Without fear, humanity would most likely cease to exist. Fear is the appropriate warning signal in our brains that says, “Watch out! Duck! Run!” or “Hey, wait a minute…that is not a good idea!”
Fear tells us when to fight, or in the words of Gandalf the Grey, “Fly, you fools!”
A few years back, I was going out for a morning run when a man I have dubbed “my criminal” spotted me at a red light. According to the police, something like this happened in his drug addled head-
“And I choose….her….”
So, he parked beside me, ran ahead of me on the trail, hid himself in the perfect spot (he was an old pro at this) and waited for me. After awhile, I came along and he rushed out of the bushes at me with a knife. I was, I promise you, very afraid. I immediately forgot everything I knew about how to throw a punch. I also forgot I knew how to run. Or walk. I simply screamed like a little girl. Then, at the very last moment, when he was just about to grab me, this convicted felon gasped as if he had seen a ghost, turned and ran away. God just plain delivered me.
Suddenly, I was filled with rage. So, I did what any reasonable, unarmed woman would do in my position. I ran after him with malicious (and completely unrealistic) intentions. That is when God used appropriate fear to save my life for the second time in a five minute window as this thought filled my brain…
Um…honey…that’s not a good idea.
Of course not. You know what was a good idea? Crying and going for help. That was a good idea. So that is what I did. My criminal was apprehended and has spent the last six years in the state penitentiary.
But unchecked fear can become toxic. It can cripple our purposes, and squelch our dreams. It can lull us into a soporific nothingness where the only thing that ever happens is a whole lot of talk, and no action.
Appropriate fear can preserve us, but unbridled fear can steal away our lives.
The key, I think, is to have our eyes so fully focused on God, that we are able to discern between the moments fear is our enemy and fear is our friend. As a matter of fact, there are times when the landscape before us seems to unequivocally demand a fear response and God asks us instead to march on, unafraid.
This morning, I was reading in Joshua 11 about the moment when all of the Northern kings amassed their armies against Israel.
They came out with their troops and a large number of horses and chariots- a huge army, as numerous as sand on the seashore. All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom, to fight against Israel. The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain. (Joshua 11:4-6a)
I think the key words in these verses are not “Do not be afraid.” but when God says “I will“. It doesn’t matter if our enemies are spread before us as “numerous as sand on the seashore”. When we are moving on God’s command, there is no room for fear because when He is with us, it changes everything.