I heard a sermon many years ago, that I now know has caused me considerable damage. The preacher quoted two New Testament passages.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (Philippians 4:6)
…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
The preacher said that these were commands. Therefore, we are commanded not to fear, and not to have any anxiety. The preacher underlined this. If we are anxious, then we are sinning.
At no point do these passages imply that the anxiety is wrong, or even irrational. We are simply given a wonderful, loving solution to our anxiety – that we have the opportunity to cast it on to Him.
The preacher's words have caused me despondency over the years, as I have failed to eliminate fear from my life. Yet, as parents, do we not deliberately instill fear in our children? Do not run across the road, or you will get hurt. If you run to the road, sweetie, I will have to smack you, because I love you. So we instill a fear into our children to save them pain, because we love them. Or we could dress them up in bubble-wrap and an Iron Man suit so that they never come to harm, but are isolated from the world.
God actually commands us to fear Him many times in His word. Does this contradict His command to love Him – or even the statement that He is love? In no way.
Why do we warn our youngsters not to have pre-marital sex, when the thought appeals to them? Are we instilling a fear of pregnancy and regret into their lives? Yes. And this is right, because a healthy fear will prevent regrets on this score.
It was pointed out to me recently that the solution to fear is understanding. We tell our teenagers that they should fear pre-marital sex, and we explain why it will harm them. We tell our toddlers to fear the traffic, and we explain, in terms that they can understand, why they should fear this.
God tells us to fear Him, as this will keep us obedient. And He does this because He loves us, and He tells us so. He wants the very best for us.
Fear is not a sin. Of course we can respond sinfully to it, but we can also use it as God designed it for us, to keep us safe.
(Photograph from Photospin.com)