As a child I was fearful of the dark. Leaving a light on in the hallway and bathroom helped me feel safe. As an adolescent I developed a fear of fire. This most likely came from two house fires, which were devastating for families we loved. Living with fears can be debilitating, and people with fears and/or phobias are not to be ignored or ridiculed. No matter how fearful a heart can become, God understands and stands ready to heal. He’s done so in many hearts and lives throughout the generations.
Having a fear-filled heart is different from the “fear of the Lord” that the Scriptures encourage. Developing a healthy fear of the Lord means that the believer is in worshipful awe at the magnificence and majesty of God, trusting wholeheartedly in the promises, protection, and peace of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” we read in the Psalms (Psalm 111) and Proverbs (Prov. 9:10). To fear God in this regard is good for the soul. A healthy, reverential fear of God leads one to a deeper trust in and a greater conviction about the Lord…it’s where wisdom begins.
Fears that aren’t led toward awe and reverence are those that hinder a vital relationship with God. When we hold onto our fears, either willfully or inadvertently, the fear itself can become at minimum a distraction, and can possibly become an idol in our soul (growing larger and more all consuming than God). The fear can cripple us from moving forward. It can damage relationships and diminish one’s effectiveness.
Fears come in multiple shapes and sizes. The list of phobias from A to Z numbers 100 or more. Some of the fears include the fears of flying, of crowds, of being touched, of thunder and lightening, of failure, of being alone, of clowns, of speaking in public, of needles/injections, and of strangers, just to name a few. To grip onto our fears and not let them go is to allow them to reign captive in our hearts. Hope is the antidote to fear, and hope is what needs to be proclaimed to those captivated by their fears. Disclosing one’s phobia to trusted family and friends is the beginning of the healing process. God uses His people as His hands and voice of hope of renewal.
For the less than incapacitating fears (those that don’t require psychological treatment or therapeutic attention), there is certainly hope for those who struggle with a fearful heart. To begin with, God isn’t the source of our fearful heart. Instead, He longs to give every believer a spirit of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). God’s great gift to all members of His family is love, and since God is love, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4: 18). This is followed by one of the most significant truths of all…”We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). It’s because of God’s first love that our fears can be driven out of our hearts and replaced with loving and gentle peace.
Is there a fear in your heart that you’d like to have removed by God and replaced with His love…love that is filled with confidence and contentment? Invite those you trust into the story of your fearfulness. Ask them to give you the courage to pursue grace and healing. Embrace the freedom to confess your fear and entrust it into the gentle hands of God to redeem and transform for His greater glory…first in your own heart and then in your daily witness to all who cross your path. May your fearful heart be radically transformed into a trusting heart today.