Devotional: Why do I fear the command, “Do Not Fear”?

Have you ever been told in a time of fear or worry that the bible commands you, do not fear? Has that ever really helped? Be honest. Have you ever wondered why that does not help, and often makes you feel worse? 

There are two reasons for this. First, Christian peace does not mean the absence of all emotions of fear or worry. Fear and worry in the proper contexts are actually healthy. If a bear is chasing you in the woods, and you are not reacting in fear, you are a fool. If you are walking around downtown alone at 2:00am Saturday morning, and you are not anxious, something is wrong with you (assuming you are not Chuck Norris). 

On a more serious level, imagine if your child came down with this virus, and was in the hospital on a ventilator. Now imagine as you were pacing in the waiting room, frantic with worry, a Christian tells you, “God said do not be anxious. Obey him in this and you will have peace.” Would that help? No, those words would do more damage than good.

Does the Lord really expect us to be so spiritual that we would not fear for our children’s lives? If that is the case, the Apostle Paul must have been a very weak Christian for staying up at night worrying about the churches. Where was his faith? 

The Lord constantly in Scripture reassures our fears, because we fear. That is partly what it means to be human. God reassures us in our worries, because as human beings, we worry. The Bible never suggests that there is something we can pray, do or think that causes all emotions of fear or anxiousness to simply vanish. Life would be so easy if that were the case. But it is not. It is in the midst of fear that He comforts us with His love and power. We can actually fear, and have faith, at the same time.

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.

Psalm 119:50

The second reason the calls to not fear or worry prove useless is when they are presented more as law than gospel. The words “do not fear,” and “do not worry,” become conditions in which to receive God’s blessings of peace. If you stop fearing and worrying, God will do this… If we could obey a law that could bring us God’s blessings, Jesus would not have needed to die for us. When “do not fear” is treated as a law, it only reminds us how we fall short of obeying God’s law. When you think back to all the times in life you were desperately worried or fearful of something, did it ever really change anything to hear, “God says you shouldn’t worry.” No, the law has no power to calm our fears.

But the gospel does! When we are reminded that the God of love and power has forgiven all of our sins, that our blessings from Him are mediated through Christ; not given based on our obedience, then we are assured that God has a plan for all this because He loves us unconditionally. This does not take away every human emotion like anxiousness and fear, but it reminds us that we have God’s plan, love and care in the midst of our fears.

The words, “do not fear,” do not come to us as a command in Scripture, that if we obey this God will then bless us. The encouragement to not fear comes to us as gospel.

Jesus paid for every one of our sins; He was righteous for us. God assures us in Christ that He will provide. That is why we can trust Him with our fears. He cannot help but provide according to His good will because He promised that all those who come to His Son for refuge from sin He would never turn away.  In Christ we always possess God’s full love and provision unto eternity because Jesus is our Savior, however we are feeling at the moment. 

So Beloved, when the Bible says, “do not fear,” or “do not be anxious,” do not think law; think gospel; think, “Jesus died for you.” And believing, allow yourselves to be human. God does.