“Get Over It!”   2 comments

“Fear Not!” occurs over 300 times in the English Bible.  It has always been a rebuke to me, or at least a challenge to obey.  After all, it is in the imperative mode—it is a command, and commands are to be obeyed.  Combined with Jesus’ rebuke of his disciples, “O ye of little faith,” I was tried and found wanting.  That was my take on it most of my life.

I am regularly amazed at how I blindly bring my own assumptions to Scripture.  As I receive insight from the Bible, I also shape that truth to my pre-set ideas.  I think to some extent this is inevitable, since we cannot make sense of a concept that will not somehow fit into our current worldview.  In this case, my assumption was that any word of Scripture in the imperative is a command, its primary address is to my will, and it requires obedience.

If I do fear when I shouldn’t, I am being disobedient and condemned by my conscience, and fearing this feeling of guilt, I try to force my feelings to submit, usually by impressing on my mind thoughts that will countermand my fear—talk my fear down, so to speak.  I was trying to eliminate my fear by increasing my fear (of something greater), and my greatest fear was losing God’s approval.

I remember when I started wondering about this.  Does a God of grace really want us to be afraid of Him, to doubt His grace?  Does the phrase “fear God,” which crops up way more often than “fear not” really mean that I should be afraid of God?  How does the gospel address this question?  How do we make sense of the Bible commanding us both to fear and to not fear… is God suggesting that He should be considered more scary than anything else… the Almighty Boogeyman?

As I wrestled over many months, perhaps years, with these questions, it dawned on me that the command mode in grammar is not always used as a call to obedience.  We commonly use the imperative to encourage or grant favors to others: “Have another piece of pie” or “Take your time.”  They are in the command mode, but are meant as gifts, not orders.  As someone departs town, we say, “Stay safe!”  Is this a blessing or a command, like parents scolding their teenager, “Drive safely!”  They have such very different responses in our souls.

I learned as a husband that I can easily intend a statement to ease my wife’s fears which only shames her instead.  She would be afraid of something happening, and I would feel sorry for her suffering in this way and try to give her relief by explaining to her why she did not need to be afraid.  “You don’t need to be afraid!  It is pretty unlikely that this will happen because ____________.”  I would try to explain away her fears, but she heard me saying, “It is stupid for you to be afraid.  Your feelings are completely unfounded.”  I seemed to be shaming her for her feelings.

Over time I learned to validate her feelings of fear, “I understand completely why this would make you afraid.  I mean consider X,Y,Z,” before I went on to try to calm her fears with some form of encouragement (the kind that works for her).  All my life I thought that expressing understanding for someone’s fear would actually support their feelings of fear, but I discovered that, magically, the opposite happened.  Hearing my empathy for their feelings (instead of arguments for not being afraid) seemed to relieve a lot of their anxiety.  They could see I was with them in their insecurity.

When God says, “Don’t Fear!” is he trying to calm our fears or shame them away?  Is it the voice of a tender father soothing his frightened little girl as he holds her tight, “It’s okay… I’m hear… don’t be afraid… I’ll protect you,” or is it the voice of a sergeant to his platoon, “Stop being afraid, you cowards!  What’s wrong with you?  Go out there and die like men!”  Which seems to yield more healthy results in our lives?


Posted June 28, 2011 by janathangrace in Personal

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2 responses to ““Get Over It!”

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  1. Bravo, Kent!

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