John 14:27 says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Fear is a common emotion. We might tease our friends for their fear of clowns or mice, but deep down, we all know that we have our own fears. It might not be furry creatures that startle us. Instead, we might fear being alone, or losing everything we’ve worked to gain, or being rejected. Whatever its form, fear is something we’ve all encountered at some point in our lives.
Scripture has a lot to say about fear. If we were to look up the word “fear” in our English Bibles, we’d find hundreds of occurrences. Yet in the Bible, not all fear is the same. There are two main ways that Scripture talks about it. First, there is the fear of God; second, there is the fear of everything else.
This second kind of fear that the Bible speaks of is about our desire to control the world around us. It’s the fear of losing what’s important to us, whether it be our job, our family, our reputation, our health, or our lives. Sometimes that means hiding from what we fear in the hopes that it can’t find us. Other times it means trying to control every detail of our lives, clinging tight to what matters most to us. This kind of fear pulls us away from God. It tells us that we are on our own and there is no one who cares to help us. It tells us that God is not really concerned about us. It makes giants out of what we fear, giants so big that we think even God can’t beat them.
When it comes to this kind of fear, the Bible says to abandon it.
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Yet there’s another fear that the Bible speaks of, one that we must have. This kind of fear is good. It stands up to all our other fears. It brings wisdom, joy, rest, and life. It is a holy fear — the fear of God.
“The fear of the Lord leads to life; and he who has it rests satisfied.” (Proverbs 19:23)
“Praise the LORD! How joyful are those who fear the LORD and delight in obeying his commands.” (Psalm 112:1)
To fear the Lord is to be like Moses and remove our shoes because we are standing on holy ground (Exodus 3:5). It is to be like the woman at the well who came face to face with the One who knew her so well. She encountered grace and left wonderstruck, running into the village to tell everyone, “He told me everything I ever did” (John 4:28–29). It is to be like the disciples who feared for their lives in the midst of a terrible storm at sea. But after seeing Jesus calm the storm with just his words, they stood in awe. “And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:41). This kind of fear is to grasp the wonder of the gospel that a holy and righteous God would take on flesh and enter into this sin-stained world to rescue us from the clutches of death. It is to be utterly blown away that, because of Jesus, we are children of God and we go freely before the throne of grace with complete confidence and without shame. It’s to see his work in our lives and be amazed at how he loves, provides, and cares for us. I don’t want fears that grip, paralyze, and control me. I want a fear that turns and runs to God, finding shelter in him. I want a fear that trusts him in the midst of storms, and stands in awe of his amazing grace. I want a fear that lets go of everything in my grip and trusts him to be everything I need. I want a right fear, the kind that chases away all other fears. I want the fear of God.
If the Israelites had truly trusted God’s promise, even their enemies in Canaan shouldn’t have been a threat to them. God was going to give Israel the Promised Land, just as he’d said to Abraham hundreds of years before. And during our moments of fear and panic, God is whispering promises to us too.
Some of God’s promises:
1. God’s truth. Is what I’m thinking about really happening? Or is it just my imagination running wild? Paul reminds us to dwell on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
2. God’s presence. We can be comforted remembering that we are not alone. God is with us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
3. God’s grace. God promises to provide us with his all-sufficient grace for every trial that comes our way. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” Jesus told Paul. And therefore, with Paul, we can “boast all the more gladly of [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us]” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
4. God’s sovereignty. God is in control over every situation in our lives. “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35).
5. God’s listening ear. Pour out your heart to God in prayer. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).
6. God’s trustworthiness. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3–4).
7. God’s big picture plan. No matter how awful this trial may seem, God promises to use everything together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). We may not see the good in our situation at the time, but we can trust God and his plan.