Of all of the negative tendencies that I have struggled to overcome in life, I think my greatest battle has been to overcome fear. The Bible says that the thief comes to still kill and destroy, and this is certainly true in regard to the effects of fear. When it’s out of control, it can be a destructive force that robs us the joy that God has for us. It can pressure us into doing wrong things that we really don’t want to do, and it can hinder us from pursuing good things that should do. That being said, I believe that fear is one of the biggest tools that Satan uses to hold us back from the destiny that God desires for us; especially in the case of Christians. Many Christians who would never violate moral standards that pertain to sexual sins, murder, lying, stealing and drunkenness etc., still find themselves harassed by fear.
Before I discuss anything else about the negative consequences of fear in our lives, I will briefly discuss when fear is actually a healthy thing that benefits our lives. The healthy kind of fear helps us recognize things, situations, and behaviors that truly are dangerous in order to help us to avoid those things. We also see another aspect of healthy fear when we consider that God actually tells us to fear Him. I don’t believe that this means that we are to constantly be afraid that God is standing by ready to strike us down for any reason He can think of.
Even in the Old Testament where we see God bring judgment on people, the Bible says in Exodus 34:6 that God is slow to anger, abounding in love. This phrase is repeated several times throughout various Old Testament books. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 1:7 that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (or wisdom).” And Proverbs 8:13 says that, “to fear God is to hate evil.” To hate evil simply means that we see have the wisdom to see sin and evil the way God sees it, and God sees it as harmful and destructive. This gives us a healthy fear of going against what God knows is best. We are to be afraid to think that we know better than God when it comes to how we should live. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death.” We would be wise to be afraid to live in opposition to the ways of God. This is what the fear of God is, and it is a healthy fear that is for our benefit and keeps us safe.
Hopefully it’s clear that there is a healthy type of fear that keeps us from harm. We know not run out in front of trucks that are speeding down a highway. Most people in their right mind don’t jump out of windows that are ten stories high, or jump into fires, or try to pet starving lions and hug angry bears. Why is this? The answer is that they are afraid of what would happen. This is a healthy fear that keeps them from harm. At the same time, most people aren’t living in moment by moment fear of any of these things because they’ve already settled in their minds that they are not going to try any of those things, as it would not be wise to do so. With a little thought, we can all see that the healthy type of fear will lead to peace because it gives us wisdom to avoid danger and live in safety. It’s the same with the fear of the Lord; it gives us peace because it gives us wisdom to avoid dangerous behavior so that we can live in safety. While healthy fear and the fear of God is a subject that could be explored at a much deeper level, we will go on to look at overcoming the destructive type of fear that is unhealthy.
Whereas healthy fear gives us wisdom that leads to peace and safety, unhealthy fear does not lead to peace, rather it torments us and often pressures us into doing things that are harmful while avoiding the pursuit of good causes that take courage. Unhealthy fears often occur when values and priorities are not in accordance with the values and priorities that God designed for us to have.
The Root of Fear
At the root of fear is the uncertainty of whether or not things are going to turn for our good according to our values. Since the conditions of this world are full of uncertainty and things don’t always turn out for our good, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to avoid fear if one’s priorities and values are based solely on this life in this world. We can only find peace and freedom from fear if we anchor our hopes on what is certain, and the only thing that is certain is God and the eternal blessings that He offers. Of course God is not a certainty for those who choose not to have faith in Him, but if we want to, we can choose to believe in God according to the truths of the Bible and anchor our lives in certainty. This brings peace and freedom from fear, and is one of the reasons why faith is so valuable for overcoming fear.
In order to examine how fear works on a deeper level, we will look at things that we value for our basic well-being. When any of these things are threatened, it can easily lead to fear. All of the components or blessings that we value were present and available in the Garden of Eden. Adam’s sin displaced the role that he should have given to God as the one who is in charge of all of life, and he made room for the devil. The components that brought safety, blessing, and well-being in the garden came under a measure of threat and harm, and threat and harm to our well-being is what causes fear. By looking at the first three chapters of Genesis, we can discover the basic components of life that were threatened with harm and led to various fears. These fears form the basic categories that most other fears would fit into. These categories are listed and explained on the next page.
Other pages on Overcoming fear