Fear. What do you think when you hear that word?

The noun ‘fear’ is defined as ‘an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.’ The verb ‘to fear’ is defined as ‘to be afraid of (someone or something)perceived as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.’ Few of us like feeling fear, even if at times we can see that fear can be beneficial (not to be afraid of a hot fire, for example, could lead us to injure ourselves.)

Over and over again in the Bible, God tells us not to be afraid (Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 27:1, Matt 10:28-31, Matt 17:7, Mark 5:36, Luke 12:7, John 6:20, 1 John 4:18). Yet so often, particularly when faced with difficult circumstances or fresh challenges, we do feel afraid.

I read a blog recently which talked about ‘The Fear’. The capital letters made me smile, for indeed, fear often seems bigger than the mere word or dictionary definition. It does feel like a capital-letter-kind-of-thing! The writer (Tom Bennett) talked about how many jobs ‘will magnify your fears of inadequacy like an echo in a Swiss valley. You never stop doubting yourself. The fear is only contained, never conquered.’ That seemed a refreshingly honest and very true comment to me.

Although writing in the context of teaching, I think his words are so relevant to life that they are worth repeating:

“Set free, the Fear conquers us; every failure at school looms as tall as Jack’s beanstalk; it haunts us in the dark; it nags us awake when we should be resting, and nips us when we should be thinking of anything else. The Fear is jealous, and needy.

But the Fear is a false God. Failure is part of our job, just as it is in the lives of every human being. No doctor saves every patient, and failure itself does not make us into failures. Only we permit that. We fail – or fall – to rise. If we’re wise, we file every failure away properly, not forgotten, but tamed, in its place, useful rather than devastating. Slowly, we fail less; our failures cease to torment us, and instead disappoint us. The Fear becomes the Familiarity, and no longer haunts us. Captive, shrunk to its rightful size, the Fear becomes an ally, aiding our growth.

Some might even call that the definition of success.” (Tom Bennett)
Dealing with ‘The Fear’, Tom Bennett

Jesus knew the devastating power of fear. He knew how it can cripple us, paralyse us, leave us curled up in a ball in the corner of a room sobbing or how it can act like invisible chains, binding us to false gods, false masters. He knew how it robs us of self-worth and self-belief; how it makes us self-centred, selfish, narrow-minded, squinty-eyed people with no room to love anyone else because we are so self-absorbed. He also knew that His love has the power to break through all our fear, how perfect love can drive out fear.

I am not sure that we ever truly do tame this beast called fear. I do believe, however, that the beast cowers before Almighty God and that there is no place for two gods! I think the choice is given to us by God: will we allow Him to be God or will we believe the lies of this false god? As the song ‘Ready for You’ says: “We decide to leave our fears behind for liberty.” Or as Jeremy Camp sings, “With fearless faith I won’t be moved/ Unshakeable inside Your truth.” (‘Reckless’)

Truth sets us free. Fears have to be faced and often, we can’t conquer them on our own, no matter how many self-help books we read or positive thinking seminars we attend. But we have the ‘God of Angel Armies’ as our friend. We have Almighty God on our side. We have a Guardian, Protector, Guide, Best Friend and Fortress to protect us. We are not alone in this struggle with fear. It doesn’t have to have the capital letter or last word in our lives. Only God has that right.