“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, or the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” —Psalm 23:4
Everybody fears something. Whether it’s fear of spiders, heights, what people think of you, or losing your job, we all deal with fear.
The Bible takes two stances on fear, two different views that can be somewhat confusing at first glance. There are many scenes in Scripture where we are told not to fear. Here are just a few: When Jesus announces the resurrection, when He preaches to the multitudes, or when the angels talk to the disciples. These commands to avoid giving way to fear seem very bold and repetitive throughout the Bible.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” — Isaiah 43:2
“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.” — Isaiah 41:10
But then there’s a seemingly opposing view of fear in Scripture where Solomon, an incomparably wise man, tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).
So which one is it? Are we supposed to fear or fear not?
If you look at the dictionary’s definition of fear, it has to do with intimidation: “An unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”
But there are a lot of things we fear that are not exactly “impending danger.” For instance, the fear of what people think of you, or of losing your ability to provide — these things aren’t really dangerous to us.
So why does the Bible appear to be split on this issue of fear?
Here’s the difference between these two kinds of fears. Fear is giving license to anything or anyone to dominate you, admitting that it has power to master your faith, emotions and destiny. If you know in your heart that what you fear cannot master your faith, emotions or your destiny, then it’s not worth fearing.
But look at God: He is oh so capable of mastering your faith, emotions, and your destiny. He passes the litmus test so that when you fear Him, you are able to see through His lens, changing your entire perspective on life. This is why Solomon says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, because when you fear the greatness of our Lord, you are able to see the world in a way you couldn’t before.
The fear of the Lord is our corrective lens, giving us a clear vision for life. Anything that impedes your ability to see is directly related to what you put over your eyes. Any other fear that we indulge will distort our vision, shading our view of reality.
So yes, the Bible says not to fear, but it also says to fear God and fear Him only. We need to apply a litmus test to everything that we feel afraid of and ask ourselves, “Does this qualify as a master my faith, emotions and destiny?”
We have to be careful of what we allow to enter into the high places in our life. What are you in awe of? What are you elevating onto that pedestal? Are you allowing something to climb the ladder of your life that maybe shouldn’t be there? If we let anything that is insufficient as master of our faith, emotions and destiny move up on that ladder, it will soon come crashing back down on us.
What are you consciously — and subconsciously — worshipping? Is it worthy of your worship? Is it worthy of your fear? What fruit is going to come as a result of that fear?
The reason we often don’t have an accurate and healthy fear of God is because we aren’t spending enough time with Him. How can you fear something if it’s not on your mind? Every now and again we need to go to the ocean and be amazed at how God created the waves to crash, we need to go to the Grand Canyon and be awed by the powerful beauty of His carvings, we need to marvel at the way He allows us to take a breath each second. We need to spend time in His Word, getting to know the God who is worthy of our fear — the only One who can master our faith, our emotions and our destiny.
— Jack Easterby, New England Patriots chaplain