Fear appears to be a universal part of the human experience. Our fears stretch from the mundane to the profound. Fear of spiders and thunderstorms grows up into fears of failure and rejection. We’re afraid of people who are different from us. We’re afraid of things we don’t understand. We’re afraid of an uncertain future.
Some fears are understandable. Groups like ISIS in the Middle East and Boko Haram in Nigeria spread brutal violence and unsettle villages and local governments. Economic uncertainty plagues some, as they wonder what will come of their jobs and their families. Elections—in the United States and elsewhere—have been fraught with fear over who will come to power and what havoc they may wreck once they’re there. Some Christians profess fear over losing religious liberties or watching a secular culture encroach on their lives.
In scary and uncertain times, it is easy to make decisions or shape our attitudes based on fear (even if we would like to call it by another name). When these fear-based decisions and attitudes encroach on opportunities to live out faith, hope, and love, we have lost sight of something very important. Because at this point, our fear has taken us to a place beyond the realm of a reasonable sense of caution or the desire to make wise decisions. Fear has made us lose sight of the God we worship and the Savior we follow, as we begin to compromise on living as faithful disciples of Jesus for the sake of assuaging our fear. When fear compromises our discipleship, we are succumbing to a faulty view of reality. This sort of fear, which we so often see expressed, should not have a place in the Christian.
In the Bible we read hundreds of times the command “Fear not.” Always, God’s people are told “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid of political forces that are swirling out of control. Do not be afraid of your adversaries. Do not be afraid of that which you do not understand. Do not be afraid when people speak ill of you or when injustice prevails. In fact, I cannot think of a single instance we’re instructed to fear anything—besides God himself.
The fear of God should drive all other fears away, as the strength and power of the God we worship makes everything on earth pale in comparison. The “fear of the Lord” puts us in a place of awe and knee-trembling respect for all that He is and the utter control He has over the world. Regardless of what we may see, He has not changed. He is still strong. He is still loving. He is still on his throne.
While fear clouds our vision, this true picture of reality—of God on his throne—allows us to look at the world with a clearer eyes. It drives all other fears away, as they fade in light of all that God is. Without the muddling effects of fear, we are free to consider our world and our individual lives with godly wisdom, and we gain better sight of the way of following our Savior. We are freed to live unhindered by the gripping power of fear, as we walk in the confidence of our great God, whose love and goodness are ever turned toward us.
* * *
“Unfortunately, many people presume that the world is the ultimate threat and that God's function is merely to offset it. How different this is from the Biblical position that God is far scarier than the world. … When we assume that the world is the ultimate threat, we give it unwarranted power, for in truth, the world's threats are temporary. When we expect God to balance the stress of the world, we reduce him to the world’s equal. …
As I walk with the Lord, I discover that God poses an ominous threat to my ego, but not to me. He rescues me from my delusions, so he may reveal the truth that sets me free. He casts me down, only to lift me up again. He sits in judgment of my sin, but forgives me nevertheless. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but love from the Lord is its completion.”
- William D. Eisenhower, “Fearing God,” Christianity Today