The Power of Fear


In the aftermath of a volcanic eruption when the lava has cooled to a shiny black, the first life that emerges to make its home is a “metal pioneer” better known as the “lava cricket.” These crickets thrive in an extremely barren environment, living off decaying plants blown by the winds and drinking sea foam. When green life finally arrives, the crickets move on to the next lava calamity.


I recently learned about these lava crickets during a visit to Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park and couldn’t help but be reminded of a childhood incident that took place in Virginia involving crickets and my sisters.


It was the early 1980s, our parents had gone out for the evening and hired my best friends’ sister to babysit. My best friend came along and we set out to have a fun-filled evening with no adults. Shortly after our parents departed, we discovered a black cricket had joined the party. The older sisters quickly decided to make a game out of the cricket and wove a tale of doom for the younger kids that if the cricket would touch them they would die! At first, it was just telling stories, much like scary stories told around a campfire, until my youngest sister broke out in hysterical tears, very much believing that crickets were deadly! (Now, it didn’t help that the oldest girl by now had captured the cricket and was using it as a prop to tease the younger kids.) The theatrics came to such a heightened crescendo that I had to beg them to stop and insist that all agree that crickets can’t harm people- even little kids. Thirty-something years later my sister still hates crickets!


Remembering this childhood prank highlights for me the power of fear and how fear can be a tool for our betterment or our destruction.


Let me explain….


In the natural world, fear is a survival tactic, an instinct that warns us of danger and kicks into gear our “fight or flight” response. When it is real and warranted it can keep us physically safe. But, when we allow fear to become an emotional driving force in everyday life, it can cause us to make devastating choices and decisions that leave us crippled. Have you ever made a decision out of fear that you later regretted? Boy, I know I have!


The same is true in our spiritual lives but in a slightly different way. You see the Bible speaks on the topic of fear over 500 times and addresses two aspects: 1) “A spirit of fear” and 2) “Fear of the Lord.”


Most of us have a good understanding of “a spirit of fear” because it is the same fear I mentioned above- the emotional driving force that manipulates us into living hindered lives. This type of spiritual fear should be renounced as it is detrimental. God knew this type of fear was going to be a huge obstacle for us, hence the lengthy discussion in Scripture on the topic of fear. Scripture reminds us that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) and that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1-7). Therefore, when we have a spirit of fear we need to understand this is not from God and it not how He wants us to live our lives!


Instead, we should have a healthy and active “fear of the Lord.”


Ok, I need to stop right here and address a misconception. For any critics that scoff at the recommendation to “fear God,” you have the wrong definition of fear. We are NOT talking about the fear that renders someone afraid or apprehensive, rather we are talking about the fear that imparts reverence, awe, and respect.


When have proper reverence, awe, and respect for God’s power and authority, we can walk confidently free from the negative worldly fears because we know that God is with us. He alone is our helper, our truth, our refuge, our protector, and our peace. When we strive to know God’s will and be obedient to His authority our lives are marked by wisdom, blessing, security, and peace.


Now that we have a full understanding of fear, let us be mindful of how fear can align us with God or against Him. When we allow negative fears that come from earthly sources to dominate our thoughts and cause us to focus more on what the world has to say over what God has to say AND when we diminish or dismiss God's authority we ensnare ourselves. Effectively, we are placing idols in our life in the rightful place of God and putting us at odds with the Lord.


Don’t take my word for it, Scripture tells us specifically:


Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. ~ Proverbs 29:25


No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord. ~Proverbs 21:30


Whoever trust in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. ~ Proverbs 28:26


Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord. ~Proverbs 16:20


How are you fairing in this fear business? Unsure? Ask yourself:


1. Are you consumed with anxiety and stress? Constantly worried about the future and the fate of your family and friends?


2. What sources are you consulting when making decisions in your life-especially decisions related to things that you are concerned about? Are your decisions being guided primarily by others i.e. friends, family, media, doctors, or experts?


3. Where are you placing your trust? Do you seek comfort or safety in a political party, a favorite influencer or advisor, financial security, or maybe even in a vaccine?


4. When was the last time you seriously sought out what God has to say in the matter? Digging into God’s word, spending significant time in prayer, worship, praise, and contemplation?


Your answers will tell you whether or not (much like my baby sister all those many years ago) you are allowing the wrong fear to dominate your life.


Don’t be fooled- God is the authority and fear of the Lord is a powerful force designed for our benefit and good.


“The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else.” ~ Oswald Chambers


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