The Cure to Fear

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Ten times in the Bible, individuals or God’s people collectively are told to “fear not.” That call to fearlessness isn’t merely a parent’s demand that a trembling child “stop it” or “act like a man.” It is based on the promise God is with us and for us. We’re able not to fear because there’s no need to in light of God’s presence, power, and will.

One of the keys to living well is asking good questions. We struggle with things but often don’t ask the right questions to expose the origin of that struggle. We wrestle with symptoms rather than the cause and end up defeated and frustrated. Asking the right question helps us identify the problem. Only then can we apply the solution.

We ought to ask why we fear. I am not talking about legitimate fear, a healthy caution in facing real and imminent danger. This is not the fear of seeing a car bearing down on us in the street. Nor am I speaking of a holy fear of God. I mean harmful fear provoked by an uncertain future and thoughts of what might happen. The fear comes from risk and what might be but is not certain, the fear that keeps us from stepping out and trying something new.

Many proximate causes could be given for that kind of irrational “what if” fear. When we boil them down to their essence, we usually find this thought: “I am not enough to meet the challenge, whatever it is. I am not enough, or I do not have enough ___________, (fill in the blank strength, money, smarts) to survive it. When the trial arrives, it will be bigger than me and my ability to successfully navigate or negotiate it. I am not sure what I will look like on the other side, but I suspect it will be something I regret.”

That is why God repeatedly says, “Fear not, for I am with you. I will help you.”

Isaiah 41:13-14 is an example of this. “I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you. Fear not, you worm Jacob, You men of Israel! I will help you, says the Lord and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”

As Joshua assumed the leadership of Israel and was about to lead them into the Promised Land, he was smitten by a heavy dose of fear. We can glean that from God’s repeated call to him to be courageous.

Joshua 1:5–9 • No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. … Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 

Moses told the people of Israel, “When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” [Deuteronomy 20:1]

David knew a lot about the temptation to fear. In Psalm 27:1–3, he wrote, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.”

The prophet Jeremiah began his long career when he was just a youth. God knew he was prone to beg off his call in the face of the inevitable opposition from his elders and said, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you.”  [Jeremiah 1:7–8]

The cure to fear is to remember God is with us. We stand amid His intense love and undivided attention. If I may loosely paraphrase 1 John 4:18 . . .

Love banishes fear. Fear dissolves when we grasp the reality of God’s perfect love for us and that He cannot love us more than He already does. Its threat evaporates. When we fear, it is evidence we have slipped away from the awareness of His presence and love.

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