You’ve got them. I’ve got them. We can tell each other that it’s nothing serious. But we both know that’s only what we tell each other, or even ourselves. In the vast reaches of our hearts and minds, they still lurk, whether we want to admit it or not.
Fear seems like such a strong word, especially for men. Acknowledging Fear seems so … unmanly. Then allow me to soften the blow. Fear has a couple of little brothers, called anxiety and worry. If we can’t call it full-blown fear, then perhaps we can admit that some things make us a little anxious at times, or give us cause to worry a bit.
See what I did there? I shrunk Fear down to bite size, to make it more digestible, for myself and for the image of myself that I’m selling to you. But anxiety and worry are still categories of Fear. A little larger member of the Fear Family is stress, which is what anxiety and worry become when left unattended. Fear also has a big brother of its own: phobia. That’s when Fear becomes so powerful and controlling, it actually paralyzes us to some degree.
But let’s get back to Fear. Here’s a survey from Chapman University, published in the Washington Post:
Maybe you recognize a few on this list. Those zombies will get you every time. Or maybe you can add to the list. The reality is that every one of us, within our own experience, has those things that trigger fear.
Here’s another list. This one is based on the volume of Google searches and published by SelfHelpCollective.com. It has a couple more that I suspect hit closer to home. Notice how the flying jumped to the top of the list, bumping public speaking down to second, while the zombies disappeared completely. For now:
With all of these causes of anxiety and worry and stress and yes, fear, it’s a wonder that any of us can ever leave the house, let alone function in society. Fear has that kind of crippling effect, even for the child of God. That’s why our Lord addresses it so frequently, so powerfully, and so wonderfully. (For the record, there are not 365 uses of “fear not” in the Bible, no matter what Facebook says).
When Joshua’s life veers in a new direction, and he faces the reality of leading people who don’t follow well and confronting enemies that will seek to destroy him, God speaks. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9). When God says, “Be,” He’s not ordering the impossible; He’s imparting the power to make it so in us. When He says, “Do not be,” these are the things He removes from us when His Holy Spirit moves in and takes over.
David knows how God works. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4). Notice it’s the shadow of death – the prospect of it – that concerns him, but the presence of God completely destroys it. The tools of God, His rod and staff (think: means of grace), provide the comfort that comes with His loving presence.
Isaiah lets us know how personal God gets with us when our Fear factors kick in: “Thus says the Lord, He who created you… He who formed you…: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1). His love conquers our fears.
That’s what John talks about. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18). God’s love for us is perfect, because God’s love for us is Jesus. When His love in Christ fills us to overflowing, the hold that Fear tries to get weakens. The things upon which we hang Fear still exist, but our reaction changes.
Jesus calls that peace: “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart: I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).