Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When
you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they
will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames
will not set you ablaze (Isaiah 43:1,2).
Fear is simply a fact of life. Since the fall into sin, we cannot escape it. It does no good to deny it. It may be dangerous to ignore it. Pity the person with no fear. Not afraid to put his hand onto a hot stove; willing to reach down to pet a rattlesnake, he is a danger to himself and others.
In love, our Creator has built into us the ability to be afraid. It’s an alarm system. It triggers defensive reactions before danger strikes. In severe circumstances it will automatically activate one of three responses: fight, flee, or freeze. Some fear is good for us. But fear can become debilitating, gut-wrenching, and life-ruling. Fear for the future can destroy any joy and hope we might have at the present. Fear can become a
weapon of the devil.
We come to recognize that there are different types of fear. There is baseless fear. There is faithless fear. And then, there is a fear that flows from the mercy of God. A child’s fear of a department Santa Claus is baseless. An adult’s fear that life is controlled by luck is faithless. Fear of God flows from the mercy of God. He plants a conscience within us to alert us to danger spiritual. He provides an alarm system to warn of danger physical. He wants
to protect body and soul.
By facing fear, we are able to identify its type and respond accordingly. To the question, “Of what should I be afraid?” the first answer is: the holy God. Listen to Jesus: “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:5).
The First Commandment directs us to fear, love, and trust in him above all things. This is the key to facing fear. We are not at the mercy of threats from tornados, car wrecks, diseases, bank failures, and people with weapons. The one who clothes the flowers of the fields and feeds the birds of the air reminds us that he is Lord of All. He will tell us when to be afraid, and when not to. When he tells us, “Fear not!” about something, we should obey in love and trust.
David the warrior king asked, The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom should I fear (Psalm 27:1)? The answer was: no one, no thing, not ever—not if the God of grace and glory was at his side. Through the Prophet Isaiah, God’s people are reminded that they are more than specks on a planet. The Son of God has paid for their life with his blood. Their Savior God knows them by name. He will not forsake them in times of danger.
The words make us think of Israel crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. We remember Daniel in the lions’ den and his friends in the fiery furnace. We know that he can work miracles if that is best for us. We know that, miracles or not, he always will make things work out for our good. We know that the death of Jesus was not a mistake, not a sign of weakness, and not failure of his mission. It is our passport to glory.
We need not fear fear.
Facing fear is the way we victors live—until fear fades away at eternity’s dawn.
Our forefathers sang out their faith in the words of a hymn that carried God’s promise:
Fear not, I am with you oh be not dismayed,
for I am your God and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call you to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,
For I will be with you your troubles to bless and sanctify to you your deepest distress.
We remember his promises. We will fear, love, and trust in him above all things. Amen.