January 29, 2002
“I’m not afraid of anything,” boasted the redhead. She planted her hands on her hips and defied all comers.
It was only a television movie, but this line is repeated many times everyday by children on the playground, teens trying to impress their peers, and adults who are certain they can conquer whatever comes at them. But everyone is afraid of at least two things. We are born with a fear of falling and of loud noises. All other fears are acquired.
Is fear bad? Not always. We tell our children to look both ways before crossing the street. We want them to be afraid of getting hit by a car. We run if we see a charging wild animal and would hide if a gunman appeared. We are afraid of walking on thin ice or touching a hot stove.
Those fears are normal, even wise, but pushed to excess, fear can be debilitating. In the movie “Secret Garden,” a child’s care givers feared he would become ill and die so they kept him in bed all the time. Their fear almost ruined his life.
Real wild animals can be dangerous but only if they are real. Proverbs 26:13 tells us, “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets.’” Fear (real or feigned) keeps a lazy person from going about his business. A friend tells me she cannot go on bridges or even escalators. She is terrified of heights and falling. Taking a normal fear to this extreme prevents normal living.
This kind of enslaving fear started in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve began life there they “were both naked, and they felt no shame.” They walked in open communion with God and each other. After they disobeyed God’s one command and ate forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they hid from God. When God called to them, Adam replied, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Their disobedience produced shame. The man and woman no longer felt comfortable with God nor could they focus on Him and His care for them. They tried to solve their shame by covering themselves but it did not work. They became “slaves to sin,” unable to free themselves without the help of God. Their guilt also produced fear.
Other situations produce fear too. My mother-in-law is terrified of spiders. A neighbor is constantly afraid she will be robbed. A friend fears a terrorist attack. The list is long but, as with Adam and Eve, those who are overcome by fear have lost their focus on God and on His power to love and protect them. Whenever we commune with the Lord and maintain our awareness of His love and power, we cannot at the same time live in fear.
Those who have faith in Him also enjoy the security of His care. That does not mean problems disappear but faith does banish our fear. As the psalmist says, we cry out to God and “He delivers us from all our fears” (Psalm 34:4).
The Bible also says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Fear can protect us but when we allow it to rule our lives, we become its prisoner. Thank God that He can give us His perfect peace and set us free from the enslaving power of fear.