“Fear and suffering are the universal human experience, and every religion is an attempt to overcome this condition.” Skye Jethani, With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God.
You’ve heard the cliché’s…
- “Punch fear in the face.”
- “The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.”
- “Never let your fear decide your fate.”
- “He who overcomes his fears will truly be free.”
- “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
- “Fear is a liar.”
Everyone has a philosophy about fear and most of the time those philosophies go something like this… “Fear is bad. So, knock it down, jump over it and get on with your life.” That sentiment is clearly heard in each of the cliché’s above.
But, what if the cliché’s got it all wrong? What if there was an answer to fear that didn’t involve fight or flight?
The Bible seems to indicate that both fighting fear and running from fear are improper conclusions. There’s actually another way to handle life’s most complex stresses. And it has very little to do with punching fear in the face or closing your ears to the lies of fear.
Are you ready for this? Here it is…
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).
That passage goes on to make an incredibly important connection. It says,
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
So, the answer to fear is not determination, willpower, or courage. The answer to the problem of fear is love.
We could take that insight a thousand different directions, but let’s look at the implications for generosity:
1. When fear tells us to hoard, it may be a sign that we don’t really trust God’s love. A huge part of the generosity discussion is the idea of “Lordship.” Lordship reminds us that God owns it all; everything that we have, “every good and perfect gift,” comes from His hands.
- He is our provider (Acts 14:17).
- He is the husband to the church and its caretaker (Ephesians 5:25-32).
- He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).
- He knows what we need (Matthew 6:32).
- He is generous (Matthew 20:15).
- He gives better gifts than our earthly fathers give (Matthew 7:11).
So, when God calls us to imitate His generous ways and fear rears its head, it could be a warning sign that you don’t really trust the love of God.
2. When fear calls for selfishness, that fear may be a barometer of your love for your neighbor. Fear says, “Don’t act generously because they may abuse your kindness.” Love says, “Take any necessary steps to free them from their situation and walk with them long-term to help them stay on track.”
Admittedly, this is hard. Who among us truly loves our neighbors in a way that matches our own self-love? That’s a high standard. But, high standards are not an excuse to side-step God. They’re an opportunity to join God in the work that He is doing. They are an opportunity to share in exuberant joy with God as He brings His kingdom to your neighborhood.
What do we do with fear? How do we discount the cliché answers and engage fear in a Biblical manner?
Here’s the first step; we can’t ignore it. As we noted earlier, fear impacts all of us. And as we noted in a previous post, approximately 55% of Christians note that fear is a hindrance to their generosity. As long as we ignore these facts, fear will continue to disrupt our growth in …and imitation of… Christ. So, as with any struggle, we have to acknowledge it.
Second, we must let fear inform our love. It has a natural way of directing us toward our love weaknesses. It identifies our struggles and cries, “This is where your life doesn’t match God’s love.”