In my personal acrostic of the word “fret,” fear was the first and most obvious element. It took up most of the room, so I had to push it out, make a conscious effort to get rid of it—something I could not do on my own. Of course that realization led to more fear, so I turned and ran straight to God’s word.
The breed of fear I battled was not the kind we read about when we’re told to fear the Lord. And we shouldn’t be surprised to find two different meanings, just as we do when we say we love our spouse and we love lasagna. Not the same thing.
I found wonderful things in the Bible about fear: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and sound mind” (I Tim. 1:7); “Perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18); “I sought the Lord, and … he delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4). These tell me God didn’t send the fear, His love will chase it off, and He’ll snatch me from its clutches.
I also read a fabulous novel by J.M. Windle titled Betrayed. I highly recommend it. In the book, the main character hears the biblical story of Sarah and how her husband’s fear landed her in a harem. The character learns that God rescued Sarah, and that she can be like Sarah if she will “do what is right and do(es) not give way to fear” (I Peter 3:6). I won’t say more because it’s a great read and I don’t want to spoil it for you, but did you notice the “do” and “do not”?
The “do” part fills in the vacuum of the “do not.” Psalm 37—where I first discovered “fret”—is full of “do’s.” Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell, enjoy, delight, commit, be still, wait, refrain—all this in just the first eight verses.
Fear is a paralyzing poison that immobilizes us into doing nothing. Why do you suppose the big cats roar? The intimidation tactic turns their targeted prey into hotdog-on-a-stick.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said we have nothing to fear but fear itself. He may have been thinking of Psalm 34:4. John Wayne said courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway. Sounds like the first eight verses of Psalm 37.
But Jesus said, Don't be afraid, I'm here.*
In the middle of the night when all I see is darkness and all I hear is the beating of my own heart, what Jesus said wins out over the platitudes of men who once lived.
When I need help, give me the words of the God-man who still lives—the One who will back them up with His presence.
*Mark 6:50; Matt. 14:27; Matt. 28:20