“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 just a father’s demand of a trembling child to “stop it” or “act like a man.” It’s 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 learning to ask good questions. We struggle with things, but often don’t ask the right questions that expose the root. 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 need to ask, WHY we fear. I’m not talking about legit fear, a good or healthy brand of fear of imminent danger that moves us to safety. This isn’t he fear of seeing a Porsche bearing down on you so you get out of the way. Nor is this the holy fear of God. We’re talking about harmful fear; the kind born of an uncertain future and what might happen. It’s the fear that comes from risk and what might be but is not certain. It’s the fear that keeps us from stepping out, from trying something new.
Many proximate causes could be given for that kind of irrational fear, but when we boil them down to their essence, we’d arrive at this: The root of fear is that I’m not enough to meet the challenge, whatever it is. I’m not enough or I don’t have enough (of whatever; strength, money, smarts) to survive it. When the trial arrives, it’ll be bigger than me and my ability to successfully navigate or negotiate it. I’m not sure what I’ll look like on the other side of it, but it’ll be something I’ll regret.
And that’s why God time and again says, “Fear not, for I am with you. I will help you.”
Isaiah 41:13-14 is just one 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.”
Isaiah 43:1, 5; 43:5; 44:2; Daniel 10:19; and Joel 2:21 all say much the same thing.
As Joshua assumed the leadership of Israel and was about to lead them into the Promised Land, he was apparently smitten by a heavy dose of fear. We can glean that form 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.”
Earlier, Moses had told the people in Deuteronomy 20:1, “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.
David knew a lot about the temptation to fear. In Psalm 27:1–3 we 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 in 1:7–8 • “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.”
The cure to fear is to remember God is with us. We stand in the midst of His intense love and undivided attention. If I may very loosely paraphrase 1 John 4:18 . . .
Love banishes fear. When we grasp the reality of God’s perfect love for us,
that He can’t love us more than He already does, fear dissolves.
Its threat evaporates.
When we fear, it’s a sign we’ve slipped away from the awareness of His all-consuming love.