The Fear of Being Afraid
I know this sounds strange, but can you be afraid of being afraid? Our culture is chock full of fears. Fears enslave. People, religious and non-religious, have sought solutions to overcoming fear. Yet, our fears continue to grow. We are even afraid of being afraid!
Using others to satisfy ourselves is a mask hiding our deepest fears. Some seek to overcome fears by seeing others as their private gas pump. The strategy is to feel happy and fulfilled you must use other people to fill up your emotional gas tank. Once full, you can drive away into the sunset doing your own thing again until the tank runs dry. When on empty you return to others for a fill-up. Fear, in this case, develops a people user mentality and makes mayhem of relationships.
Being a people user
Some see others as tickets to fame and fortune. They use others to develop their own glory and reputation; then rip them up and leave the pieces by the exit door of life. Others in despair have given up hope that anyone will or can fulfill their expectations. They enter a survival strategy mode of maintaining distance and privacy from others. They have no faith in others including God, thinking others are more terrorists than neighbors. To stay free from the control or demands of others means not to let them enter your inner sanctum.
Fear festers in our culture. Fears guide our daily steps and many of our decisions. Fearing being fearful means everything must be questioned and doubted; no one can be trusted. Skepticism is what keeps us safe. With this mentality comes a lifestyle based on need fulfillment. The person plagued with fear slavishly lives only to fulfill their own needs (more often wants). The only way out of this lifestyle is to need people less and need God more. Paradoxically, the less we think we need people the less we love God, and the more we realize we need God, the more we are able to love people. This comes as a direct result of spending more time with God than with others.
Jesus is the ultimate example of a person who needed people less, needed God more, and ended up loving God and loving people more than any other human being. He related to more people of different lifestyles than any of his disciples, while at the same time spending more time with God his Father than all of them combine. Jesus, who needed no one, gathered the largest crowds. In this mass of people, he remained personally sensitive and engaged people’s needs, such as a weak and frail woman (Lk 8:46-48). He also was constantly getting distance from the crowds so he could spend more time with his Father (Mt 14:23, Lk 6:12, 22:45). The solution to being afraid of fear itself is to spend more time with God who is fearful of nothing. Christians aren’t to be afraid of fear.
Although Christians are to overcome their fears, not all fears are bad. One of God’s names is “Fear” (Gen 31:53). He is the one we should be afraid of for he is all-knowing and all-powerful at the same time. The spiritual world understands the power and value of fear (Job 1:8). Fear can be destructive, but it also can be a fortress and refuge; a fountain of life (Pr 14:26-17).
Healthy fear develops by understanding and experiencing God’s majesty. Isaiah comforted God’s people by casting a vision of the majesty of God as they faced the terrifying prospect of deportation (Isa 6:1-7). In his vision, Isaiah saw the Lord enthroned in majesty, and holiness, and surrounded by angelic beings. He saw himself as he really was: a preacher who had unclean lips. God cleansed Isaiah’s mouth so he could preach a holy word of encouragement to Judah’s fears (vs. 9-10).
God’s majesty helps to overcome fear
A vision of the majesty of God in Christ is overwhelmingly influential when there is a need to overcome the fear of fear (Rev 19:11-16). God’s majesty is so immense, important, and excellent compared to the power of the nations that it dwarfs fear (Isa 40:12-14).
Consider a few physical examples of grandness to grasp the power of God’s majesty. The Amazon River is the second largest river (second only to the Nile) producing a freshwater plume that stretches into the Atlantic Ocean for over 250 miles. Roughly the equivalent of 88 Olympic-size swimming pools flows from the river into the Atlantic Ocean every second. Isaiah claimed that, compared to God’s majesty, all the waters of the earth merely fit in the hollow of his hand.
Here is another impressive example. It was estimated that Tower One of the World Trade Towers produced 600 thousand tons of pulverized concrete and steel that turned into dust and blanketed New York City when it fell in 2011. It is estimated that 13 million tons of dust travel from African deserts to South America annually. God’s majesty is so much greater than all the dust of the earth that he can sweep up all the dust of the earth and it only amounts to a few grains of dust on his scales.
And what about the mountains as an illustration of God’s majesty? Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world reaching 5 ½ miles into the sky and growing at four inches per year due to tectonic upper thrusting. Isaiah’s vision of God’s majesty was much more impressive than all the mountains of the earth combined. The weight of his majesty contrasts with the weight all the mountains of the earth as though they were on a scale designed to measure gold by the ounce.
Finally, consider the number of books in the Library of Congress. It contains over 33 million books making it the largest library in the world. Second is China’s library with over 20 million books. There are billions upon billions of pages of wisdom, insight, information, and data in those books. If someone read all of that material their combined thoughts would still be so small that they would remain unable to counsel God in his eternal wisdom.
Experiencing majesty inspires worship
Majesty is designed to inspire worship. God’s majesty inspires us to worship the one true God. To see the majesty of Jesus Christ is to taste his strength, beauty, glory, splendor, and power. Isaiah provides a second picture of Jesus’ majesty. Jesus is also pictured in the Bible as bruised, unsightly, and ordinary (Isa 53:2-3). The incarnational picture of Jesus is of a man beaten down by sorrows and familiar with human sufferings. His physical appearance was so common that it didn’t match his claims of being equal with God. Jesus, the most majestic person suffered so that we don’t have to suffer. Jesus confronted the greatest human fears so we could see his majesty and be set free from fear. He rose from the dead and retained his scars to remind us that he is the solution to the fear of fear. Peter saw the risen Christ in his glory. Jesus’ body maintains its cross inflicted scares. And yet, Peter (Thomas too) still described Jesus as looking divinely majestic (2 Pet 1:16, Jn 20:28).
A vision of God’s majesty is key to sharing your faith. To see who Jesus was, what he went through to secure our salvation, and how his power was manifested through his resurrection restores in us a hope that the fear of fear can be overcome.
Personal Time: Read a number of the Scripture references. What is the relationship between using people and hiding from our fears? Is there a link between doubt and fear? In the Kingdom of God, wisdom is often counter-intuitive. This is seen in needing people less and needing God more causing a person to love God more and love people more. Can you think of any other counter-intuitive principles that relate to overcoming fear? If seeing the majesty of Christ frees a person from their fears, then why do we often run away from the Majestic Christ rather than embrace him? How does the majesty of Christ relate to explaining the gospel of Christ to others?