Individuals that I counsel frequently ask a very similar question. It’s a very important question and one that very often is the turning point of personal growth, “What if?” What if I…don’t succeed? What if…I can’t go through with this? What if…it doesn’t work? What if…I’m wrong? These questions all have one very important thing in common—being afraid of the unknown.

The fear of not knowing how to handle rejection, failure, or the unpredictable nature of the future becomes more important to us than the potential for victory. We are afraid because being afraid is more comfortable than facing difficult consequences for our choices. This idea can be a roadblock to overcoming depression, anxiety, doubts and making progress through grieving or emotional trauma.

Many of us understand fear from a negative perception and how it keeps us from growth. As cliché as it sounds, we tend to be afraid of fear. Christians see fear as a weapon of ‘the enemy’ to prevent us from trusting God and having confidence in our faith. So, we look to the Word of God to remind us not to fear. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). 1 John 4:18 states, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

So, if we agree that fear can inhibit faith, prevent growth, damage our confidence and is not found in love, then…how do we ‘fear God? That’s right, in multiple places in the Holy Bible, we are told to ‘fear God.’ The ‘fear’ of God is attributed to spiritual wisdom and prosperity in God. Job 28:28 states “…the fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” Proverbs 1:7 tells us that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” And ‘Mary’s Song’ from Luke 1:50 says, “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.”

The important difference here is that fear, in this context, is a verb. That’s right. Fear can be used as a catalyst for good. During the time that much of the Bible was written, it was customary to enter the palace of a king, or to approach an authority figure, by bowing and humbling yourself. ‘Fearing God’ is acting in humility to show honor and respect to God. Fearing God is clarified further in these verses from 1 Peter 5:6-7, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Consider this acronym for FEAR: faith eternal and reverence. We can fear God and still have love, faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13). As I tell my counseling clients, you don’t need to live in a state of being afraid, you can use fear to overcome. As Paul so eloquently says, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Andrew McCleary is pastor of life fellowship and community-based organization resource for the Tulare County Suicide Prevention Task Force. Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors, and guest laypeople, of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church and Lemon Cove Community Church. 

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

Start typing and press Enter to search