Fear is one of those things I find interesting because there are so many different thoughts about it. Some think that it’s great and actually helps propel you forward. Others enjoy the adrenaline rush it provides and seek out risky or fearful situations. If you’re in the Christian or Bible Belt camp, there’s a lot of talk about not being afraid, which can be encouraging and great in some contexts. But I wonder if our language in the church world regarding fear is incomplete.
Fear is a biological reaction to danger. Fear triggers a fight, flight, or freeze response in our brains. Fear is natural and sometimes can save our lives. But the Bible does have many verses that say “do not fear” or “don’t be afraid” so how do we reconcile those two?
“But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
you descendants of Abraham my friend,
I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:8-10 (NIV, emphasis added)
In Isaiah 41:10, God tells Israel not to fear because he is with them. It wasn’t a command to be followed blindly, but a kind invitation from their loving Father to change their focus. Talk about a perspective shift!
When I’m walking through a season that seems unsure and fear begins to creep in, I can trust that because God is good and he is with me, I don’t have to be led by fear. Fear isn’t allowed to be in the driver’s seat because God is. Fear isn’t going to be the one dictating my actions because I choose to trust the Lord.
“Do not fear” is an invitation to freedom, trust, and a deeper relationship with God.
“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14:25-27 (NIV)
I love that Jesus’s reason why the disciples shouldn’t fear was completely logical. The disciples didn’t need to freak out (though that’s a perfectly natural reaction to a ghost-like figure walking toward them) because Jesus was there. I imagine the disciples let out a collective sigh when he identified himself. A calm descended over the boat because the most powerful, good, and kind force in the universe was present with them.
Every “do not fear” or “don’t be afraid” in the Bible is uttered with kindness and compassion. The Lord is inviting us to change our perspective and see who he is and how he is working in a particular situation. Each of these declarations is uttered with love and is an invitation to a different perspective. There is not an ounce of shame or condemnation in sight.
I wonder how our lives would change if we saw fear as an opportunity to see the Lord work instead of something bad that we need to “power through” or suppress. What would happen if we invited the Lord into that fearful situation, giving him an opportunity to move and work instead of trying to appear strong?
Let’s give it a try and see what happens.
How do you view fear?
What’s a fearful situation that you were able to walk through because you knew God was bigger than what you were facing?
Check out A Proverb A Day — fear told me that honesty and vulnerability was too big a risk, but that voice was wrong.
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