It is my belief that God gave us our emotions as tools in our toolbox to help us cope with our hurt, dying, broken, sinful world. One of those emotions is fear. I believe that God gave us the emotion of fear, so that we could tell ourselves that we are not feeling prepared for what we may feel lies ahead of us. And just as a tool used wrongly can hurt the user, so fear can hurt the one feeling it, if it is not used properly. For me, there is nothing so frustrating as when I am afraid of something, and I should not be, and I am giving in to the fear and not experiencing all that God may have for me. The flip side of that is also true. Some mistakes I have made have been the result of me not being afraid of something, taking risks that proved to be excessive, resulting in my harm, and the harm of those I love.
In looking at the emotion of fear, I realize that there are levels to fear and that we use different words to describe those levels. We use words that go from: concern, nervous, and anxious, through preoccupation and worry, to higher levels of paranoia, dread, terror, and horror. Your own experience may cause you to shuffle the order of those words. You may also have other words to describe fear. Multiple times, Jesus told us not to fear (Matthew 10:26. 10:28, 10:31, to name a few). But how do we do that?
Peter is an example for us. I think we all know the story of Peter declaring that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Matthew 16:16). And we know his declaration in front of the rest of the disciples when he said to Jesus, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Matt 26:35). We know of Peter’s denials that late Thursday night, and very early Friday morning when Jesus was on trial, when Peter said, “I do not know the man” (Matthew 26:69-72).
But how do we reconcile that image of a weeping coward with the man who later boldly declared to the Sanhedrin, that same council who had terrified Peter on the night of Jesus’ trial, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20). Where did this courageous man come from?
We can find the clues. In Hebrews Chapter 11, in what is called "the Hall of Faith," we read of many people who were unafraid in the face of persecution to the point of death. Fear seems to be faith applied in the wrong direction. What caused that change of direction for Peter? I think it was the resurrected Jesus speaking with Peter, one on one, and when Jesus commissioned Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee with the threefold phrase, “tend my sheep.” Peter experienced, at a deep level, in a powerful way, the love and forgiveness of Jesus. We find that it says in 1 John 4:18, “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.” Peter experienced that kind of love!
If we have experienced the love and forgiveness of Jesus, and if we believe that Jesus cares more for us than anything else in His creation, we have the cure for anxiety and worry (Matthew 6:28-34).
How freeing is that!