The Power of Fear
by Jeff Walling
Sin erodes our relationship with God and
replaces it with fear
Fear started in the beautiful garden God
designed for humankind, His premier creation. The Genesis
account describes the garden as an ideal environment. Everything
humankind needed was within reach. The world was a perfect
place. In fact, the way the world conforms to our human needs is
one of the great testimonies to man's primacy and God's
Within that original, optimal habitat, man knew
no fear. The word fear is not even mentioned in Scripture prior
to the first sin. Why? There was no cause for fear. The animals
were in subjection to man. Disease and decomposition were
unknown. Humankind lived in submission to God and in perfect
harmony with creation, which makes the temptation Satan offered
all the more astounding.
Satan had the gall to suggest to a woman who
lived in an ideal environment that he could offer her more.
Think about it: Within the garden, Eve possessed all of the
blessings God had provided: family, love, peace, assurance and
joy. And the tempter suggested that one little step beyond the
boundary of God's will would bring inconceivable delights. It
sounded interesting. It sounded inviting. It sounded like just
what Eve needed after a tough week. So she looked both ways
before crossing God's line and then took one tiny step,
How wrong she was. The product was nothing like
the advertisement. Instead of stepping into utopia, she was run
over by a Mack truck with a four-letter license plate: FEAR. And
all humanity has been stepping over that line ever since.
A Matter of Focus
Fear seems like a reasonable choice when you're
looking through guilt-colored glasses. Sin opens the door, and
fear enters on the heels of its twin demon, guilt. They pull up
seats at the table and make themselves right at home. And they
will shape your life just as they drove Adam and Eve to hide in
What a neat, nasty system. Sin destroys the
foundation of our confidence by eroding our relationship with
God and replacing it with fear. It leaves us feeling dirty,
scared and unsure of our salvation. Can God forgive me for
this...again? we wonder. Although we may not like it, we learn
to live with the fear because it came prepackaged with the
deceit. No assembly was necessary.
But how does fear take control so quickly?
Wherein is its power?
When Adam and Eve realized the gravity of their
mistake, they instinctively responded in fear. They tried to
cover their bodies and their tracks. They foolishly hid from the
Lord. When questioned, Adam confessed: "I was afraid
because I was naked; so I hid" (Genesis 3:10, NIV).
Where had their peace of mind gone? It vanished
when the focus of their attention shifted from God's power to
their weakness. Fear caused them to forget about the loving way
God had provided for them and the gracious way He had sustained
them. They instantly developed a kind of fear-driven tunnel
vision that allowed them to see nothing but an oncoming train.
Doesn't fear work the same way with us?
Consider the amazing way everything else
vanishes when fear grabs our attention. Remember the last time
you screamed out loud when someone tapped you on the shoulder
unexpectedly? There you stood in the safety of your own kitchen
when suddenly you were scared out of your wits...and you were
wearing the cup of coffee you had been about to drink! When fear
seizes the controls, nothing else matters.
From a spiritual perspective, the result of fear
is no different. We can literally be struck deaf and blind with
fear. We become unable to hear the words of peace the Holy
Spirit brings or the comforting truths the Father offers in His
Word. Most important, we lose sight of God. Like Peter as he
walked on the storm-tossed water toward Jesus, we take one look
at the waves, and fear takes control. We lose our focus, and
we're sunk--literally and spiritually.
That same loss of proper focus also inhibits our
growth in Christ. When God challenges us to move beyond our
comfort zones or to take a step in faith, fear isn't far away.
We may be bold about singing out in worship or discussing God
with friends of like mind, but change the setting, and fear will
curb our freedom quickly enough. How? Fear simply refocuses our
eyes on the opposition. It directs our attention to the
rejection we might suffer. Presto! We're paralyzed by panic.
Fixed on God
Between the guilt-centered power of sin and the
distracting ability of panic, fear looks unbeatable. But even
fear has its weakness. It has no power unless we are looking in
the direction it prescribes. As long as fear holds the
telescope, we'll keep staring at the pending disaster or
anticipated punishment. That's why it takes real discipline to
stay scared. You have to keep focusing on the object of your
fear. When you change your focus, the fear vanishes.
Watch construction workers on a high-rise
building, for example. Focused on their goal, they jump with
seeming abandon from one girder to the next at heights that
would paralyze most of us. But let one of them misstep and
tumble 30 stories, and watch the rest of the crowd. Even the
most jaded will take a little more time crossing the job site as
fear comes roaring back with a vengeance, demanding to be
In a similar way, Jesus turns the power of fear
on its head by restoring our focus. He reminds us that if our
eyes are fixed by faith on God and His nature rather than being
directed by fear, there is no room for anxiety. It is as though
Christ challenges you and me to name our greatest fear. Is it
cancer? Loneliness? Bankruptcy? Death? No matter what the fear,
it evaporates when the eyes of our hearts are fixed on the Lord.
His presence dismisses dread. His touch drives out terror. His
unending power--matched only by his unending love--simply leaves
no room for fear...at least not the heart-troubling kind.
But there is one fear Christ would never have us
A Matter of Choice
Jesus' command to "fear not" needs to
be viewed in light of another kind of fear, a healthy one that
the Bible calls the "fear of the Lord." Jesus never
intended for His followers to lose this proper respect for God,
but He did intend for them to lose their fear of everything
else. He chastised the disciples for worrying about food and
clothes, but He never said that all fear was to be avoided. What
He did demand was that His followers learn what to fear. Or
better still, whom to fear: "I tell you, My friends, do not
be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no
more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who,
after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell.
Yes, I tell you, fear Him" (Luke 12:4-5).
Throughout the Bible, God's presence has caused
fear in people, yet God's presence also banishes fear in people.
Consider these passages: "Though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil" (Psalm 23:4);
"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be
afraid" (Isaiah 12:2).
Compare those with this one: "The fear of
the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7).
The key to keeping our hearts from being
troubled is choosing whom to fear! Faith is actually the choice
to fear God only. Put another way, it is deciding between the
greater of two fears.
you are going to work with ritual abuse survivors, you
must also get educated if you want to be effective. And
you must learn to be humble. Trauma survivors do not need
to be around ignorant, modern-day Pharisees. Survivors in
pain need people who will connect with them on an
emotional level, get right down in there where they are,
and listen. --Kathleen Sullivan