I have blogged a couple of times on the subject of fear (Fear is the Key and Fearful Delight) and the subject keeps coming up in my reading. It’s hardly surprising – I did a quick scan of the concordance and the word appears in well over 200 passages. That is not to mention all the similes and adjectives associated with it. It’s not just the Bible either. Fear is a big element in our society – Google the word, and you get 146 million results!
It’s a big topic and it plays a big part in our lives. When we look at someone’s face we cannot always tell if the person is going through a time of doubt or concern, but you can always tell if they are in fear. It shows. It changes the appearance and the demeanour. It changes the way we behave, the way we speak, the way we react.
Early in my career I had to discipline someone who was probably twice my age. I was absolutelyÂ terrified! Somehow, I got through it, but it was a real struggle, and I determined that I would never feel like that again, so I decided to go on the offensive. And offensive was the word! To put it in a nutshell, I developed a strong, aggressive character that was always on the attack. I believed that if I scared everyone from the very start, then whenever I got in a tight spot they would still be fearful, and that would give me the advantage. I was not a very nice person. Fear changed me.
Fear in itself is not a bad thing. We should be afraid of putting our hands in fire, of falling overboard, of walking the tightrope, of forgetting the wife’s birthday. It is part of the survival mechanism which God placed in us. But Satan knows that it is a really volatile emotion, one which he can hack into, one he can use to control us, to change us.
At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner. As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.” (Gen 12:10-13, NLT)
It’s odd. Some time before this episode, Abram had been told by the Lord that He would give the land of Canaan to his descendants. At that point, and at the time of this passage, Abram didn’t have any descendants, which suggests a survival rate which is higher than Abram envisaged when he entered Egypt! Yet fear of being killed changed him. From being a man whom God obviously respected and wanted to bless, from being a man who was obedient to God, he changed to a sneak who put all the pressure on his wife.
Fear changed him, just as it changed me. That is the power of fear. It can knock us off track and endanger or damage both us and the people around us.
But it doesn’t need to be like that.
But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1, NIV)
I have a feint memory of a trailer for a suspense or horror movie, when the words “You are not alone” were used as a look-behind-you type of scare. But it doesn’t scare me! I know I am not alone! I know that my God is there! He has told me so!
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2, NIV)
Why should I fear?
And, by the way, once I found Christ, I lost my fear and managed to change back to being a nice guy. I don’t bite – Honest!