Fear is a part of everyday life and everyday talk, and it should be. Fear is no joke. Fear can either be a gift or curse.
What do you fear? Ignore it, deny it, avoid it, run from it and it will control you. Fear is real and it is powerful. It can move us or paralyze us. According to the teachings in The Bible, fear is vital to growing and developing. It is clear that fear’s presence and power cannot be denied. A fearful reaction to fear can have serious negative physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and relational consequences, and a healthy response to fear can help us grow and develop.
There’s a lot of confusion about what fear is and what fear isn’t. The Bible tells us not to fear and at the same time that fear the of God is the beginning of wisdom. We have been told fear is a liar. Perhaps, you have seen the acronym that says fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.
Fear demands our attention because fear is one of the most powerful emotions, only comparable to love. Like love, fear always demands a physical, mental and spiritual reaction or response. Unfortunately, most of us have no idea how to respond to fear and so our natural reaction to fear has been to run, hide, ignore, fear, worry, redefine and pretend these measures will help us control fear. But in doing so, we continue to feel fears nagging presence, it’s nip at our heels and watch it’s shadow grow.
Perhaps, the reason that we don’t know how to respond to fear is because we don’t know what it is. I think that we think we know what it is but I have to ask, “Do we really?”. If we did, then I believe all creatures and creation would be radically different. We would be healthier, and so would our relationships, homes, schools, communities, environment, entertainment, technologies and even our government. It is imperative, especially now, that every human being remember how to respond to fear because fear isn’t something we should fear. But if we fear fear, then we will always react and we will be tossed to and fro by every person using fear as a means to their own ends.
In order not to be controlled by fear and to stop our natural reactions to dismiss, deny, deflect and disassociate from fear, maybe it’s time we started with defining fear. Perhaps, we look at fear and ask some basic questions. If we don’t know what is fear, then we have no way of knowing how or why we can respond and not react.
The definition of fear, like definition of all words, determines whether we react or respond. So, let’s begin by defining fear. Dictionary.com defines fear as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” According to this definition, fear is real powerful emotion, whether it is real or imagined. If this is true, then fear cannot be a liar.
In researching the origin of fear, I want to bring the Bible’s use of fear into this conversation.
According to a book The Living Word, “Fear is an abstract concept, but the Hebrew words translated as “fear” have a more concrete definition behind them. The first root we will examine is פחד pahhad[H:6342].
Fear (pahhad – noun)) came upon me, and trembling, and caused all my bones to shake (pahhad – verb). Job 4:14
In this verse, the word “fear” is the noun פחד pahhad[H:6343] meaning “shaking,” while the word “shake” is the verb פחד pahhad [H:6342] meaning “to shake.”
The second Hebrew root is ירא yara [H:3372]. In the following verse, we will see that this verb means “fear” in the sense of what we would consider fear.
And he said, I heard your voice in the garden and I feared (yarah) because I was naked and I hid myself. Genesis 3:10
In the next verse, we see the same Hebrew word in a more positive context.
You will revere (yarah)Yahweh your Elohiym and you will serve him and in his name you will swear. Deuteronomy 6:13
Many would conclude from these two passages this Hebrew word has two different meanings, fear and reverence. This assumption is made with many Hebrew words, but this is caused by an understanding of the Hebrew vocabulary from a non-Hebraic perspective. Each Hebrew word has only one meaning but can have different applications. The literal concrete meaning of yara is a “flowing of the gut,” which can be applied to “fear” or “reverence.” Have you ever been so scared or been in the presence of something so amazing that you could feel it in your gut? This “feeling” is the meaning of this word. The Hebrews were a very emotional people, and in many cases their words are describing a “feeling,” rather than an “action.”
The fear (yirah) of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding Proverbs 9:10 (KJV)” -Brenner, The Living Word
Perhaps, it would serve us well to think about fear like the Hebrews, and that fear has one meaning but can have different applications. I believe this frees to be the emotional people we are also designed to be and it frees us from trying to control fear and to allow fear have it’s place and purpose, so we can focus our energy on responding and not reacting.
Believe it our not, fear has a place in us and in our lives. It is a real emotion that has the power to completely undo us, and for some reason we obviously need that. If the Holy Spirit says that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, then I believe that means we are designed to experience fear. Whether we like it or not, fear gets our attention, and it forces us to be still, to be quiet and to listen.
Without a doubt, fear has purpose. It can keep us from danger, it forces action and it invites us to tell the truth. Fear is a window into the past and future. We can look through it and see what we have not acknowledged in the past and it helps us see what might shape our choices in the future. Our response to fear from the past or fear of the future determines if and how we live in or with fear in the present moment.
It is very important to discover what are our fears. So sit down, take a deep breath, listen and ask, “What do I fear?” Fears cannot hurt us but how we respond to our fears can lead us into hopelessness or it can lead us to help, hope and healing. Create the space to look at your fear. Write them down. Acknowledge and accept their existence. Ask for help from both the divine spirit and an earthly friend to understand where this fear is coming from and how you have reacted to this fear in the past. This is how we respond to our fear with truth and love.
We can move to share our fears with others and we can receive the love and truth that we all need to live honestly with fear. Our deepest fears of loneliness, rejection and not being loved can never be solved externally with money, fame, success, relationships, hard work or acceptance. Fears can only be answered with truth and love that flows in and out of our relationships.
Fear is normal. What is not normal is acting like you don’t have fear or that you have a plan to control it. Fear cannot be controlled but it can be transformed by truth and love. You are not designed to live in fear. You are designed to live “with” fear. So, you have big fears? Don’t we all! Remember… that you also have truth and love that can do so much more than answer your fears, they can transform your fears and walk you through fear to sow the seeds that grow hope, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
We are not designed to fear fear. We are designed to have a space for fear, listen to that fear and allow truth to answer that fear and lead us back to the place where we know we are loved and we love ourselves. Do not think for one second that fear is liar, it is not. Whether fear is real or imagined, means fear is a truth that requires our real attention. If we know who we are and how we are naturally designed to be healthy human beings, then fear becomes a gift and one of the quickest paths to nourish our faith with love and truth.