The world in which we live gives plenty of cause for fear. There is the lurking threat of terrorism, there are countries that hate the country in which I live who are trying to get weapons that could wipe out huge swaths of land, there are identity thieves and robbers and fraud and murderers and random acts of violence and … the list really does go on for days. The world provides me with ample ideas for things I can fear and, often enough, fear is the rational reaction to the things that are thrown up in front of me for consideration.
There is a problem with fear — several, in fact.
First, fear prompts one of two default responses: fight or flight. In the 21st Century world, neither of these is terribly productive against the sorts of threats we face. Neither fight or flight will help against an identity thief. But, more than this, to fight against the thing I fear or to run from it displays a lack of trust in God. God is more than able to handle any and all threats that present themselves. And He wants me to live a life of reliance on Him. That reliance includes bringing my fears to Him and trusting Him to handle them. Psalm 127 will say that the watchman stays awake in vain unless the LORD guards the city. The same can be said of an individual life. Unless the LORD protects my life, I might as well bin the whole thing. If God is not protecting me; if God is not the answer to my fears, then the fears have won.
Second, fear has a tendency to paralyze. We get caught up in our own inadequacy to address the threat and end up the proverbial deer in the headlights. God is not looking for me to become paralyzed by fear, but to take a very specific action in the face of fear. God wants me to trust Him. This is challenging. The world I’ve grown up in has taught me that I should be self-reliant and that I should be able to handle my business. The reality is that there is a rather large portion of “my business” over which I have no control at all. That is where trusting God comes in. I need to trust that God has all of my business handled — the part I can influence and control and the part I haven’t the slightest bit of influence over. Jesus asked us why we worry about this that and the other when we cannot, by worrying, add a single inch to our height or change the color of our hair (except, maybe, to make it go gray early). I need to trust God.
Third and finally (there are more problems with fear, but I’m cutting it off here), fear is natural. This may not seem a problem until a person is a believer. For the believer, the natural is not, necessarily, acceptable. There are plenty of natural things that are not sinful — eating and drinking, for example — but the natural becomes sinful when it oversteps its rightful bounds. Fear becomes sinful when it paralyzes or leads me to trust in my own schemes and strength; when it does not send me to God. If fear undermines my trust in God, then fear has become sinful. One once wrote that fear is the mind killer. There is much truth in that statement. We have a tendency to leave rational thought behind when fear gets the better of us.
One last thing I want to note before I apply this. David writes about When [he is] afraid. Fear is not an “if” scenario, but a “when.” Everyone will be afraid and many of our fears have a completely rational basis. That is not the end of the story for David. And it should not be the end of the story for me, either.
My reaction to fear should be, as David’s was, to put my trust in [God]. My fears may be rational. That’s as may be, but God can handle them. My fears may be irrational and based on hypotheticals. God is He Who declares the end from the beginning. He knows how things are going to play out. He’s got it handled. When I am afraid — and I will be — I need to put my trust in God. Trust Him to handle the things that are causing fear.