By Joanne Highley
Fear is one of the first emotions a child experiences, but how that fear is dealt with makes all the difference. In my early childhood and beyond fear was a daily fact of life, being used and encouraged many ways. Superstition (the belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, of the ominous significance of a thing or circumstance) was practiced in our home. Don’t carry a hoe through house; step on a crack, break your mother’s back; kiss the hem of your skirt if it is turned up; carry a rabbit’s foot for luck; paste four-leaf clovers on the areas of difficulty in your school books; a black cat across your path means danger. Fear was also used as discipline such as: “If you run away, there are little men in the trees that will get you.” or “You’ll be sorry you did that when I’m dead.” I would be more than sorry—since my father’s death I was deathly afraid of losing my mother. I was also afraid of not having enough money to live on since Daddy died. I feared further disaster would come in our lives and I began to live in that context.
Fear makes you begin to distort your view of God. “Why did He let this happen to me?” So you feel you have to be your own source of protection and strength. “If I don’t take care of myself, nobody will.” But we were simply not made for such a task. We were made to trust God and let Him be our protector, our strength and our song. But fear makes that impossible.
Job, in his great pain, suffering and fear of future disaster, developed a false view of God, saying, “He takes away man’s hope. “He would not give me a fair trial and He has become my enemy.” Job, from that point of believing lies about God, began to justify himself and put down God. Fear affected his worship as he said his harp was tuned to mourning and his flute to the sound of wailing. These are instruments of praise, but it was quenched by fear. Job said, “when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness. The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me.” This was a false, harmful view of God, brought on by fear of further hurt and it held Job in his misery. The way out was to see God as He is, a merciful, loving God who would deliver him, and of course, did deliver Job and restored all he had lost and more. But this happened only after Job had seen his false views brought on by pain and fear and repented of them.
Gideon was very fearful and was threshing grain in a winepress to hide it from the Midianites who had captured his land. An angel greeted him with these words, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon spoke out of his fear and showed his twisted view of God: “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened? Where are all His wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hands of the Midianites.” The Lord had not abandoned them, but was letting them experience the repercussions of worshipping idols. Now God was coming to inspire Gideon to rescue Israel. There is an interesting shift in this story in that at this point, instead of the angel, the Lord Himself speaks to Gideon saying, “Go in the strength that you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” Gideon replies, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.” The Lord answered, “I will be with you and you will strike down the Midianites together.” After a series of fleeces and tests of God’s faithfulness, Gideon did become a mighty warrior and saved Israel. He tore down the altar of the false gods and built an altar to the Lord and called it “Thee Lord is peace.” He conquered his fear by the truth. You can, too.
You see, the Lord is with you , but your fear pushes away that truth. Your fear says, “Don’t trust Him, He let you get hurt.” But God says, “I am with you and I am your peace. You cannot protect yourself or control your life. Give yourself to Me and I will be your shelter and deliver you out of all your fear.”
But when God speaks this to us, we do not want to trust Him because we dread having the same pain or the same disappointment happen again. So we try to protect ourselves by avoiding pain and avoiding God because we think that He somehow brought on the pain or “allowed it to happen”. This gives us great fear of God because we think that He wants us to have pain and will continue to cause us to suffer until He satisfied (whatever that means). This makes God into a sadistic god who delights in our pain and waits to find a place to hurt us or take away our pleasure or joy. This could not be farther from the truth about God.
When you cannot trust God, you will inevitably have great fear because your true Protector is not being received as who He is, and you feel you are on your own. But this is what you have been used to, so it feels familiar, but it simply is not true. It is old emotional reactions to pain and we must break up this lie. God wants to protect and provide for you, but He wants you to trust Him.
Let’s look at the words, “He allowed it to happen.” We have heard people who have had much pain and suffering and fear of future recurrence of that pain say these words hundreds of times. It seems that the brain gets stuck on these words, like a broken record. It is a strange phenomenon that when people get hurt, they immediately look to God and say these words. It could have been Satan that hurt you, it could have been, as with the Israelites in Gideon’s day, the repercussions of y our sin or of Idol worship. It could have been the sins of other people who caused you the pain. It could have been the twisting of your own emotions and thoughts that brought you to a place of sin, humiliation and fear of punishment. But God generally gets the blame.
Let’s also look at the word, “allow”. Does “allow” mean that God wanted it to happen, or does it mean that He “allowed” it but it was not what He wanted. Look at the first picture of how God set up the world. It was in a beautiful garden where there was no pain, no hurt, no knowledge of good and evil and God had sweet fellowship with Adam and Eve every day. They were naked and unashamed, living in a world where all was peace and joy. But then came the fall of man through believing the lies of Satan, and man and woman eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Did God allow this? Yes, He let it happen. Did He want it to happen? No. He wanted man and woman to remain in the garden and continue in the beauty of that life with Him.
But He wanted most of all for man and woman to choose to do what He told them to do, and then He would see that their hearts were attuned to do His will and not to do what would hurt and alienate them from Him. He wanted them to choose to trust Him and know that if He tells you not to do something, it is for your own good, and not to take away your pleasure. He wants you to fear Him, which means to hold Him in deep reverence and awe, and not go off on your own and lean on your own understanding. It is trust in our own understanding that makes fear. If we seek God and listen to what He says and act on that, there will be no fear. Because His perfect love will cast out fear and we will rest in the shadow of His wings. These are not just pretty words, they are life and truth.
The first message that the angels spoke to the shepherds that glorious night of the birth of Jesus when they were terrified was, “Fear not, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord.” They called Him Immanuel, God with us. He is still with us. Glory to God!
We must see that we have been held in a prison of fear, taking away our hope for the future, our worship of God, our view of who we really are, our peace and our joy. We must see those fears as not coming from God but are used as a device of Satan to keep us from the good things God has for us. Catch those lying fears and throw them out. They are a useless trap to keep us from the joy of the Lord which is our strength. Don’t justify your fears, attack them with truth. The Lord is with you and He is your peace.
Fear not, I am with you, oh be not dismayed,
For I am your God and will still give you aid.
I’ll strengthen you, help you and cause you to stand
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent Hand.
When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow.
For I will be with you, your trials to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.
When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be your supply.
The flame shall not hurt you, I only design
Your dross to consume and your gold to refine.
“ How Firm a Foundation”
George Keith and Anne Steele