By Caitlin Williams
About eight months ago, I was in the middle of the interview process for my current job, which required me to make a big move.
During one interview in particular, the Executive Pastor of the church I now work for said, “Does the idea of picking up your life and moving across the country to a place where you don’t know a soul scare you at all?” I said, “No, it doesn’t scare me.” He chuckled to himself and said, “You are brave.” Without thinking, I blurted out, “No, I’m not brave!” (Why he hired me, I have no idea.)
Brave is a word I would never use to describe myself. I can confidently say I’m the most fearful person I’ve ever met. Fear is my biggest weakness and the enemy’s most secure stronghold in my life. Until fairly recently, I thought fear was something I couldn’t control. I thought it was just part of who I am. I would never have considered fear to be a kind of sin.
But through the grace of the Lord’s discipline, I’ve discovered otherwise. Looking back, I can attribute every major mistake I’ve made to fear. Let me lay out the path of how fear has manifested itself as sin in my life.
It starts with me being afraid of something—either something that I don’t want to happen or something that I’m afraid won’t happen. What’s really going on in those initial thoughts or realizations is that I’m doubting God. I’m doubting His sovereignty. I’m doubting His love for me. I’m doubting the perfection of His will. If instead, I trusted in those things, what would I have to fear?
Next, since I don’t trust that God is who He says He is, I take action (even if just in my thoughts) as if I am better able to address the situation than the Lord of the Universe. I start to plan. I begin an endless list of: “If this [fill in the blank] happens, then this [fill in the blank] is what I’ll do.” Then, if left unchecked, those thoughts and plans turn into choices. I make choices in an effort to manipulate circumstances, events, or people in such a way to protect myself or get something I think I need. (Read: poor choices.)
The path I just described is what it looks like when someone is trying to trust in her own will rather than God’s. What initiated that slippery slope? Fear.
Conservatively, the phrase, “Do not fear,” appears in the Bible over 100 times. Depending on the translation, the concept of not fearing appears over 300 times. Friends, look at the words—“Do not fear.” It’s a command. And like all of the Lord’s commands, it was given out of His love for us. In His infinite wisdom, He knows exactly the kind of havoc fear can wreak in our lives. He knows that fear is more likely to pull us away from Him than to point us toward Him.
Ironically, the first verse I ever memorized as a kid was Isaiah 41:10. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand. (It’s like the Lord knew what my weaknesses would be or something.) Notice that even in this verse that offers comfort, He brings attention to the righteousness of His hand. His hand and His ways are righteous, not ours.
If you dig in and look up those 100-300 verses that address fear, you’ll find something wonderful. So many of them juxtapose instruction to not fear against the faithfulness, the strength, or the love of God (Matt. 6:25-31, Deut. 31:6, Josh. 1:9, Psalm 23:4, Isaiah 43:1, Lam 3:57, and the list goes on). He doesn’t owe us justification for any command He gives, but He justifies this one with His unfailing love for us.
1 John 4:18 says this, “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.” If we abide in the Father, who is love, then we allow ourselves to be sanctified by His love. There is no room for fear in that process of sanctification. He commands us against it.
Friends, there is no amount of faith that can completely eradicate fear from our hearts until we either leave this world to be with Jesus or until He returns for us. But in the meantime, let us not sin in fear.
Keep careful watch over your fearful thoughts. Do they lead you to your own devices or to your knees? If it’s the former, stop what you’re doing and seek the Lord. Ask for the ability to trust in His will rather than seek after your own. Psalm 34:4 says, “ I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”
Father, our hearts are fickle and wayward. Bind them to you, and drive out our fears with your perfect love. Be our strength in the constant battle between our will and yours. Help us not to give the enemy a foothold into our lives with fear. I ask these things in Jesus’ worthy name.
What are you fearing? How does God's command not to fear speak to your heart today?