Fear – it could save your life

If society, culture and the church could just move past feeling fear, anger and pain, we would all be better off, right? If everybody could only be positive and happy all of the time, our lives would improve, correct? Wrong! If these negative emotions and sensations were eliminated, our lives would unravel.

If you object to that last sentence, I’m sure you are not alone. So let’s cut to the chase.

Babies born with anhidrosis do not feel pain. Without the sensation of pain they lack the valuable warning signal that something hot or sharp is hurting them. Fifty percent of these babies will die before age three. Few of these individuals will ever reach the age of twenty five. As it turns out, pain provides a very valuable function; it warns us against harmful situations.

Do we want pain? No. Do we need pain to alert us to danger? Yes.

In likewise fashion, when God gave us the capacity to feel fear and anger, God blessed us with an internal warning system against harmful situations. Imagine a world where no one was afraid of anything nor of any consequence. Picture if you can a society where no one would feel anger at injustice nor toward bullies hurting the defenseless. Negative emotions serve a very valuable function in healthy people. They alert us to the reality that something is terribly wrong.

Do not misunderstand me as suggesting that every instance of fear, pain and anger is helpful. Rather, for us to thrive we need the possibility of receiving strong warnings that something needs correction.

When it comes to fear, Jesus would counsel us: “I tell youmy friendsdo not be afraid of those who kill the bodyand after that have nothing more they can do. But I will warn you whom you should fearFear the one who, after the killinghas authority to throw you into hellYesI tell youfear him!” (Luke 12:4-5). We need to respect and obey God. Failure to do so leads to condemnation. An appropriate fear can save your life.

In fact, the foundation for knowing how to live well involves understanding who God is and offering God the appropriate respect and worship. Or as Proverbs puts it, “The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lordand acknowledging the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

The statement, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:8), does not teach us we should strive to eliminate all fear. Rather, if we have grown in loving God and loving others as ourselves, this verse informs us we have no reason to fear God’s judgment. However, people who are serving the evil one have good reason to fear.

So what should we think about a philosophy that eviscerates from every sermon every statement that might cause people to sense fear since they are in danger? How helpful is an exclusive diet of “We are safe” (Jeremiah 7:10)? Well, that has been heard before. And it did not do them much good either.

 

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They are the parents of two young men.

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