We humans hold on to selfish fear in a way that hinders the love and trust we owe to God. Fear then becomes an idol. Selfish fear arises not from love of God and humans, but rather from a concern for safety or protection on the fearful person's own terms. These terms are not the terms of the God of unselfish love. The command, "Fear not!," occurs dozens of times in the Bible (99 times by one count), where selfish fear — fear that is not on God's terms — is being prohibited. Selfish fear conflicts with properly loving and trusting God, as proper love and trust of God are unselfish, in keeping with God's character. Selfish fear is at the root of all ugly human emotions, including selfish anger, hate, jealousy, envy, and greed. Such fear is just the fear of not getting what one wants on one's own terms, regardless of God's terms.
The "fear of the Lord," of the sort that is "the beginning of wisdom" (see Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10), differs from selfish fear. It seeks safety not on selfish human terms but rather on God's terms of unselfish love. The fear of the Lord involves awe-full reverence of God that leads to faithful obedience, even obedience in renouncing selfish fear, in response to the biblical injunction, "Fear not!" Our Creator seeks to instill in us a kind of unselfish love that has no place for selfish fear. As perfectly loving, the Lord merits supreme awe, reverence, and obedience. This Lord does not intimidate us through our selfish fear, but rather seeks to befriend us in genuine love. His perfect love casts out selfish fear (see 1 John 4:18; cf. Luke 12:32).
The feeling of fear is real, even when the object of fear is not. Fear can be very painful, and we should be particularly compassionate toward people in its grips. Once the Lord commands us not to fear, however, our holding on to fear is harmfully willful and disobedient (assuming here and in what follows that the fear is under our control). Fearing on our terms may even become a bad habit, and, as we hold on to fear, it becomes a dark idol. Fear can become our excuse not even to try to obey the Lord. It can become an excuse to give up and to avoid the Lord's call to us. The antidote is proper trust, love, and fear toward the Lord, on His unselfish terms. Here we must be willing to renounce our selfish terms of "safety" for the Lord's unselfish terms of genuine love. We must be willing to let the Lord be Lord even over our fears and even over our safety. Only our Creator can provide the kind of lasting safety we truly need.
When the Lord commands me not to fear but I still fear, I fail to obey the Lord. What am I supposed to do instead of fearing? I might overlook that I am to respond to the Lord in obedient trust by renouncing my fear. My willfulness will suggest a different response: if I am afraid, then I am afraid, and that's that. So, I shouldn't be told not to feel something I do in fact feel. How can I not be something I actually am? Here I come close to telling the Lord what He should not tell me to do. I thus come close to putting myself above God, as the wise counselor to the God of heaven and earth.
I easily feel sorry for myself if I am afraid, especially if my fearing is habitual rather than something I constantly choose. My fearing seems to be a natural, default position for me, if my heart, even for a moment, is not in line with the Lord. I can then easily see myself as a victim of my fear. As self-pity emerges, fear becomes an excuse, a way of controlling things, regardless of how painful. All of this, however, is really a smokescreen of dark willfulness in the end. If the Lord tells me not to fear, I should obey. I should honor the N0-Fear, Peace command, just as I should honor the Love command. Of course, I cannot obey either command on my own. I need the power of the Lord's transforming love, the power of the Lord's Spirit of love. I need to turn to the Lord with all of my wretched disobedience and willfulness, and sincerely ask for forgiveness. I then need to start over, renouncing selfish fear and all other idols, in the power of the Lord's Holy Spirit.
The needed starting over and renunciation of fear call for a reorientation of my thankfulness. I must become thankful above all else for God's gracious offer of friendship in His Son, Jesus. Indeed, I must be thankful for this offer now, come what may. This I can bring about, even if I cannot rid myself directly of fear. The reorientation of my thankfulness toward the perfectly loving God of genuine safety undermines the foothold of selfish fear. If God is for me, and I am thankful for God above all, who can harm me (see Romans 8:31-39)?
Much selfish fear stems from a false, if intense, sense of being alone. The risen Jesus, however, surrounds us even in our darkest moments. He never forsakes us. He protects us even from ourselves, even from fear of ourselves. We are never abandoned to the hell we make by clinging to, even generating, fear. Never. That's why we can always give sincere, heartfelt thanks to God, even now, come what may. The risen Jesus, manifesting his Father's love, is always with us. In his cry of dereliction on the cross (see Mark 15:34), Jesus identifies with us even when we are tormented with doubts about him.
We have much trouble letting go of our idols. We are troubled by things that we fear keep us from Jesus. Still we have the Good News that he cares even then, and that he knows even more deeply than we ever could what it is like to be separated from his Father. Such Good News can melt a hard, fearful heart. There is perhaps nothing more horrible than feeling you are truly all alone. Even so, there is nothing more comforting than having that illusion smashed by knowing that Someone understands and cares. When the Person who cares turns out to be the risen Jesus, the One vindicated and sustained by his everlasting, perfectly loving Father, then life can begin, even life without fear, even life without idols. Fear gives way to life and love.
knew I would fall
knew I would try