Dealing with the Fear of Man

  • Jeff Crotts
Sunset shining over tall wheat

My temperament has always been wired to, “Go for it!” This kind of fearlessness usually translates in terms of me talking to others. In fact, I have had numerous conversations with people who could be intimidating and who are intellectual elites such as: John Piper, John MacArthur, Don Carson, Mark Dever, David Platt, Kevin DeYoung, Voddie Baucham, Jerry Falwell Sr. and Sinclair Ferguson, to name a few. Mind you, these are not people who necessarily ever wanted to have a conversation with me, but that doesn’t matter to me. I just enjoy connecting.

 It has been interesting to call our church to participate in a regular meet and greet time on Sunday mornings. This exercise comes with some risk, in that the introverts hate it while the extroverts probably like it too much. If you were to ask me if I am usually afraid of people, my kneejerk response is an emphatic “NO!” I think of myself as an “I’ve never met a stranger” personality, who will go right up to anyone and strike up a conversation, no problem. On the functional surface this is true about me, but with this as prologue, allow me to take a minute to address fear on a deeper level. In Proverbs 29:25 we see Solomon paint the picture of someone who’s foot is caught in a snare, maybe like a bear trap. A couple of Old Testament references that use this same word for fear colors the intensity of what we are talking about.

First, the patriarch Isaac trembles finding out he was duped by his son, Jacob! 

Then Isaac trembled very violently and said,

“Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.” (Gen 27:33 ESV)

Another time this word is used is when the enemy camp caught wind that Jonathan and his armor bearer had single handedly wiped out an entire garrison (a whole company of soldiers).

And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic. (1 Samuel 14:15 ESV)

Isaiah, seeing an end of the world vision is also found trembling.

My heart staggers: horror has appalled me; the twilight I longed for has been turned for me into trembling.

 (Isaiah 21:4 ESV)

To say the least, when someone is in a snare, he or she is stuck. Stopped. Not going anywhere. The cause? Fear. This is the internal dread where you feel sick inside, fixating on what someone else thinks about you. You feel like you’re being judged by who you are (in their eyes), what you have done, or what you have been unwilling to do. No, it really is not just you who cares what others think about you or what they might do to you. Even when people may or may not be trashing you, whatever they are doing it is still out of their own self-absorption. I want to quick to say, that grasping how people work in general, especially in terms of their own sin still will not fix your fear problem. Nope, but applying the rest of our verse will. Let’s look back at Proverbs 29:25.

“…but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.”

I love Solomon’s simplicity. You will either stay snared by being afraid of what people think or you will get free. How do I get free? The verse promises that “whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” The language is simple, but nuanced and descriptive, in terms of what we must do to be free from fear. Do the opposite, which is, “trust” The Hebrew word for, trust conveys, giving yourself over to someone, and in this case, it is giving yourself over to the LORD. When you do this, you are, safe. The Hebrew word for safe is being on a high place. Up high, out of the fray, looking down on what’s got you so twisted up inside.  Now picture yourself in a jungle context where you are bogged down in mud and vines, you can face it in fear, down there, or climb up into the Lord’s lap, high, looking down at your problem from God’s vantage point. Your problem might not go away, but your fear can. Your fear will leave you when you are giving yourself to the LORD in “trust!”