Fear is something that we have been told is bad for us. It is something that gets in the way of our relationships with one another. It is something that blocks the path to great achievement. And of course, we have written books and preached countless sermons about how to overcome it.
It might seem strange therefore to cosy up to fear, to the point of calling it your friend.
Of course fear can be just as negative and destructive and inhibiting as I have described it. However, there is another way to think of fear.
We tend to think of fear as the opposite of faith. and therefore we conclude that if fear is present, faith is absent. And if faith is absent, then God is not present either. The presence, of fear, we conclude therefore, equals the absence of God.
I am not sure that this kind of logic is as flawless and as obvious as at first it might seem. In fact, I think there is a strong biblical case for saying that fear is present when God is active. Fear surfaces when God speaks.
You might well have heard the saying that there are three hundred and sixty-five “fear nots” in the Bible. Of course, if you do a search on the words “fear not” or “do not be afraid”, you will not find three hundred and sixty-five scriptures with those actual words. However, if you take into consideration all those passages that address the issue of fear but do not necessarily include the words “fear not” you will find more than three hundred and sixty-five.
Statistics apart, what you will find is the exhortation to “fear not” at significant times when God was at work. For example, Abraham (Genesis 15.1), Joshua (Joshua 1.9), Elijah (2 Kings 1.15), Joseph (Matthew 1.20) and Mary (Luke 1.30) were all exhorted to let go of their fear.
Whilst you could see the manifestation of fear as evidence of human weakness and frailty, it would miss the point entirely. The reason that fear surfaced was because God was on the move – in a big way! When God is about to do something and He invites us to be involved, our immediate reaction can be one of fear.
A new kind of logic emerges when we look at fear in this way: the presence of fear does not mean the absence of God but the activity of God. In fact, in all the cases I have referred to, God addresses fear with a reassurance of His presence and promise.
Fear only becomes a problem when we overlook the presence and power of God.
So the next time you have an opportunity to do something for God, to step out in faith, don’t let your fearful reaction put you off. And don’t let your fear convince you that God is absent. He’s not absent. He’s active!