The only solution to living a life filled with fear is faith in the abiding presence and work of God with and for His people. The uncertainties and troubles of life must ultimately pale in comparison to the sovereign and powerful work of God, who by His Spirit actually dwells with us.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us many things. One of those things that has stood out to me has been the realization of how many of us are absolutely driven by fear. We all remember how the toilet paper aisle at the grocery store went empty the moment lockdowns became a possibility. And it wasn’t just toilet paper. Whole food aisles went empty as well. And it wasn’t just grocery items. Banks started limiting the amount of cash that could be withdrawn as fears of an impending financial collapse spread like gangrene. Now we must say that a financial collapse could have happened. Being locked in your house with police roaming around putting transgressors in jail could have happened. It’s not that the fears were completely unjustified. But the guttural response to that fear in large swaths of society proved that emotion always trumps reason in the heat of the moment. Furthermore, the grip of fear didn’t just last for the quick moment. Every pastor I know has spent the past year mired in the debate of whether/how to encourage their church members who have based every decision on the fear of catching the virus to come back to gathering with the church for worship. Again, there may have been a very real possibility of catching the virus; that’s not the point here. The thing to note is how often fear is the underlying and fundamental factor in our decision-making process.
The Scriptures are brutally honest about this aspect of our fallen nature. Some of the greatest men and women in the Bible made decisions completely driven by fear. Think of David, who upon realizing that Uriah refused to sleep with his own wife and thus hide David’s adultery, irrationally ordered the man to be killed. That was fear. Or think of the apostle Peter, who when some Jews came to Antioch, reverted to the Old Covenant rituals, hurting the Gentile believers and forcing Paul to oppose him vehemently. That was fear. Yet the Scriptures are also full of the command to not be afraid, to not fear, to be strong and courageous. Just for your trivia knowledge, “Be strong and courageous” is repeated 10 times in the Scriptures, with “Take courage” being used another 5 times. “Fear not” is used 33 times throughout both Testaments of Scripture. And then there are the phrases “Do not fear” and “Do not be afraid.” In almost every one of these uses, it is either God Himself or a prophet of God speaking. Again, the Bible is very clear that fear is perhaps our most natural response to either an unknown or a difficult situation. And the Bible is equally clear on what our response should be: do not fear, take courage, and be strong. But this still leaves a weak and frail humanity helpless, as we really aren’t equipped with anything in and of ourselves to conquer fear. We can’t just pull up our bootstraps and overcome it.