For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you- Isaiah 41:13 NIV
I love dogs.
I love dogs so much that I point excitedly at every dog I see and I stop to pet every dog I pass on the street. I love dogs so much that I don’t even care that this behavior makes me look like a lunatic. All that being said, for most of my life I had some serious questions about people who were insanely devoted to their mean, yappy, horrid little dogs.
Then we got a mean, yappy, horrid little dog.
His name was Bruno and he was a pug. My husband and I decided to we wanted a pug because pugs are not usually aggressive. We wanted a sweet little dog everyone would love. Unfortunately, Bruno was only sweet to us and very few people loved him. He was slightly larger than a football but he would bark and growl and bully full-grown men into doing whatever he wanted. Mostly what he wanted was for everyone to stay far away me and the rest of our family. When the little jerk got riled up he was so fierce and ferocious that big, burly men would literally run away from him in terror. But he loved us and we loved him and now I understand why people allow horrid little dogs to live in their homes.
One day after an exceptionally embarrassing encounter between Bruno and a three-hundred-pound realtor, it occurred to me that Bruno and the emotion of fear had a lot of similarities.
Bruno was not really capable of hurting anyone. He was short and squat and weighed twenty pounds after a big meal. His teeth were bad and even in his prime they were not really all that sharp. But boy could he act scary. He had the power to make people believe that he really was going to hurt them.
Fear should never be dismissed out of hand. There are times when fear can be logical, reasonable and even healthy. The Bible commands us to fear God (Leviticus 25:17, Psalm 96:4, Proverbs 1:7, 1stPeter 2:17). It makes sense to fear crazy people with weapons, stupidity, poisonous snakes and things that kill people. Sometimes fear is even our friend. We have all had those moments when we did something (or didn’t do something) because we suddenly became afraid of doing (or not doing) the thing. Later we learned that if we had done the thing it would have killed us or at the very least ruined our day.
Those situations are the exceptions. Most of the time fear is just a thief and a liar. There are five things fear will steal from us if we let it and none of them are things any of us can afford to lose:
Our trust in God-
Fear is not usually a “God thing”. The God who commands His people to be strong and courageous would only plant fear in their hearts if there were a really good reason for it. Fear is usually a “Satan thing”. Fear is Satan’s most effective tool. Fear persuades us that God isn’t really good and that He can’t do the things He says He can do. Fear can also convince us we can’t do the things God says we can do (John 14:12).
The ability to accomplish our mission-
If a person is drawing breath there is a reason for it. Every individual has people only they can reach and tasks only they can accomplish. Fear wants us to believe the lie that God cannot empower us to be good enough, smart enough or capable enough to do what God wants us to do.
Boundaries are the bottom line of what we will and will not allow into our lives. They are like invisible shields that protect us from people and situations that might bring us physical, emotional and spiritual harm. Good, solid boundaries keep us from sinning and being sinned against and the people who want to lead us into sin. Fear often causes Christians to accept the unacceptable in relationships. Fear of not fitting in, fear of making people mad or fear of not being liked inevitably cause our boundaries to be breached. Anytime we allow our boundaries to be breached misery and sin are sure to follow.
It is literally impossible to be fearful and joyful at the same time. Anytime we allow fear to run the show we lose our joy, faith and peace of mind. Fear steals our joy and peace of mind by getting us focused on the “what ifs” of every situation. What if I fail? What if no one likes me? What if the worst happens?
Fear really is like my dog Bruno.
Fear has no power except what we give it. Fear feels scary and it makes us believe that something horrible will happen if we don’t do what fear is telling us to do. We must remember that feelings are not facts and that faith is the enemy of fear. The more we choose to trust God and believe that He can do what He says He will do the less power fear has over us.