Fear is the most immediate and powerful of human emotions. In the face of danger, it raises alarm, releases energy, and forces us to respond to what we might otherwise ignore to our harm. But sustained fear is debilitating. For that reason, those who deal with fear on a long-term basis often engage in “mash humor” to ease the tension. If you feel the need for a 2 minute break from your stress, watch the following video and then return to the thoughts below.
“Mash humor” provides short-term relief from our fears. But the God who made us offers us a more satisfying and longer-lasting solution than that. Let me explain by sharing three “principles for life” about fear:
1. Fear’s cause. While fear has many triggers, the Bible indicates by precept and example that the underlying cause is a loss of faith in God’s presence. Isaiah 41:10 assures us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Peter learned this lesson by personal experience. When he saw Jesus walking on the water in the midst of the storm, he took courage to join Him in the adventure. It was when he took his eyes off Jesus and became preoccupied with the waves that fear took over. The first principle, then, in overcoming fear is not to fight the fear. Draw near to God and ask Him to make His presence real to you. “For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13
2. God’s love. The antidote to fear is love. 1 John 4:18 assures us that God does not want us to live in fear, but to have confidence as we face the future. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” This is a gracious truth. Our God is engaged in a lifelong process of making us as perfect as Jesus. But His means of doing so is love, not fear! God does not use fear to motivate or train His children. Nor should we! For John says, “Fear involves torment,” and he who fears is not made perfect in love. Instead, fear paralyzes. Think back! What has God been doing since the moment you began to walk with Him? He has been removing your fears one by one, so you’re able to fully receive and enjoy His love. That’s emphasized in the verb “cast out,” which describes an ongoing lifelong action. As the Psalmist David said, “I sought the Lord and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psa. 34:4) What a gracious Savior!
3. Our part. Satan is the great bogeyman who uses fear to cast doubt on God’s goodness, tempting us to take responsibility for our own protection. But what defensive capabilities does a sheep have other than to stay close to its shepherd? Revelation 12:11 underscores this fact. Describing our final victory over Satan, it says: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” The blood of the Lamb frees us from the guilt of sin. Our testimony is what brings the promised power of the Holy Spirit. But it’s the last factor – loving this life too much – that makes us vulnerable to fear. For whatever we love in this world the devil can threaten to take away. So, like Abraham offering Isaac on the altar, we surrender our most precious possessions to Christ in order to be free, casting all our cares upon Him knowing that He cares for us.” (1 Pet. 5:7)