We all have fears. Some of us have basic fears, like that of the dark or a spooky movie. Others of us have phobias–physiological reactions to certain stimuli, like heights or spiders. Some are paralyzed by fear, absolutely frightened by the unknown.
Fear can become overwhelming, but it can also become a powerful catalyst for spiritual transformation.
First, we must admit that fear exists. I’ve heard it said that fear reveals an absence of faith, but the Bible is filled with situations in which fear plays a part. Many psalms for instance, like Psalm 23, are prayers to God that result from fear.
The proclamation, “I will not fear,” does not mean that fear never existed in the first place. Quite the opposite; we must know what fear is in order to be saved from it.
Nor does God rebuke us for having fear; rather, God meets us in the midst of fear and gives us reason to trust in Him. Consider Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?”
How about Psalm 34? In this psalm the author is fearful (v. 4), but then sees fear as something God uses in order to increase one’s respect for God: “Fear the Lord, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want” (v. 9).
I can remember the first time I experienced a fear of heights. I was very little, and my father tried to put me over his shoulders. I panicked and nearly knocked myself out of his arms.
Even now I have trouble in high places. When I drive over a bridge, I have to stay in the center lane. Yet, this same feeling of fear is what brought me to the Lord. I feared death and eternal separation from God. I feared not being able to see my parents and sisters in heaven. I said the sinner’s prayer in a preschool Sunday School class because of my fear of hell. In fact, some hell phobia can do us all good now and then.
Fear continues to linger for some of us; and it is, literally, a living hell on earth. Our futures remain uncertain; anxiety and helplessness can get the best of us. God seems absent in limping economies and deplorable tragedies.
Although I am not a counselor and cannot give any advice about clinical fears, I do have several spiritual practices that seem to work, at least for me.
Like psalters of old, I journal whenever I am afraid. I write prayers about my worries and doubts. I copy some of the Psalms and make them my own. It lets me see the big picture of how my fears are no match for a mighty God.
Another spiritual practice is to sit in silence. Psalm 46, which begins with the affirmation that “we will not fear, though the earth should change” (v.2), encourages us to “be still and know that” God is God (v. 10).
This practice can garner fear in and of itself because we do not know what to do when we quiet our minds before God. We wonder what we should say or what we should think; we get concerned about all of the voices that creep up in our imagination.
Silence is simply a time to be. It is, in fact, timeless, in that we come to God in the present without worrying about our past or our future. We are with God without being distracted by our thoughts about God.
God is a “refuge” who meets us in the midst of our fears, not in spite of them. If you are filled with fear today, trust that God will meet you right where you are and provides you with opportunities for healing.