As a child, my parents would occasionally leave Becky and me at home when they needed to go somewhere. My sister was old enough to “be in charge,” so it was fine. I remember one time, however, that she wanted to watch a scary movie. I protested and retreated to our parents’ bedroom, where (unfortunately) I could hear everything from the TV! As the music sounded more and more ominous, I clutched our mother’s robe, wrapping it around me and tried to calm myself by breathing in the sweet scent of “mom.” My fear subsided as I did that. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that action could calm all of our fears today?
Fear Dominates Us
“Fear not” and “Be not afraid” are among the most-used admonitions in the Bible. God knew that fear would be our go-to emotion. It can be the result of ignorance, uncertainty, and stubbornness as well as a response to a physical threat. Of course, fear does serves an important function for without it we wouldn’t try to escape actual danger; it’s a necessity that can keep us alive. It’s also one of the most uncomfortable feelings that we can have, leaving us with side effects such as racing hearts, sweaty palms, and feelings of panic and disorientation. We scramble about trying to control things that are uncontrollable instead of focusing on those things that we realistically can impact. When we live in such a sustained state of fear, it can manifest as anger or hopelessness. Fear has a way of paring down our universe to the basic elements of self-protection and self-interest, leaving little motivation for living the lives for which God intended.
God Banishes Fear
For this reason, I think that it should be no surprise that these commands to “fear not” are usually followed by words that should calm us and give us hope. Here is what Isaiah 41:10 tells us,” Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” In Joshua 1:9 we read, “ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Lastly, from Psalms 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” God seems to be saying, “ It’s OK, I’ve got this.” No matter what we may fear in this world, we should know that ultimately all outcomes rest with God. When we can truly hear God’s promise to be with us, we can stop letting fear rule our lives. Life can be joyful when we’re intent on living it from a place of peace and happiness instead of fear.
Fear is very pervasive in our world due to the 24-hour news cycle that keeps images of unrest and violence in front of us constantly. To avail ourselves of God’s peace, we must intentionally focus on His love and words of assurance. We can control little in this world, but with God’s help we can control our response to the fear and uncertainty that we see. There is much for us to do, and when we set aside our fears and take God at His word, much can be accomplished in His name.