The Right Fear
I think you can tell a lot about a person by asking this question:
What is your biggest fear?
And I have a confession to make: when it comes to TV & movies, I am the biggest scaredy-cat in the world. No kidding. Scooby Doo used to give me nightmares. Knowing that, you can only imagine how I reacted to seeing Sleepy Hollow when I was 10 years old. It's not so much the in-your-face trauma that terrorizes me, but the suspense of it all. I would so much rather watch a movie about some chick running through the dark woods and being eaten by a tree than to have the dreadful suspense of the slow walk down the hall...to find out...whats behind the creaking door. It's the unknown factor that could give me a premature heart attack. For me, fear has been about suspense of something unknown, and I imagine for a lot of people, this holds true. It's easier to face something you fear once you know what it is, rather than a faceless fear looming in the distance. So let's take the fears we have, and put a face on them. If your fear is an elusive ghost, throw flour on it, so you can see exactly what it is. Often we know we are fearful, but we don't always know what it is that we are fearful of. It's easy to see the symptoms of fear: stress, anxiety, numbing your senses through drugs or alcohol, making bad decisions, feeling out of control, depression, and the physiological effects on your body. But where does fear come from? And more importantly, how do we get rid of fear?
If you don't know it: Satan is the author of fear. He promotes your fear of the unknown, fear of other people, and fear of bad circumstances. The fear of the unknown is something that terrorizes me, and I have a sneaky suspicion this is true for a lot of you. Think about how many times you feel anxiety and don't really know what to attribute it to. Or think about your prayers: Do you admit your biggest fears to God? I bet if you took an honest heart-check, you would admit with me that we oftentimes don't even know what it is that we fear. Satan loves it when we don't identify our fears. God, however, loves to shine light on our fears and help us to realize that those things are just shadows which disappear when light shines.
There are three areas in which we can categorize fear: (1) fear of myself, (2) fear of other people, and (3) fear of bad circumstances. Fear of myself is a way of saying that I control everything, and I am going to screw up big-time. But if I heed my fear to the Lord, then I know that I am not in control - the God Almighty who invented the earth is in control. He created me with a desire for divine wisdom and understanding, that I would know His will and do it.
Let me be the first to say: I can relate to any of you who feel this fear. I want to open myself up to being vulnerable with you all, so I'm going to let you in on a secret: my biggest fear is that I will propagate the hurt I have felt in the past to people whom I love. I just don't want to hurt people...that doesn't sound evil, does it? But having the wrong fears in the Bible is defined as sin. (Side note: There are a lot of times I find it difficult to reason why I'm wrong and the Bible is right, but since I'm a believer, I have to begin with faith to believe that God's Word is infallible as He says it is.) So moving away from the sinful nature, and moving toward the restored new creation I am in Christ, I can adopt a new view. If I truly believe that I don't need to fear myself - and my ability to hurt people - then I can open myself up in relationships, allow myself to be vulnerable, and know that God is helping me grow out of a hurtful, hurt person into a loving, loved person. There is no decision I can make that is so wrong that it will separate me from the love of Christ. And with that revelation of love, I am becoming more loving.
The second category for fear is fear of other people. This one works transversely - yet simultaneously - to fear of oneself. Rather than fearing the harm that you can do to someone else, you fear the harm that someone else can do to you. You build walls, you numb your feelings, you use defense mechanisms to keep from growing close to people, and you slowly...die...emotionally. This is a tough one, because it's so understandable. Most people who have a high degree of fear of other people were taught to fear because of how other people treated them in the past. Maybe a parent abandoned you, or you grew up watching one parent abuse the other, or you were vulnerable in a romantic relationship and he/she walked out on you. This fear of other people isn't outrageous - it's logical. But the truth of God's Word defies logic. If you can harness that fear and give it to God, He can make you whole again. He can take away your hurt, pain, and fear and replace it with His beautiful, glorious love. And when people do hurt you, you won't have to embrace that pain. Yes, other people will harm you - it's part of relationships - but that is nothing to fear. If we will fear the Lord, we will not need to fear anything else. One of the Biblical stories that comes to mind about fearing other people is that of Peter in Galatians 2. As the story goes, in the early A.D. era, the Gospel of Christ was for the first time being preached to both the religiously devout (the holy rollers in the early A.D. era) and the non-religious (what we might call the heathens, but really they're just sinners like you and me). There was a preacher/evangelist named Peter who knew the Gospel was for both the religiously devout and the non-religious, but God specifically used Peter to reach the religious people. When Peter was not around the religious people, he would hang out with the non-religious and they would have a good ole time. But when the religious people were around, Peter feared their judgement of him so he would shun the non-religious. Luckily, another evangelist named Paul recognized this injustice and got in Peter's face about it. He told him it was wrong to fear the religious people's judgement. Now why is that wrong? Because if Peter or you or I fears people moreso than God, we are elevating those people above God's position as Lord of Lords. We are in essence saying, "God, you're big and all, but I'm really more scared of what these other people think of me". See how silly that sounds? I bet a lot of us don't realize we're saying that by allowing our fears to control us, but it's true. This is what I call putting a face to fear. When you think you fear something, put a face on it so you can recognize how silly it is.
The last category for fear is fear of bad circumstances. For some people, that means fear of losing a loved one, a job, wealth, a friendship, etc. And one of the biggest fears: fear of death, goes in this category. Oftentimes when we're faced with an adverse situation, we end up taking a bad defense and are overcome -OR- we're paralyzed with fear and are overcome. And as the saying goes, "Hindsight is 20/20" so we see what would have been the easy route to victory. Fearing the wrong things removes triumph from your life, but fearing God guaranties the victory! One of the big life questions that young adults (including me) face is: "What does God want me to do professionally?" So we choose a job and cross our fingers that God is pleased. But even after finally making that decision, in the near future comes a similar decision when faced with a promotion, job transfer, layoff, etc. And then we're asking the same question. Over the last few years, I've heard this question phrased so many various ways and it's almost always followed by a distressed look. To that I respond with the Proverb, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Those tough decisions are not as important as your decision to put God first - not in an abstract way, but in a very real, daily submitting, fully surrendered way. If that reverence fear of the Lord is established in your life and you still don't know what to do, consider this: whichever decision is going to allow you to greater glorify God, that is the right decision. Ask God which decision will bring Him the most glory, then you will know how to answer those tough life questions. Proverbs 31 describes a Godly woman saying, "She laughs without fear of the future" and later, "A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Rather than living in fear of future circumstances, God gives us the ability to laugh at the face of fear.
As I have been diving more into the Word of God, I've found that fear in itself is not inherently evil. Many, many times throughout Scriptures, God commands us to fear Him. But He does NOT tell us to fear ourselves, other people or bad circumstances. Basically, God is saying, "Fear me, and you won't need to fear anything else." From this, we can conclude that our fear is being misplaced if we are allowing fear of all these other things to seize control of our minds.
One of the Scripture verses that has guided me the most on my faith journey is found in Proverbs 9:
"The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight and understanding. For by Wisdom your days will be multiplied, and the years of your life will be increased."
For me, this verse puts every aspect of life into the right perspective. Whereas misplaced fear distorts my vision, the fear of the Lord helps me see extremely clearly. Fear makes me see through a wacky carnival fun house mirror, but the REVERENT AND WORSHIPFUL fear of the Lord puts everything into the right perspective whether it be the way I view myself, other people, or a decision needing to be made. When you submit to the worshipful fear of the Lord, you put on glasses with the correct prescription so you can view your life clearly through the perspective of God's truth. Protect yourself from reclaiming fear by submitting to the Lord. Be found at all times living with the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord.
With love, PriskaTabitha