by Heather Bock
What if we decided to live a life without being ruled by fear? What if we did what was right for ourselves and for others without worrying about what others might think of us? Before Lent (when I gave up fiction reading–it’s ok to write about fiction when I’m not reading it, right?), I read a book called The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, a book that asks those very questions, and it started me thinking. What if I lived a life without fear, trusting completely in God?
The book is hard to read at first, as Montgomery spends several chapters at the beginning describing what a fearful person the main character Valancy is. The reader really can’t admire her. She’s lonely, poor, sickly, mistreated, plain, anxious, depressed, and depressing. All of these problems she has stem from the fact that she is extremely fearful, especially of what others think of her. However, in good novel fashion, Valancy one day learns she has a heart condition and could die any day; in fact, it is predicted she won’t live more than a year. Although cliche, this is perhaps the only believable way this character will ever change her way of living life.
Valancy, after a sleepless night of facing her life up until that point, does an about-face and decides not to live by fear anymore. Although she sometimes goes too far with this (her family, not knowing about her sickness, think she’s literally lost her mind), this juxtaposition of fearful and fearless highlights the good that can fill a life lived without fear. Every problem she has is turned around: she makes friends and finds love, she doesn’t allow others to mistreat her or to bother her when they do, she has adventures, she gains health, she is happy, she becomes wealthy by taking chances, and she even gains a sort of beauty stemming from her happiness (and new choices in fashion, which she had feared to wear before). Although Valancy’s example is extreme, it echoes truth because fear can strip us of all good, whereas freedom from fear can make us free.
As I did word searches on fear and afraid in the Bible, I quickly found a few fears that are real and should continue. The first was surprising to me: the fear that your salvation might not be true. I found at least three verses supporting this (Heb 4:1, Phl 2:12, and I Pet 1:17). Basically, it appears that we need to be very sure that we are really following Jesus. Second, over and over again, I found the words fear God in Scripture. We are to have an awe for God, an understanding that although He’s good, He’s not exactly safe, as C.S. Lewis would say. Finally, I didn’t find this in the Bible, but I believe God put a healthy, natural fear in us of situations, animals, and people who are not safe for us or our loved ones. I believe we should be afraid to some extent if our child is in immediate danger of being snatched by a kidnapper, for example. The difference is that this fear doesn’t paralyze us but instead springs us into action.
However, barring these three and maybe a few others I haven’t thought of, we don’t need to be afraid of much. God spends a lot more time in the Bible telling us, “Do not be afraid.”
What do we fear?
People’s opinions? This can be our new mantra: “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6). This verse might be more about physical danger that man can bring to us, but I believe it can apply to psychological and emotional danger, as well.
Being hurt/rejected by someone we love? We can pray that God will fill us so full of His love that it overflows because “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (I Jn 4:18).
Failure? We can say instead, “I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (II Cor. 12:9).
In fact, this is what it really comes down to: faith in Christ. The opposite of fear is not peace or even bravery. It’s faith, resting in Christ, trusting He can take care of any problem that comes our way.
What fear holds you up the most? Ask God to help you let it go and lean on the One who is big enough to handle any fear.