by mia hinkle (2023)

Fear. What is it? Some common synonyms of fear are alarm, dread, fright, panic, terror, and trepidation. Fear is a natural part of the human psyche, and therefore the Bible has a lot to say about it. In fact, Bible tells us to FEAR NOT over 100 times. Most of the verses line up with Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

For me, this verse lands squarely in the category entitled, “easier said than done.” Worry is based upon something in your imagination or your memory. Worry is the fear we manufacture; it is a choice. Conversely, true fear is involuntary; it will come and get our attention when necessary. Fear can be a good thing. Say, we are being chased by a tiger. We fear. We run. Hopefully, we get away. This hard-wired mechanism is a gift from God.

But just like all good gifts from our Creator, Satan can twist them for his own purpose. The devil uses fear as a weapon to disrupt our faith. He wants us to doubt everything God says to us. If he can get us to the point of unbelief, he can move us away from trusting God.

Scripture tells us over 100 times, “Fear not. The Lord is with you. He will never leave you.”

It could be argued that fear does NOTHING to keep bad things from happening. It just steals the joy of appreciating the good things around us.

So what scares me? When I was little, I feared getting in trouble with my mom. Like the time I cut off my little sister’s long blonde curls — down to the scalp in places! Or the time I pulled the wooden swing way up high, dropped it and watched as it crashed into the bridge of her unsuspecting little nose. Blood splattered everywhere! I was so scared I ran for the hills and didn’t come home until dark. Hours later, there she lay in the corner of the kitchen on top of a pile of dirty barn coats, my brother thought she was dead. I am happy to report, she survived. And we are still friends.

In high school, we dread throwing a party and no one showing up. In college, we panic we might turn up pregnant. Then in our thirties, we worry we won’t ever get pregnant. We are fearful we won’t get the grades to get into a good school. We worry if we’ll ever find the right husband. We are anxious about finding the perfect job, getting the promotion, or buying a house in the right neighborhood. When the babies arrive, we fear what will happen if we don’t choose the right diaper, if we are feeding the right way, which enrichment activities are beneficial, whether he is wearing his bicycle helmet, whether travel sports are worth it, or why he won’t turn in his homework on time. We are alarmed about the kids he’s hanging out with and wonder if he will even graduate from high school. We fear we won’t have enough money to retire. When the grandbabies come along, we are fearful their parents are too young to do it right.

But there is that still small voice — “Fear not. God is with you.”

Today’s social and political climate is fueled by fear, which incidentally, drives their high-octane bottom line through increased viewership and contributions. Then COVID comes along and we are filled with trepidation about lethal germs killing our loved ones or making them sick. We begin watching too much news and a new apocalyptic terror grips our hearts.

Yet we are commanded, “Fear not.”

Middle-age races past us like we are standing still, and here we are – the aged. We become fearful when the doctor gives us that terminal diagnosis and we worry about all kinds of threats, real and imagined. What if. What if. What if.

In the midst of a Parkinson’s diagnosis, in the midst of the world around us going to hell in a handbasket, we are still comforted by Scripture, “Fear not. God is with you.”

It goes without saying, fear can run our lives if we let it.  But as Christians, we know fear comes only to steal and kill and destroy. We know this in our minds and hearts, yet we remain fearful. It’s freaking exhausting and it clouds our vision and impairs our hearing of God’s voice as he says:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

So, we do our best to keep ourselves safe from danger. We take precautions. We study and prepare. We take fewer and fewer risks. We save for retirement. We stay clear of trans fats, sugar, and pesticides. We teach our children about the lasting implications of poor choices. And yet trouble finds us.

And our Bible teachers still refrain, “Fear not.”

And yet, I am afraid. I have never once stopped being fearful because someone said to me, “Be not afraid.”

It turns out, nothing can keep us from danger. Bad things happen to good people all the time. Even Jesus could not escape danger, especially King Herod and the Sanhedrin who actually put a hit out on him! He knew they were looking for him and wanted to end his life, but he was about his Father’s business — healing the sick and casting out demons — too consumed with acts of love to be afraid.

In the end, we want to feel safe. But consider this: it’s not safety that keeps us from being unafraid. Danger is NOT optional, but maybe fear IS. Perhaps the opposite of danger is not safety. Maybe it’s not bravery. Could it be love? Jesus embodied the very essence of, “Be not afraid.” And God is love. Christ lived his days on this earth loving people and doing the work of his Father in heaven.

Pastor and writer, Nadia Bolz-Weber says, “To hell with fear! It does NOTHING to keep the bad things from happening anyway. It just steals the joy of appreciating the good things around us.” 

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