What comes to mind when we think of fear?
Is it a reaction? Is it a way for our body to respond to something that startles us or maybe to protect us from imminent danger? If this is the first thing that comes to mind, then, no, that is not the sort of fear that I am thinking about. That sort of fear is healthy, and if you push it a little bit it might even get fun. It is definitely something that God gave us for our benefit.
This was the only definition of fear that I knew about growing up, though, the world of reality around me seemed to share that there was something more out there. This sort of feeling is often brushed off.
In the first couple chapters of Genesis we see the creation of the world and the creation of mankind in God’s image. We are created, breathed into, spoken to, given instruction, given responsibility, wondrously made not alone – this was what God desired for us. There was something special about these people He created. He had already gone above and beyond for is by creating us in His image, but to be a part of our lives – this is what he wanted.
Inside of that creation fear hadn’t been felt by the first of mankind and it was beautiful.
But, that was about to change. One of the instructions given by God included one simple request, “you may enjoy every tree in the garden except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” The first of us heard this, they understood it, but when another came and questioned the words of God they disobeyed the one request.
Up until this point they had only each other and God, everyone had been good to them. Perhaps this really was a hard test. How many of us have heard some one say something negative about someone else? It is certainly within us at this point for our heart to give pause and question someone, even a friend, just by hearing the words of another. The first of us followed this other’s voice and disobeyed God.
The response was immediate and terrible – the words of God were true! At that point fear, shame, and guilt flooded into the lives of those who had sinned. Their relationship with God was separated, driven apart by disobedience, and the fear, shame, and guilt bore fruit in their lives. They hid from God, they were ashamed of being naked, they accused one another to shift the blame away from themselves.
These three things that had no authority in their lives were now present and wreaking havoc.
When we step away from God’s instruction and desire for our lives death follows in the wake of our decisions. We may think we can master it after it has come, but that isn’t the case. The only thing on our part we can do is say no while we still can, but we were past this point in the story.
When God reveals Himself He shares what will now happen and the world begins to change. It isn’t what He had hoped for, but the changes in the world are for our own good. He addresses the other in the conversation as well, the serpent in the story that had accused God, to the serpent He promises defeat – that someone from the woman would come and defeat the serpent. It is a loaded statement, a prophecy that takes the rest of the Bible and mankind’s history to reveal in its fullness.
Today, we are still having a hard time because of this moment – fear, shame, and guilt are still present in this world, but that victory that God spoke of has come and is still coming in its fullness.
There is certainly that sort of fear that God has given us, the startled jump or the burst of adrenaline that can keep us safe from danger, but there is another fear that we experience in our lives – it isn’t a fear that God desired, but it is present. In Christ, we can master it, but it does take mastering. It is difficult to explain, but one of my teachers shared it this way, “When you are afraid it’s not that you are feeling fear, but it is fear feeling you.” In our own disobedience we can give such a vile sort of fear authority in our lives.
As a child this was the sort of fear that bit at the edges of reality, as I grew this was the sort of fear that could incapacitate incredible young men and women from making right decisions, on outreach this was the sort of fear that showed up when you went to speak and couldn’t find your ability to speak. It is strange, but this is the reality I’ve seen over and over again.
However, there is hope!
One of these hopes is that God is fulfilling His promise through Jesus Christ – as we stand near to Him, as we cling to His Spirit in intimacy, we find ourselves surrounded by His authority. This returns us to a second hope – we are still created in the image of God! One of the instructions God gave us in the beginning was to aggressively defend the creation He was giving us. We still have that command and it can be found again in our relationship with Jesus.
In this world we will need to stand against all sorts of fear – the fear of sharing our faith among them, fear of rejection included, the fear of what others think but don’t say. This isn’t our fear to deal with – we can stand with Jesus to reject that fear’s authority and bring something better in its place.
Let’s not wait around for fear to show itself – we can take the fight to fear on the ground that God desired for us, in relationship with Him and in good relationship with each other!