Are You Afraid Of Fear? (Part 1. Why Am I Afraid?)
Although this article is part of a series, it is a Complete study on its own. (1 of 2 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." (Franklin D. Roosevelt)
"I can't, I'm afraid! What if...(this)? what if...(that)?" Do you feel it, looming out of the shadows? It forms slowly and adapts to many forms nestling itself into a corner of our mind. Fear- one of the emotions with which we are plagued while in this natural body of ours. It complicates our lives, and in too many people dictates their behavior to the point that it robs them of a great deal of life and of life's experiences. Why is this emotion in us? Why were we created to feel this thing that handicaps us, sometimes to the point of being non-functional? What is it?
First of all, God never makes mistakes. Let's get that straight from the "get go." He didn't create fear to handicap us but to warn us of danger. We were created with a body that senses danger and gives us a response to flee or fight. The adrenaline flows, the heart pumps to give us the energy to do just that. Fear was never meant to cause harm but to help keep us safe from danger, moving us into the arms of God.
But sin... Ah, yes, sin entered our world. That just messes up everything, doesn't it? Sin is a separation from God. Sin sees things through an earthly, sensual, lustful pair of lenses and discolors everything. We have a sin nature that fights against our spirit and the Holy Spirit.
Every response that the Lord built into us for good can be exploited by the enemy and our flesh for bad. How, you say, would fear be exploited by the flesh for evil? Sinners use fear to their advantage every day. They intimidate to gain power over another. People that are living in the carnal "here and now" sense this power and their flesh lust for it. Of course, this has not escaped the notice of Satan who over the millennia has honed his technique with fear to a super sharp blade with which to wield against the things of God, to hurt those that God loves. God loves the world, willing all people to come to Him, and it hurts Him to see people get hurt. The enemy knows that God is omnipotent and can't be hurt directly, so he seeks to take his hatred for God out on God's babies... little children, defenseless women, people with no power to defend themselves. The word says the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour. Funny thing about lions and their roaring - roaring is a mechanism used by male lions to herd the prey to their mate to kill. He walks about and lets out this roar in big manly lion fashion to frighten to death the prey, who then run right into the jaws of Mrs. Lion. What a picture of how Satan uses fear! What a picture of how fear will play into the devil's devouring of us! Actually, it isn't the roaring that causes the kill, it is the fear of the roar!
"For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
"Casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:7-8)
"Like a roaring lion and a charging bear is a wicked ruler over poor people." (Proverbs 28:15)
It wasn't long ago that a man was discovered that had a cage out in his back yard and in it kept a woman imprisoned, for years, indeed most of her life. Imagine the sense of control and power that his flesh got from this horrible crime against another human being. Fear is used against children every day. They are told things too horrible to mention and the person doing so knows their innocence and their vulnerability. Children tend to believe everything especially if it is punctuated by a great pain or violence. Then there is a rush of power that comes to the sinner who wields it. It becomes like a drug to them. Once addicted, the wielder of fear can be taken on a journey which leads to all kinds of crimes and evil. Serial killers, rapists, robbers, stalkers all use fear as a weapon that works to debilitate the target of their evil. This is one of the devil's playgrounds and we, because of our sin, have all gained access to one corner or another of that playground.
"The faithful man has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; every man hunts his brother with a net." (Micah 7:2)
"If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit." (Proverbs 1:11)
There doesn't have to be such horrible crimes committed when one sins using fear. No, intimidation and the imposing of fear is taught in places all over the world as a way to do business, to deal with business, to run families. Many husbands use fear in dealing with their wives, (and many wives, for that matter, are doing so to their husbands). Domestic abuse is rampant in America and is an accepted way of life around the world. Some Christians have bought into this by labeling intimidation as a way of "leading" their wives and kids.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." (Ephesians 5:25)
"Husbands love your wives, do not be bitter toward them [do not be harsh toward them NIV]...Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." (Colossians 3:19, 21)
"So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself." (Ephesians 5:28)
This is not how the Lord wishes us to live, work, and interact. Not that there is no time to stand down a child and instill in him or her that parents must be listened to as the authority in their young lives. Parents represent God to their children and must draw lines in the sand and teach their children that crossing that line will be to their hurt. These boundaries, lessons and decision-making processes will stay with the child their whole life. But imparting them takes gaining their attention, pressing the issue until you have that attention, just like God does to us. Once we have that attention, the mandate from God is to instruct them and teach them to reason out obedience to God, to learn the ways of God. As parents we are never to punish our children, we discipline. There is a difference. Never discipline a child out of anger. Instead with unbending love that imparts truth to save the child from hell. Perhaps most important of all is parents showing their children by example, how they (the parent/parents) as God's children are also under authority. Parents need to fear God and then teach their children to fear God. (We will speak of Godly fear in the next part of this two-part series.)
"Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell. My son, if your heart is wise, my heart will rejoice - indeed I myself; yes my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak right things. Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day." (Proverbs 23:13-17)
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
In my youth, I never fit in. I had thick glasses and old clothes and acne. I "stunk" in gym class and hated the water, so skipped every swim class on my schedule. Though I looked nerdy, I was not smart (like the stereotype). I was on the low side of average, even when I worked hard. I had no idea I had learning disabilities and I can't see myself having confidence enough to overcome them. I was met in the bathroom, beaten, and left crying. It was part of the whole nerdy thing and also being a Jehovah's Witness didn't help me get away from the beatings or the fear. I was one great big ball of nerves on edge and it could be seen on my face to all who knew me. I looked like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. If you think that maybe I was afraid of everything, you would be thinking correctly. People jumping out at me from the shadows to punch me in the groin and leave. People laughing at me constantly and no way for me to get help for any of it. With this background forming who I was, I was psychologically a mess. As I graduated from high school there came the abandonment issues after my being disfellowshipped from the Witnesses. Disfellowshipping is the process whereby the Jehovah's Witnesses discipline one of their own by keeping that person estranged from all friends and family. Put all of this together and you have a perfect picture of who I was and how fear may have had an easy access into my life.
This was the person that my first wife chose to marry. No wonder, she freaked out when I got saved and it changed me into a different person. She told me she didn't know who I was anymore. Looking in the mirror, I didn't see anything special staring back from the glass. I wondered what she saw and how I had changed. One thing that changed right away is that I had somewhere to go when I became afraid, I could go to God. Not only did I have a refuge and sanctuary in which to run, I also became aware of the nature of fear, how it worked and how one could decide not to be afraid. True, the decision must be made over and over, but it can be made. A decision is based on a conclusion one comes to, and that is based on a piece of knowledge in one's head, or more specifically in one's heart. Consider what Jesus said in Matthew:
"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call his household! Therefore, do not fear them [a statement of volitional choice]. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [again; volition, choice]. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [here, a decision must be made for fear not against]. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of much more value than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:24-31)
The word fear in the original Greek was the word phobeo (fob-ey'-o) and its root word phobos (fob'-os). From these words you get the derivation for phobia in our language. Phobeo means "to be alarmed" and phobos means "to be put in fear." So simply stated, Jesus was telling His disciples to stop letting themselves be put into fear, either by themselves over-thinking without faith or by listening to the whispers of the evil one.
To reverse the looming of fear you must be pro-active. It all begins with a thought. Try to stop fear thereby bringing every thought into the obedience of Christ, correcting the lie in its inception. For example, if you hear your thoughts say, "there is something in the dark that will hurt me" tell yourself the truth about it. "If there is something is in the dark, God knows about it and will deal with it." Snatch back every thought, which is what the Bible means by capturing it to obey Christ. As you deal with thoughts one by one, do not give yourself the luxury of thinking on auto-pilot. The enemy knows the instant you do, and will not fail to place fiery darts into your mind to hurt you with fear. Fill your mind with the word of God to bolster your faith which quenches fiery darts of fear. Thoughts of praise and thanksgiving made to a holy God produces an atmosphere where it is very difficult to be afraid. Lastly, pray without ceasing. When one has an ongoing conversation with God, fear does not debilitate him. Such fears will become part of the strength of the individual and part of his character. Some of the best public speakers and pastors are scared to death of speaking in front of people but God has taken their fear and made them a person of character instead.
"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)
"Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." (Ephesians 6:16)
"Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11)
"Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms." (Psalm 95:2)
"Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
My brothers and sisters, fight the good fight of faith without fear. When you find yourself being afraid, fight it, as one would any lack of love or faith. Confess it, forsake it, then replace it with truth.
Perfect Love Casts Out Fear So What You Have Is...
The mind is a marvelous thing and once a person understands just a little of its function, a great many godly things can be accomplished. When one decides to stop a pattern of thinking, any pattern of thinking, it sort of rips a hole in the thought stream. In the case of fear, the hole will be"fear-shaped." So one can decide not to be phobic over one thing and simply replace it with something else that fits the general shape of fear. For example, they may decide that fearing death is stupid, but then begin to fret about getting old.
Jesus gave His disciples an answer for this problem. Fill the hole with Godly Fear. We will speak more about this kind of fear in part two of this series. What we can say about fearing God here is that it is not a quaking and shaking or a phobia. It is a reverential trust and a careful obedience born out of love.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7)
"Casting all your care [fears] upon Him, for He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)
Did you know that the number of categorized phobias continue to grow? Where the field of psychiatry had recognized hundreds of phobias only a few years ago, now there are thousands of such things that paralyze countless people. Almost everyone has something that scares them to death. Almost everyone has a phobia. Are you one of those who is petrified of something and it inhibits your function in life? Are you like I was and generally a skittish scaredy-cat?
The fact that there is a devil who loves to hurt those things that God loves, is something you need to consider. Satan loves to hurt you, keeping you in bondage to fear because God loves you. God loved you so much that He bled and died on Calvary's cross for you. He looked down the corridor of time and saw you. I believe that if you were the only one that needed his sin paid for, He still would have died to pay for your sin. He loves you that much!
Would you like to be free of a phobia that keeps you in shackles? Would you like to know that God has adopted you from the family of Satan into His family so you can be His child? If that is your wish, pray this prayer:
Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I am so tired of being afraid all the time. I want to know that You will control those things that are out of my control. I want to know that you will watch over me and protect me because I am your child. LORD please forgive me for my sin and save me right now. Thank You for dying for me. Thank You for being buried for me. Thank You for being raised for me. I turn from my sin and way I'm living and turn to You as the only Way of salvation. I pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen.
Other articles in this series of independent study articles: