What Is Fear
Fear, a secret enemy, invades men of every age and race, and every walk of life. It is subtle and devastating, poisoning our thinking, robbing our inner peace, and squelching our zest for living. It makes us nervous, uneasy, alarmed, disturbed, upset, and fainthearted; what unpleasant, unwanted feelings!
We fear conflict and change, failure and frustration. Some people fear sickness and suffering. Others fear that harm will befall their loved ones. Some are afraid of other people and their opinions. Others fear the dark, or to be alone. Many are afraid to die and to face the unknown. There are Christians who fear their salvation is not secure, or that God has not forgiven their sins. They are not only afraid to die, but also afraid to live.
Fear enters our minds so slowly and silently that we hardly realize we are becoming victims of its damaging influence. Even a little fear, like a drop of dye in a glass of water, discolors everything. When this thin stream of fear is not stopped, it cuts a channel into which other thoughts are diverted.
Life is complex, the world is violent, but outward troubles need not mar inner peace. It is the fear within we must face. Fear enters when our most important need has not been met. Our souls, made in the image of God, cry out for Him. When we are away from God we can expect to be fraught with phobias, complexes, and fears.
Satan takes full advantage of our fears. At every opportunity he intensifies them and makes them seem even more real and logical. Our way becomes darker and darker, and the burden of our heart becomes heavier and heavier, until we lose all hope of deliverance.
Satan works in darkness. He cannot work in the light because, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Satan knows our weaknesses, and in these areas he presents thoughts and fears. He seeks to destroy truth and confuse us with falsehood. If we keep these things covered in the darkness of our hearts and minds, Satan will continue his evil work of discouragement and fear. He can be defeated and his powers can be driven back if we expose him to the light.
The Fear of God
Sin causes an overwhelming fear that springs from the knowledge that one’s life is not pleasing to God. It was a tragic day when Adam and Eve yielded to the suggestion from Satan to disobey God’s command not to eat of the tree in the midst of the garden. Through disobedience they sinned and then hid from the presence of God. That evening God called them, and Adam said, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid” (Genesis 3:10). Through the generations since Adam, all mankind has come under this shadow of sin. This fear of the judgments of God, if it will move a person to repent of his sin, can become a positive force in one’s life. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). This is a very proper reverential respect and awe that we feel. We see in part God’s greatness, His righteousness, His judgments, His love, His mercy, His wisdom, and His eternal being. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. We realize that our very existence is entirely in His hands and that we are before Him as His creation. We are afraid to displease such a God. We know that God’s righteousness condemns to hell fire those who live in sin “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27). This knowledge brings a fear of sin. As we come to know God as our personal friend through repentance, forgiveness, and obedience, our service to Him is motivated by a godly fear, and by love and thanksgiving for His unspeakable gift of salvation. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Our fear of Him is not one that strikes terror to our hearts, but one that deepens our love for Him. When fully applied in our lives, this is one fear that can overcome all others. Why then do so many allow clouds of fear to grip their hearts, trouble their minds, and shadow life’s pathway? God’s way is a way of peace and trust.
A story is told of a little boy who was afraid to walk alone in the dark night, but when his father walked beside him and took his hand all fear vanished. The darkness now held no fear, because he loved and trusted his father, and knew he would take care of him. Here is the key for us to be free from fear: we must learn to know our heavenly Father well. As we become acquainted with God, we trust our lives completely to Him, placing our hand safely into His. We humbly speak to Him of the questions that plague our minds, and those sorrows of life that would drive us to despair.
We have the example of the Apostle Peter, as Jesus bade him walk on the stormy waves of the Sea of Galilee. Peter was unafraid until he took his eyes off the Lord, and began to look at the fearful waves. Then he began to sink (Matthew 14:24-31). As we seek freedom from fear and place our confidence in God, His Spirit will speak to us in a still small voice. As we look to Him rather than our fears, the storm calms about us. He can then answer our perplexing questions, replace our doubt with assurance, and take our hand comfortingly in His. We can, by His grace, overcome the crippling effects of fear.
The Fear of the Future
The mysterious unknown of the future makes some people uneasy. Each morning they awaken to an unpredictable day. They face those nagging “what ifs” as their minds race down the dark alleys of imaginary dread. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). By trusting the future into God’s hands, we can surrender to Him the burden of the unknown. Try it and see!
Many fear the future because they lack direction for their lives. Not knowing where they are going, they have a sense of foreboding. God knows what lies ahead, and when they let Him lead them, their lives will not be an aimless journey, but rather the way home.
God has promised to be faithful to those who trust Him even though they face an unknown future. Do you believe it? No matter how severe the storm, or dark the night, or high the mountain, He will take you through.
The Fear of Failure
We have a desire to achieve, but we fear that we will fail-ourselves, our families, and life itself. We fear we will make a wrong choice and carry out a wrong plan.
God commanded Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid; for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9). When we place our lives under the direction of the Master, past failures need not be final; they can become stepping-stones to success.
The Fear of Suffering
We all cringe at the thought of bodily pain, the hurt of criticism, the pang of loneliness and grief. God will not shield us from all suffering, but He will supply the grace to bear it. He has promised peace and assurance in the midst of our troubles. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear” (Psalm 46:1-2). If we love the Lord, he will use suffering for our good. Suffering provides an opportunity to know the presence and upholding power of God. It also brings depth of character and an understanding heart. Suffering can either make us or break us. Which will it be?
The Fear of Death
The fear of death is very common to mankind. Saying good-by is a most painful assignment.
We need to come to grips with the age-old question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14). Jesus came to deliver us from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). That is why He died and arose again, and that is why He promised, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). With Him, death is not a door into nothingness, but a shining gateway into a new life. “Let not your heart be troubled…In my Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2). It will be a prepared place for a prepared people.
Are you prepared? Have you repented of your life of sin? Repentance brings a remorse for past sins and a turning away from the old life. When was the last time you came to the Lord in prayer and gave Him your load of care, your worries and fears? Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). What an invitation! What a promise!
Come-trustfully, prayerfully, hopefully, and you will have peace of mind.
Come-and you will know the gentle joys of restful living. God invites you to trust Jesus Christ and be free, free from fear. Come!