What is the most negative, most destructive, most harmful emotion? There certainly is no shortage of possibilities – anger, hatred, pride – but in my opinion, the worst of all has to be fear.
Have you noticed how many television commercials make their appeal by trying to make you afraid? A majority of money management and investment ads fall into this category. They’re trying to stoke your fears of outliving your money, or not being able to “keep up your lifestyle,” or some other vague concept to threaten you and make you afraid.
Our elected officials give lengthy speeches that pump up our fears and appeal to our lowest natures. A recent study by a major university found that an overwhelming majority of gun owners point to “being afraid” as their number one reason for buying weapons – and especially buying multiple weapons. And, I’m sorry to say, most national news networks seem to exist, not to keep us informed, but for the purpose of stoking our fears and inflating our anxieties, to keep us watching so they can sell more product.
We live in a society that seems to be drowning in fear – fear of running out of money, fear of burglars, fear of disasters, fear of “others.” We are afraid of dying, and afraid of living too long. We are afraid of the government and afraid of each other. Fear is destroying the very fabric of our society.
We need to realize this type of paralyzing, crippling fear is not new. In fact, one of the most frequently quoted phrases in the Bible is, “Do not fear” – by some counts, that phrase appears 365 times in the scripture. Consider –
- God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7)
- 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. (Isa. 41:10)
- He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, … (Psa. 91:1-5)
- The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psa. 27:1)
God wants us to walk in peace, not fear. So how can we do that? It’s natural and normal – even healthy – to have a certain level of fear about the unknown, about new situations, or other unfamiliar circumstances, but we can’t let that fear paralyze us into inaction. When we are making a decision about something, we need to evaluate that choice, consider the pros and cons, seek the counsel of wise friends – then decide! We must not let the fear make the choice for us.
One of the most important techniques for battling fear is to pray and to fill our minds with positive and encouraging thoughts. I am not suggesting any strategy that ignores reality, but as believers we should fill our minds with scripture, not Facebook, so that we are not so vulnerable to fear and despair. Remember that the first time God appears to Joshua after the death of Moses, three times in that conversation, God tells Joshua, “Be strong and courageous!” (Joshua 1:6-9).
I am certainly NOT against planning or preparation. By all means, we should be as ready as humanly possible. But at the same time, we must remember that we are not in charge, that sometimes situations and circumstances come that no one could have expected or prepared for. In those situations when our planning fails, let us not fall into fear, but let us know that our God is still bigger than our circumstances, that it has not taken HIM by surprise, and that He is with us, through everything.
Let us, then, have full confidence that we do not need to be anxious, that we can face each day and every situation knowing that He is with us, and that we need not fear. Strength and courage!