One of my summer reading books this summer has been Forbidden by Ted Dekker. In the novel, a virus was unleashed on humanity that robbed it of every emotion except for fear. The emotions or feelings of love, sadness, joy, anger, jealousy… all of those are gone from the human race. But fear? Fear was kept, because fear is the one emotion or feeling that can control us like none other.
There are some that say there are 365 references regarding not being afraid in the Bible; places where we are told for one reason or another to “Fear not”. I did a little research of my own. That’s not true. It’s in there quite a bit, for different reasons or in different circumstances, but it is not in there quite so many times as some have purported.
Nevertheless, Jesus, himself, did say it at least once, and so we might ought to listen. (In a quick search I found five times… but it was a quick search, and who’s really counting anyway?)
Many of us might not even know how much we are driven by our own fears. Maybe you are like me and begin more sentences than we might like to admit with the words, “I’m afraid…”
“I’m afraid if I say that she’ll be disappointed in me.”
“I’m afraid if my child does that, he might get hurt.”
“I’m afraid if I try to do that, I will fail.”
“I’m afraid of all the evil in the world today.”
“I’m afraid of what will happen if that person gets elected to office.”
There was once a study conducted that showed upwards of 85% of all the things we are afraid might happen never actually do. We are wrong 85% of the time, and yet we still allow the things that we are afraid of shape our thoughts, action, and our very lives.
So if fear is so useless to us, why did God even give it to us? I think fear, in its proper place, is a huge benefit. My fear of a wild bear in the forest will cause me to keep my distance should I ever come upon one in the woods. That’s using fear to my advantage. Now if I never take a walk in the forest because I am afraid of the potential of a bear being there and then eating me, I have allowed my fear to control my better judgment… and I miss out on some natural beauty and experiences in nature.
The Bible tells us that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Three times in Proverbs, actually, but again… who’s counting?) So maybe we have fear so that we can be afraid of God, then? I don’t think so. At least not in the way that I am afraid of that bear in the forest.
When I was a kid, I had what some might call a healthy fear of my dad. I wasn’t afraid of what my dad would ever do to me, he was never ever an abusive person, but I understood the control and influence he held over my life and so my fear of him was a healthy thing for me.
In this way, today, I fear the Lord.
God is the creator of the universe, and the giver of life itself. To stand in awe and, yes, some kind of fear of that kind of immense power will only bless me. But when I allow fear to run rampant in my mind unchecked, it can control me to the point of paralysis.
Recently, I heard an audio clip from Andy Stanley, Pastor of NorthPoint Community Church in Atlanta, talking about fear. He was speaking in response to the South Carolina church shootings. Andy said that as followers of Christ, we don’t have to be afraid, even when there is something to be afraid of.
Where did he get that?
Whenever Jesus told folks not to be scared, it looked like a perfect time to be afraid! Whether it was in the midst of a storm, or during a time of great loss… everything surrounding the circumstance logically led people to fear. But Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you.” (Is. 40:10)
God gave us fear to bless us, not to paralyze us. To fear God leads us to understand his character and is vastness. To grasp even a glimpse of that is a little scary, and a great reminder of who is actually in control here.
How often do you start sentences with “I’m afraid…”? I’m going to do my best to cut that stuff out… how about you? Let’s let fear work for us, and not against us. Let fear serve us instead of us serving fear. It’s the upsidedowness of fear. We gotta flip this thing over.
Where might this life take us if we did?