By Austin Conner
7th grade. Top of the St. Louis Arch. I lean over to look down at the city…then the Arch moved. Today, I know such movement to be a sign of a healthy structure because it can flex and flow with the wind. At the time, I panicked. I froze. I couldn't breathe. I was in the grip of fear. I have the arch to thank for my current fear of heights.
What do you fear? What circumstances paralyze you? Where and how do you panic?
God’s command "do not fear" is found hundreds of times throughout the Bible. What does that mean? Did I sin at the top of the Arch? Are you wrong to fear your circumstances? Should you not fear when you're not sure how to pay next month's rent or when you get a dire health diagnosis or when your job is on the line? No. You're not wrong.
God wired our brains and bodies with the capacity to experience fear (it’s called the amygdala). Fear is a primary emotion. There is a reason and purpose for our fear, regardless of if it is "legitimate" or not.
When God says "do not fear" he is not commanding us to shut off a part of our brain and become emotionless, stoic robots. No, the real issue God wants us to wrestle with is where do we go WHEN we fear?
Where do you go with your fears? How do you deal with them? Do you ignore, stuff, or soldier through? Do collapse like a house of cards? Do you panic and sprint around looking for the help of others? Do you dull it with drugs or alcohol or sex or
entertainment or shopping or…
You get the point.
But there’s another option. Take the fear to God.
Simply put, God wants us to come to Him with our fears. Fear has the capacity to paralyze us. Yet when we "fear" in the presence of God, God allows us to continue taking the next step of faith WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY FEARING!
If you don’t believe me, believe the Bible:
· Isaiah 41:10: 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.
· Psalm 23:4 - Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
· Psalm. 46:1-3 - God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging
In every one of these verses, the author has taken their fear to God’s presence.
Unfortunately, no one will be able to escape fear in this sinful and broken world. It is real. It can be paralyzing. It is powerful. But God is more powerful. He has the power and desire to be with us in the midst of our fears. Remembering this will enable to us to take the next step of faithfulness in our lives. How? Because God is with us. And this is what helps us take a next step in our circumstances, despite the fear.
If you’ve been convicted, encouraged, or are left wanting more, there’s good news.
Austin Conner is a counselor and pastor who works at The Crossing, in Columbia, MO. In addition to counseling and ministry, he is part of the podcast With You in the Weeds, which seeks to help people navigate the hardships of life from a psychological and spiritual perspective.