Man looking off of a cliff

Responding to Our Natural Alert Systems: Fear

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I really feel like fear gets a bad rap. Honestly. Think about how many sermons, memes, songs, and tweets focus on the fact that fear is a liar and how we shouldn’t be afraid ever. It’s everywhere! 

But what if fear, in certain contexts, is a good thing?

I can hear some of you now: But Sarah, think about how many verses there are about not being afraid! What about those?

I’m so glad you brought this up! I’m not discounting those and I don’t even think that I’m contradicting them. But I wholeheartedly believe that some fear can be good. Like when my spidey senses begin to tingle because something’s not right about a person or situation and I change course. Or when I’m on top of a tall building and I see my mortality in full view so I step back from the edge. Or when I see a poisonous creepy crawly and move away out of a healthy sense of self-preservation. These are all times when fear is most definitely a good thing. A healthy and natural version of fear plays a big part in keeping me alive. If I didn’t have certain fears I would’ve been toast long ago.

Fear itself isn’t the enemy; misplaced fear is worth fighting against.

Those times when Jesus told the disciples to not be afraid, he wasn’t chastising them because fear is bad, he was redirecting them because they had misplaced their fear. When they saw a figure walking on the water that looked like a ghost, fear was a natural reaction. But, when they learned that it was Jesus, there was no longer any reason for fear to be in the driver’s seat.

When people were terrified of an angel, it was an understandable response because they’re pretty incredible creatures! I would be really intimidated by one too! But, because the angels were there for good and not harm, the spoke comforting words of redirection. The person’s fear was misplaced, but the person didn’t know that until they were told otherwise.

But what about this one?

 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV)

Here’s the deal: a moment of appropriate fear is not the same as an unhealthy spirit of fear. I always read this verse like this “don’t make fear your home address. Move into power and love and self-control instead.”

Fear is a natural alert system that we would do well to listen to, but it shouldn’t be the only voice we hear.

If fear is the consistent motivating factor in our lives, that’s a problem. Being controlled by fear means that we have a heart issue. Unhealthy fear reveals the fact that there’s a part of us that doesn’t fully trust God. And that’s okay. That’s important to recognize so that we’ll come to God and invite him into that broken part of our lives, no matter how big or how small.

Every “do not fear” in the Bible is dripping with love and compassion, it’s never said in judgment or condemnation. And, if you’re currently living at the intersection of Fear Lane and Terror Drive, know that God is asking you to change your address. He has so much more for you than being controlled by a misplaced fear, he wants to give you power and love and self-control instead.

Let’s meditate on his word, trust his character, and, with his help, courageously change our lodgings.

How do you feel about fear?

What do you do when you find yourself making fear your home address again?

To go Deeper: Read His Story, Fear: A Gateway Sin


Disclosure: some links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

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