One of the major oppressors in life is fear. Many are actually living in fear, even believers. There is this fear of the unknown that they have to contend with. As a result, the apostle Paul had to encourage the believers, saying, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). The Bible is replete with stories of how God himself would tell the people to not fear. Our natural response to strangers or things that are new to us is fear or apprehension. We do not quickly embrace them but resist them until we get acquainted with them.
Because of fear, many are immobilized. They cannot take off from where they are, fearful that something worse will happen. This was the case of Elijah. After overcoming one of the greatest challenges in his life by slaughtering four hundred fifty prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, he suddenly found himself hiding in a cave. He was fearful of Jezebel, the King’s wife, who threatened to kill him. He was so afraid that he prayed, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 King 19:4). Indeed, because of fear, many wish that they will die, and some actually kill themselves.
But what is fear? Fear is a painful emotion or passion triggered by an expectation of harm or evil, or the apprehension of an impending danger. If the exercise of our faith can bring much blessings, submitting to the spirit of fear brings destruction. It can have the same definition as that of faith, except in a negative manner. If faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” fear can be defined as “being sure of what we fear for and certain of what we do not see.” This definition of fear is supported by the experience of Job, who said, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:25). King Solomon also said, “What the wicked dreads will overtake him; what the righteous desire will be granted” (Prov. 10:24).
In order to effectively combat the spirit of fear, there is a need for us to know what causes it. Certainly, fear will not just come for no reason at all. Foremost, fear is caused by sin. Fear is the automatic response to the guilt of sin. This goes back to the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned and God was looking for them, Adam responded, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Gen. 3:10). Even today, because of the sinful nature that we inherited from Adam and Eve, the guilt of sin will always drive us to fear. In the Book of Proverbs, it gives us the extreme of this fear when it says, “The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1).
Inadequacy is another reason. We often feel inadequate, and fear will come to grip our hearts when faced with challenges. This was the case of Moses when called by God to deliver Israel out of Egypt. He said, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exo. 3:11). But remember that God is our sufficiency and “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phil. 4:13).
Lonesome feelings or feelings of being alone is another reason why we fear. When we have company, we can be as bold as a lion, but when we are alone, we are full of fear. It is because we were designed, or wired, to not be alone – we need company to help us in times of need. This is the reason why God had said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18). In his wisdom, King Solomon emphasized the need for company to overcome fear when he said, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Eccl. 4:9-10). Therefore, God said to those who are fearful, “So 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” (Isa. 41:10).
Many are also fearful because they lack faith in God. This was demonstrated by the disciples in many instances. In particular, Jesus rebuked them when they were so terrified by the storm that threatened their boat. Jesus said, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). This is the reason Jesus gave these parting words, “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” (John 14:27). May we all overcome the spirit of fear as we put our faith and trust in God. Hallelujah!