Fear holds a prominent place in all our lives. In fact fear is so prevalent that we could say that people are, by nature, fearers. We all fear different things. Some of us fear different kinds of people (our father, our boss, people we don’t know), some various events (asking the boss for a raise, asking Susie to marry you) or possible events (What if the snow melts too fast? Or what if so and so is elected president?), or even non-events (What if I never get married? Or what if so and so isn’t elected president?). Some of us fear things we know are coming (that big test on Monday), some fear things we only think might come (Will I die alone or in pain?). Most of us get along just fine—balancing our fears with the duties of day to day life. Others of us, however, can barely function because of the overwhelming flood of fears and panic that sorely afflict us.
There are people in our society who make their living trying to help us deal with and manage our fears. These people have created a whole industry dedicated to categorize and institutionalize the various fears (called phobias) that people have. If you do a short search on the internet you can find lists of the various things people are afraid of. I found a list at one site that when printed out took up 12 pages. The kinds of things people fear range from a fear of spiders (arachnophobia) to heights (acrophobia), from fear of strangers (Xenophobia) to fear of school (Scolionophobia). There are even what we might call funny phobias: fear of air (anemophobia), or fear of the color Yellow (Xanthophobia). These are funny to us, but certainly not to those men and women whose lives are paralyzed by these and myriad other fears.
But God tells his people, and thus us, “not to fear” over 300 times in the Bible. He tells us that the things we fear te our lives and become our gods (Rom. 8:13), controlling and ordering our lives so that we don’t do what we truly ought to do. God says, “whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19). Because we don’t deal with the things we fear in a godly way, we end up worshipping them. And according to God’s word we actually become like them (Psa. 115). We trust the fear more than anything else we know. The fear god is a cruel task master. We are bound by fear to do whatever it takes to keep whatever we are afraid of from happening. And more, we think we can’t just give it up (“do not fear”) because it has become us. We have created a whole life around it; to give it up would mean giving up our whole life—and that’s a very scary thought.