in our minds where we see God as bigger than whatever is causing our fear.

I think so often we don’t want to admit that we are afraid. Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to appear weak, sometimes it’s because we don’t want to admit we are doubting God, and sometimes we just don’t want people to know that we don’t have it all together. Friend, God knows when you’re afraid. He’s waiting for you to give it over to Him and trust Him. Only then can He flood you with peace that can’t come from any other place.

2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Fear, the healthy emotion that alerts us to danger, is God-given for our protection, but the spirit of fear is not the same thing. A spirit of fear is constant fearfulness, it indicates a lack of trust in God and His provision. Everything becomes an occasion for fear and not the kind of fear that propels us into His arms, but rather fear that separates us from Him.

Fear can imprison us.

The phrase “sound mind” here can also be translated moderation. Like many of the emotions that God has created, when there is an excess or even a dearth of them, we’re out of balance, and not connected to Him as we should be. Don’t be afraid of being afraid – let it cause you to run to the Father and share your fears with Him and let Him share His comfort with you. Fear and faith can coexist. As Charles Spurgeon put it “He feared, but that fear did not fill the whole area of his mind, for he adds, ‘I will trust in thee.’ It is possible, then, for fear and faith to occupy the mind at the same moment.” Keep the fear in moderation, and praise God in excess! He’s worthy of it!

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