It’s an ugly 4-letter word, yet it plagues many of our lives. We would like to hide from it. We would like to flee. We would like for it to not have any sort of control over our lives. It depletes us. It has the ability to dilapidate. It causes despair. It paralyzes. It weakens and condemns. It is fear.
Fear is that ugly 4-letter word that none of us would like to admit takes up a majority of our thoughts and is the precursor to our actions. Yet, it is the truth. Fear overtakes us in such a way that we are left confused, angry, exhausted, and trapped. The result of fear is living a life that is in opposition to faith in the Living, Almighty God.
During my time on a recent trip to Colorado to visit a friend, I realized how much of my life has been consumed by fear. That’s a bold statement, but it can be seen as quite true. There is much fear when I do not have control. And because there may be a lack of control at any given moment, angst and fear ensue. I am thankful for the Lord’s grace in revealing this god to me. Yes, it is a god. Fear was motivating my behaviors. Fear is what I sought to please. My God was not. That afternoon as I sat on the front porch the Holy Spirit faithfully showed me the areas of my life that I was operating under fear, my own control, yet fear nonetheless. He is gracious. He is loving. He kindly shows the areas of our lives that need to be transformed, and He helps in doing so.
Fear was the primary motivation for the Israelites in their choosing to not enter the Promised Land. Numbers 13 tells the story of the Israelites sending spies into the land to see the fruits, the people, the quality of land etc. God had ordered the spies to go in and see the goodness of the land, yet they returned with a negative report and thus discouraged the others from moving forward. Caleb and Joshua, however, were ready to enter. The Israelites were fearful of the larger people that lived in the Promised Land; they feared the unknown. They didn’t have control over where the Lord was taken them, so instead they wanted to stay where they were. Sound familiar? From behind the rose-tinted glasses they were wearing, the Israelites even hoped to return to Egypt where they had meat and leeks and any other food they desired (Exodus 16:3). A return to Egypt meant a controlled environment where they were comfortable. Though for some reason, they had forgotten the hard labor regularly forced upon them by the pharaoh. Ultimately, fear gripped the Israelites. They did not want to die by the sword upon entering the new land – a land that had been promised to them (Numbers 14:3). Their fear made more sense to them rather than choosing to have faith in the God who had parted the Red Sea for their departure from Egypt. Because of their disobedience out of fear, the Israelites were left to wander in the wilderness for another 40 years. A new generation and Caleb and Joshua would be the ones to enter the land God had promised many years before.
The Israelites missed their opportunity because of their fear. They missed the blessings of the Lord and His great provision because of fear, though He sufficiently met their needs in the desert. They missed the security of the new land because of their fear. They missed the honey and pomegranates and the brooks of water and fountains (Deuteronomy 8).
That afternoon as I sat on the porch frantically writing in my journal all the Lord was revealing to me, I realized the greatest thing I could do was to leave fear behind. In order to leave fear behind, I had to step forward in faith. The Israelites needed to step forward in faith. Stepping forward in faith entails knowing and trusting the God who created you, who redeemed you, who has planned your life, and orchestrates your very life. It is by no mistake when the Israelites entered the Promised Land God sent troops of protection before them and ended the crossing of the Jordan with the priests crossing over last (Joshua 3:17). He was protecting them on all sides. When we walk away from fear, we walk faithfully towards the One who loves us and will guide us according to His plan for our lives.
I am thankful for that quiet afternoon in Denver where the Lord revealed the ugly places of my heart and the fear that dwelt there. I am even more thankful for His grace in pushing me towards courage – to leave the fear behind and walk forward in trust.
“Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the one that remains faithful. The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for in God the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.” Isaiah 26: 2-3