What is fear? Why does fear exist? How can fear have such a strong pull on us?
A few months ago, I listened to a conversation on fear. One gentleman explained how God never intended for us to be anxious or afraid. He compared our relationship with God to his relationship with his kids. He talked about how he desires his kids to trust him and how, when he asks them to do something that involves risk, he wants them to know that he'll be there when they need him.
I've thought through that conversation over these past few months. In my own life, I've seen how fear has led me to the redemption God offers in Jesus. Fear has led me to healing, freedom, peace, etc. Based on my personal experience with fear, I know it has a healthy position in my relationship with God. The conversation I overheard was not sitting well with me so I invited God into my thoughts...
Surely not all fear is bad, right? God took me back to the Garden of Eden...
"Look at Adam and Eve," He said, "What can you tell me about them?"
Reading through Genesis 1 and 2, I tried to imagine what life would have been like. I watched Adam and Eve work the land. I witnessed them play with lambs and lions. They ran and laughed through the garden. They swam in the river that ran through it. They climbed the trees and slept under the stars. They did all of this naked (there's a picture for ya). God kept them company through all of their naked adventures.
There was no hint of fear...
... Until the fall...
God gave Adam and Eve one limitation in the garden: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
God gave this commandment out of love. He did not want Adam and Eve to experience death. The serpent (Satan) came and twisted the truth. He confused Adam and Eve and questioned God's love for them. They ate the fruit and sin entered the world.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:7-10)
Sin entered our existence and as a result fear, anxiety, shame, etc. came with it. Genesis shows us that fear was not a reality until we disobeyed God. Adam and Eve weren't afraid until they ate the fruit God told them not to eat. It was THEN that they fled and hid from God for the fear of Him.
Fear is not of God, but fear is certainly not a sin. There is some fear that is healthy and necessary. Since God cannot be afraid, He is not the source of the fear we experience. Fear comes from God's enemy, also known as Satan or the devil.
I believe Satan is in a constant state of fear. He rebelled against God and was cast down into Hell. He knows what his future holds. God will one day destroy him. The Bible sometimes refers to Satan as the prince of this world. He leads us into temptation and sin. When we experience fear, it's because we're under Satan's dominion.
So how can fear be a good thing then? Well, fear tells us that something is wrong. Fear resulted from the painful separation of God and man and the entrance of sin and death into the world. When Jesus died on the cross, He removed that separation and made it possible to walk with God again, bringing us back to life. When we invite Jesus into our lives, that fear can be removed. Our fear exists to motivate us to get right with God.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1 John 4:18