To Fear or Not to Fear

  • Randy Karlberg
No fear written on blue surface

If you are like me you have had many conversations with people lately. It seems that one common element that has been a part of these conversations concerns some form of fear.

I am very thankful for fear. It is fear that tells me I need to not attempt certain exterior second story house repairs or helps define a potentially dangerous driving decision. Fear assists us in decision-making. But as we all know, when fear holds too prominent a place in our lives it can have a crippling effect on us and those around us.

So why do we fear? Well, things in this life and this world are scary! It does not matter whether you are a new parent, grandparent, teenager, or business owner. There are many things in this life which are genuine concerns that can move us to unhealthy fear.

However no one wants to have their life governed by fear. Rational thinking can really help monitor fear levels in our lives, and yet even the most rational thinker among us has to admit that they have very little control over a large portion of our lives.

How then do we manage fear and use it either to direct our thinking for a positive response or motivate us to mitigate negative outcomes? One key is not letting fear have a place in our lives that God did not intend it to have. In II Timothy 1:7 we are told, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” So having mental self-control is critical for not living consumed with fear. We are to preach God’s truth to ourselves and hold fast to that truth He has given. And yet, there is still fear that is a reasonable conclusion from logical thinking. So how do we operate in that situation?

I John 4:18 says,

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

I am evermore realizing that our level of fear is in direct response to our understanding of God’s love for His children. The I John 4 passage starts out talking not only that God is a loving God, it says, “God is love!” And when we continue with the rest of I John 4:18 we read, “For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” The idea is that fear and discipline are tools God uses to draw us to Himself and to make us to be the people He has called us to be. One could argue that this is a cruel way to get people to love, by scaring them into a close relationship. That way of thinking misses two critical points. One, God not only uses this for a right relationship with Him but also for our ultimate good in sanctification. And secondly, humankind has made it very clear that if all things are made too easy people would rather reject God and live life apart from Him. We need to understand our need for Him.

When we start to understand this role of fear, then it makes so much more sense what Jesus was calling His disciples to when He, many numerous times, commanded them to “fear not.” He was calling them to a correct relationship with Himself. He also took the time to explain things to them rationally when everything around them screamed, “PANIC! PANIC!” He was giving them living illustrations of the promise from Joshua 1:5 and Hebrews 13:5 , “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The real question for us is, do you believe Him? What will it take for you to fully surrender your control and follow God’s leading in your life? Then and only then can we grow in our understanding of how God is at work in our lives. When we view life’s circumstances from this perspective, then we more fully understand Peter’s message in I Peter 3:14-15 .

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:14-15)

God is in control. And yes, at times, He brings very difficult circumstances that challenge us beyond what we think we can handle. Especially in those times we are to earnestly seek Him in Scripture reading and prayer. Oh, and make sure that you never forget Proverbs 1:7 & 9:10 , “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”