Fear. It’s the thing that triggers our “flight or fright” mode. It’s the thing that helps to keep us alive. It keeps us safe in dangerous situations and prevents us from doing things like walking on the tracks towards an oncoming train.
Unfortunately, it’s also the thing that can prevent us from doing the things that we want to do. Fear can paralyze us and prevent us from doing things that would propel us beyond our comfort zone and towards that image of ourselves that we have in our heads. You know, the person who walks boldly and take chances, the person who lives a fulfilled life. That person.
Simply put, fear is the emotion that we feel when we are exposed to danger or an expectation of pain.
If that was all, we wouldn’t spend so much of our time thinking, or talking about fear. Our fear can prevent us from walking down a deserted street at night (which may keep us safe).
But it could also be the reason why we don’t take that course that we’ve been thinking about and researching for the last six months.
Let’s get to the root of the problem: where did fear come from? God created a perfect world. It was free from pain, fear and shame. After Satan tempted Eve into eating the fruit, it became a whole new world. We read in Genesis 3:7-10:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
Before Satan’s interference, Adam and Eve had a deeply personal relationship with their Creator. There was no room for fear and then voila! Everything changed.
The man and his wife started wondering things like:
“Is that safe?”
“Can I do that?”
“Will it kill me?”
They experienced the physical symptoms of being afraid: trembling, increased heart rate, and difficulty breathing … they learned to hide from the things they were afraid of. And then what?
People say that there are 365 occurrences in the Bible of “Do not be afraid.” While that’s difficult to prove as it varies by translation, a cursory reading of the Bible reveals a couple of things:
The phrases “Do not be afraid” “Do not be dismayed” “Do not be discouraged” “Take heart” are repeated numerous times throughout Scripture.
God himself reassures his people. Did you ever notice that a lot of the times when God or one of his messengers appear to someone one of the things he does is encourage them to be strong?
God recognized that fear was now an intricate part of his created beings. Because of that, he takes the time to remind us that he will not leave us alone. We don’t have to do anything on our own. We can call on him for help.
So what do we do when fear holds us paralyzed from trying the good things in life: things like a new recipe, or a new exercise routine or embarking on a new career?
We do it anyway.
One of the recommended methods for conquering a phobia is exposure therapy. Basically that just means that you spend an increasing length of time being exposed to the thing that you’re afraid of.
A few mornings ago I found myself on a “fear walk”. As I walked through my community I found myself becoming fearful at the oddest times. The first time it happened I started walking away but then I turned back and did it anyway. In every case there was nothing to be afraid of. I’m not saying that’s always going to be the case, but the thing about fear is that if not checked it can creep into every area of your life.
In 2 Timothy 1:7 we find this reassurance:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
The Almighty God is telling his children that we have power. Fear was not something that he had given us. What we have received from God is power, love and an ability to reason and think.
We need to call on God and ask him for discernment – wisdom to know when something is truly dangerous and when our fear is irrational. We trust him to lead us into doing those things that will fulfill his desire and purpose for us.
What would you do if you weren’t scared?