Fear grips your guts and twists until you forget who you are and why you exist. It makes you do terrible, idiotic, insane things, and then it gives you no rest as you think about what you did over and over and over and over. Then fear turns to worry, and you're incapacitated, unable to go or do or think because everything is out to get you and there's no escape.
Nothing warps our perception so much as fear. Even love exerts less power, and can often be ignored; fear can never be ignored, turned off, or simply forgotten. It stays with us, and the more we encounter our fear, the worse it becomes, digging its heels in some forgotten corner of our hearts, but spreading with the sureness of growing cancer.
At least, this is how we often think of fear, and so this becomes our experience. We don't expect to escape it, and so we don't, dwelling on it the way a teenager dwells on the pretty girl he saw yesterday. In some ways, humans seem to want to be afraid, to have evil looming over them and threatening at any second to fall in suffocating folds over them.
You can be afraid of anything: getting fired, not having friends, dying of cancer, never becoming famous, never having enough money, dogs....the list is as long as the number of nouns in the English language. Even longer, when you consider the nameless angst that afflicts so many with its brooding, directionless horror.
The most common response is to never confront our fear. We worry about, but we make sure we never have to face it, that it's always just a dark smudge somewhere on the unseen horizon. Of course, confronting fear seldom works, either: plenty of people stand up to their fear and are subsequently destroyed or overrun by it.
Is the world, then, inescapably bleak? Yes, if you don't fear the right things. Death, shame, and loneliness are terrible, but they are all temporary. Fearing them is destructive and fruitless, and will only end in more fear. Fearing God, on the other hand, is the only sure way of escaping the debilitating fear to which pain and loss seek to subject us.
God is love. The apostle John tells us in his first epistle that perfect love casts out fear; the author of Proverbs tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. We are to fear the loving God so that He might still our fears and lead us in light. This fear of God isn't mere trembling, and there is nothing of worry in it: it's simply our dread of a holy, sovereign God provoked by His perfection, power, and glory.
If we fear God, it is because of this fear that we are able to resist all other terror. God loves those who fear Him, and He promises to save them from the truly fearful: eternal damnation. What are pain and sorrow in this life but foretastes of the pain and sorrow to which a life without Jesus Christ leads?
Fear will not protect us from evil; worry cannot make us impervious. They only make us weak. But weakness is precisely the attitude in which God wants us to come to Him, so that He can strengthen us through His Spirit. We are unable, even when we believe in Christ's atoning blood, to protect ourselves from fear, so we fear Him who casts out fear with love.
None of this is to suggest there aren't frightening things in the world. Only a lunatic would suggest that disease, violence, abuse, and wrath are nothing to fear. The world, because of sin, is full of things to fear, and simply tuning them out won't make them go away, not even for Christians.
But these objects of fear are all temporal, all bound to this earth, all finite and blind. Christ is the Light, and He takes away our blindness so that we can look upon Him and not wallow in the fear we seem so adept at cultivating. Though we are to fear the God of the universe, we are also to trust Him, and to believe His promises for a life to come unshadowed by fear.
The best ways to approach God in trust are not through self-help programs designed to help you overcome your own fears, worries, and inabilities. The best and only true ways to reach God in hope are through His revealed Word in the Bible, through devout prayer, and through the means of grace delivered through the Church of His Son, Jesus. Embrace God through these, and your fear will become a reality of the past, your worry a security you know longer need or want or maintain.
Jesus Christ has power over sin and power over death, and these are what we fear most. Because He has broken their teeth by His own death and resurrection, we have hope that He has also done the same for us, and that by resurrecting us He will take us beyond fear to the glories of heaven, the wonders of God's presence, and the peace of everlasting life without pain or worry.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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