Is Fear Okay?

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My walk this morning was interrupted by a police car and two ladies up the road.  The cop drove down the hill in front of me and pulled into the driveway on my right, where the ladies were anxiously awaiting him.  I slowed my pace to see what was going on; the ladies greeted him and thanked him for coming.

Without wanting to be nosy and rude I kept walking up the hill, but checked over my shoulder a few times.  Something going on in my neighborhood?  Yes, I’d like to know about it!  The ladies pointed towards the wooded marsh behind the houses and informed the cop it was back there, whatever “it” was.

I pushed the stroller to the other side of the road, away from the woods.  My heart rate went up — it’s not just myself I have to look out for now.  What would I do if someone – or something – came out of the woods at Levi and me?

Often times I live in fear.  I worry about all the things that could go wrong, and I am fearful of all kinds of situations.  I panic easily and assume the worst.  For the rest of my walk around the neighborhood, I was mentally caught in two places.  I was constantly checking my surroundings, thinking through my game plan in case I had to defend myself and Levi.  Yet I was also working through the rationality of my fear, wondering what the right response would be.

There is a difference between being fearful and having wisdom and discernment to tell how to handle a situation.  Being cautious, careful, and prepared is wise and important.  But is it okay to fear?  Just yesterday my husband pointed out that the one thing Jesus most commanded us not to do was worry.  Do not be anxious, do not worry, do not fear.  In worrying and being fearful, we aren’t trusting He is in control and knows best.  But I wonder, is there a time for fear?  When a child is kidnapped, a wife abused, an elderly man watching cancer wreck his body — is fear ever rational or justified?

Fear has its place.  Many times the Bible talks about (and commands) the fear of the Lord, a holy reverence of Him and the understanding that He is all-powerful and just.  Fear of Him is certainly different than fear of man.  When it comes to fear of man and things in this world, the Bible commands against it.  Time and time again God tells His people not to fear; scroll through this search to find references and context.  We are to fear God, and not fear man.

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”  Psalm 118:6

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’  So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?'”  Hebrews 13:5-6

Going back to the examples, however — the child and wife in danger, the man nearing death — is a scared fear irrational in situations like these?  In my Scripture-searching I’ve come across a passage I think answers this question.

“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.  But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.  We love Him because He first loved us.”  1 John 4:17-19, emphasis mine.

God is love (1 John 4:8), and in Him there is no fear.  Without Him, there is fear.  So in those tough situations, a scared fear is irrational for the believer because Christ casts out fear.  As Psalm 118 and Hebrews 13 say, what can man do to the believer?  Even torture and physical death aren’t the end; man can’t truly take life away from those whose faith is in Christ.

We can trust Him to everything, all things.  He is always in control, always all-knowing, and always just.  Fear lives in the unbeliever, but it is done away with as Christ perfects the believer.  What a freedom!

***

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject — are there other angles or perspectives you’ve thought of that I didn’t mention?  Other significant verses?  Please feel free to leave a comment; the concept of fear and its place (or lack thereof) is a topic I’d love to understand better.  :)

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