I have spent much of my fifty-nine years living in fear. From an early age, I was afraid of my dad, fearful that he would hit or spank me. I was afraid of girls from grade school all the way through college. I have always been self-conscious, afraid of what people thought about me. I decided to become a Christian out of fear. When I was 9 years old, I had nightmares about dying and going to hell. I knew I was a sinner—I had no difficulty believing that I deserved to be condemned to hell and that I needed God to save me. Even after giving my life to God and following him, I often feared that God was waiting to punish me. I can imagine how freeing it would have been for me to go through my past life unafraid!
A visiting professor from a sister college, once spoke to our students at Lincoln Christian University about fear. He told students that the word fear showed up more than 500 times in the Bible, and explained that God clearly commanded us to fear only two things. He asked the students to name them. They got the first one quickly—we are commanded to fear God—but were stuck on the second one. The second thing he explained, was “nothing.” He pointed to the many times the Bible says, “Fear not!” Scripture clearly teaches us that we are to fear God—and nothing else. Next he asked the students what they would be willing to do for God if he took their fears away. He then challenged the students to write heartfelt prayers concerning their fears. That night, the students used permanent markers to fill dozens of poster boards with honest, gut-wrenching prayers about all the things they feared. Students wrote prayers about their fear of poverty, fear of leaving their family, fear of living in a foreign country, fear of speaking in front of people, fear about finding a mate, fear of disappointing their family, fear of rejection, fear of failure . . .
Naming our fears is helpful; only then can we begin to pray specifically about them. God usually does one of two things with our fears. He can take them completely away—and how awesome when he does! But that seems to be more the exception than the norm. Usually God gives us courage to face our fears instead. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather doing something even when we are afraid. I had a dear friend who was a fireman for many years. I asked him one time if he was ever afraid when entering a burning building and his response was, “Yep, every time!” Then he quickly added, “But I do it anyway, because that’s my job.” My friend was one of the most courageous men I have ever known, yet he openly admitted his fear. He helped me understand that courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is admitting our fears but doing something we need to do anyway. Fear and courage can co-exist.
Reflections: What do you fear most? Can you name your fear right now? What would you be willing to do for God if he helped you with your fear? After labeling your fear, write an honest prayer that you can put where you will see it daily. Ask God to either take away your fear or give you courage to face your fear.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”