Fear motivates us because it is fueled by what we desire. As David Powlison explains,
“Fear and desire are two sides of a single coin. A sinful fear is a craving for something not to happen. If I want money, I fear poverty. If I long to be accepted, I’m terrified of rejection. If I fear pain or hardship, I crave comfort or pleasure. If I crave preeminence, I fear being inferior to others…[fear and desire] are complementary expressions of cravings on earth.” (in Seeing with New Eyes)
Looking at it another way, sinful fear is not a lack of confidence. It is misplaced confidence. Fear of failure, for example, says that I’m confident that success will make me happy. Fear of what others will think of me suggests I’m confident that man’s approval will satisfy my heart’s desires.
Too often, I think that the feeling of fear or “fear itself” is the problem and I work to eliminate it. But I will always desire something. As long as my deepest desire rests in something or someone other than God Himself, simply working to eliminate fear serves no good purpose. In fact, it will breed other types of sin. George MacDonald writes:
“Persuade men that fear is a vile thing, that it is an insult to God, that he will none of it—while they are yet in love with their own will and slaves to every movement of passionate impulse and what will the consequence be? That they will insult God as a discarded idol, a superstition, a thing to be cast out and spit upon. After that how much will they learn of him?” (Quoted by John Piper)
Fear, like desire, has a place in a Christian’s earthly life. Both remind us that life as we know it now is incomplete and imperfect. But unlike sinful fear which chokes and cripples, godly fear re-orients our hearts toward Christ — the author and perfecter of our faith. John Piper writes,
“The point after which fear will have no proper place in the Christian’s life is the point at which his love is perfected. But none of us is yet perfected in love; none of us is without moments in which his delight in God fades and the “things which are seen” become deceptively attractive…the fear that we are to feel as Christians is itself a work of grace. It is a fear which casts us back into love for God and trust in his mercy, and thus destroys itself. Fear is the proper servant of love for imperfect saints.”
September 10, 2010 1 Comment
Ed Welch has written some of the most helpful books on fear that I have read, particularly When People are Big and God is Small and Running Scared. In preparation for his newest book on the subject, he talks briefly in this video about three common types of fear as well as some solid biblical pointers for those of us who struggle in this area:
September 2, 2010 No Comments
Every June, my church asks graduates to share about what God has taught them while working on their degree. Although there were many things I could have spoken about, I eventually decided on fear because it’s an area where I’ve experienced both a lot of struggle and grace.
The subject resonated with people — fellow musicians and non-musicians — more than I expected. Some people expressed similar experiences; others said it helped clarify an area of struggle for them; still others asked for more advice on overcoming fear. I was clearly reminded of 2 Cor. 12:9:
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
So, over the next few posts, I’d like to consider the topic of recognizing and overcoming fear. If you have experiences or suggestions in this area, please email me or leave them in the comments!
Here’s an excerpt from what I shared in June:
Fear seems to be something I battle on a daily basis. Being a student in the performing arts, a high-stress field, has made me even more aware of this sin. Throughout my musical education, I’ve been given plenty of tips/mind tricks to “get over fear.” I remember taking a class called “Performance Awareness,” where staring at candles, writing positive affirmations about ourselves, and considering beta-blockers were among the things students were encouraged to explore in the interest of stress-free performing.
Now, these ideas I’m sure sound as ludicrous to you as they did to me. But I have to confess that often the ways I dealt with anxieties — performance-related or not — were often no more effective or biblical. The world encourages us to fix our anxieties by busying our minds with other things, thinking positively about ourselves and our accomplishments, or simply avoiding things that make us nervous. (I’m guilty of all these things.) These “solutions” may satisfy at first, but are merely band-aids that provide only a temporary cover-up for the real problem. A heart filled with anxiety reveals the imperfection of our trust in and thankfulness for God’s provision and sovereignty.
At the beginning of my master’s program, I specifically asked God to help me never turn down any opportunity due to fear. Looking back on the last couple of years, I can honestly say that He has answered that request – not through superficial fixes, but through constantly reminding me of eternal truths found in His Word. I can rejoice that my Father knows my weaknesses; that I can boldly approach Him with my anxieties (1 Peter 5:7); that He promises a peace that surpasses all comprehension (Phil. 4:7); and that I can fix my eyes on Christ our Savior, the author and perfector of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).
September 1, 2010 No Comments