Fighting Fear with Fear

Betty blue bordered (2)We’ve looked at fighting fear from a psychological perspective; we’ve talked about thinking positively, acting in spite of fear, and respecting reasonable fear.

This week, let’s turn to fighting fear spiritually. In Courage: Fighting Fear with Fear, authors Wayne and Joshua Mack remind us that nurturing fear is not part of God’s plan for us. Repeatedly, 365 times even, the Old and New Testaments instruct us not to fear. For the Macks, when Jesus tells us, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me (John 14:1),” He is giving a command, not a soft encouragement. God wants us to be in relationship with Him, and that relationship is meant to be one of love and trust. Worrying shows a lack of trust, a disbelief that God is all-powerful, loves us unconditionally, and wants what is best for us. To be afraid of people and what they think of us borders on or is outright disobedience, because we should only be concerned with following God’s guidance. In fact, by nurturing fear, we often fail to be our best selves, and fail to live out the life of meaning that God intends us to live, thus cheating ourselves and others of the graces He wishes to bestow.

The words of the title, Fighting Fear with Fear, refer to replacing our fear of man with a healthy, holy fear of God. This concept has bothered me since I was a child. Why should we fear God, if He is all loving and all good?

An alternate translation of “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread,” (Isaiah 8:13) is instead, “The Lord of Hosts, Him shall you hallow.” To hallow means to make holy, to have great respect or hold in reverence. It can mean to sanctify, as in setting apart as holy. If we “fear” God, as in hold Him in respect and awe while setting Him apart as exalted above all else, we recognize his complete power and control of every situation. If we set God apart as holy, He becomes our holy place. Our refuge. We turn away from sin because we “fear” God, respecting and honoring Him with our actions and choices. Yes, we may suffer, but we trust His plan will transform our suffering to good.

The authors point out that frequently in the Bible, the commands for us to fear God are followed by promises of consequential blessings to us:

  • God will instruct us and guide us in our choices. (Psalm 25:12)
  • Our souls will abide in prosperity. (Ps 25:13) And what is soul prosperity? Direction and meaning in life, inner joy and satisfaction, inner peace.
  • Our descendants shall inherit the earth. (Ps 25:13, Ps 112:2) The positive influence will affect our children and our grandchildren
  • The psalm continues saying the secret of the Lord is for us. This implies a very close intimacy, for it is only with our dearest that we share our secrets. (Ps 25:14)
  • He hides us from the conspiracies of man. (Ps 31:20)
  • We will influence others, even after our death. (Ps 112:6)
  • We will not fear evil tidings. (Ps 112:7,8) 

Our fears put the focus on us, rather than our trust in God. Fear can be selfish and debilitating to what good we can accomplish. It runs counter to the two great commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 10:28) The Macks write, “When you fear man, you are not loving God with all you have, and you aren’t loving your neighbor as yourself.” The opposite of a spirit of fear is a spirit of love. The former is self-protecting, the latter is self-giving.

How do we rid ourselves of unhealthy fear?

  • Exercise our faith daily; trusting God’s Word that He is in control of everything.
  • Remember heaven and how eternal it is, compared to our current short-term worry.
  • Be prudent, protecting ourselves from real danger, but not to the point that it keeps us from serving others in need.
  • Ask ourselves if our fear keeps us from obeying God’s commands, or causes us to disobey them.
  • Replace sinful fear with holy fear, that which puts or keeps us on the right path.
  • Feel sorrow and repentance when we don’t trust God enough to overcome our fear of man. 

How do we attain a healthy “fear” of God?

  • Ask for a change of heart from God, that we might fear Him rather than anything or anyone else. We must ask for forgiveness and for this grace to fear Him.
  • Revere God and respect those whom God has given authority.
  • Devote ourselves to prayer.
  • Study God’s word.
  • Meditate on the truth: our sinfulness, God’s salvation, God’s goodness, His mighty works, His judgment, and His blessings. “Be still and know that I am God.” Ps 46:10
  • Follow Christ’s example, which includes taking up our cross and dying to ourselves. We must trust that since God is good, when we suffer it is for his purpose, and that purpose will be for our best, even though we don’t understand.

    Here’s my favorite quote from this week’s book, which wouldn’t be a bad addition to our daily affirmations:

    “God knows, God cares, God understands, God is loving, God is good, God is sovereign, He is in control, and He will deliver my soul from destruction and keep me in my times of difficulty. There is a way out. God will work all things together for good. He will not abandon me.” 

    Finally, in the words of St. Pope John Paul II: “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”


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