Pastoral Perspectives

Fear Factor

“I am afraid of caterpillars and insects!” said a girl to her classmates. Another one said, “I fear cockroaches”. People have different kinds of fear: some are fearful of being hit by vehicles, nuclear disaster, cyber terrorism, home break ins, being diagnosed with terminal illness, pandemic, wars, retrenchment, recession, fear of losing loved ones and dying. Some people fear failure. Some have “fear of missing out” (FOMO). If we read the newspapers, we will find that some of them make it to the news every day and it is a real fear factor for many. We live with some kind of fear, some more than others.

Being afraid of something or someone can drive us to fight or flee. Some are so afraid of the pandemic so much so that they do not come out anymore to crowded places like shopping malls, worship services, food courts etc. Some don’t even dare to leave the house. Some are afraid of dark- skinned people so they refuse to even look at them. Some work very hard to overcome their fears by going for therapy. All these reflect the deep-seated fears in us. It is a common human emotion.

Fear was not part of God’s original design. It began when Adam and Eve rejected God and sin entered the world. When God came looking for them, his response was, “I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid” (Gen 3:10). Sin entered the world and with it, came fear of all kinds. The world today still bears the hallmark of this tragedy that happened in the garden of Eden.

But our loving God did not leave us or abandon us in our fears. God brings comfort to His people by putting in place the redemptive plan. He brings comfort to us by calling us to come to Him and find our safety and security in him. The Heidelberg confession asks this pertinent question: ‘What is your only comfort in life and death?’ The answer is ‘That I am not my own, but belong -body and soul, in life and in death- to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.’

If we think about our fears and the times we go through it, we will realize that having someone to go through it with us brings comfort. Better still if someone can face it for us! Having someone to kill or chase away the cockroach will bring such a huge relief to those who have this phobia. Having someone stand in the gap for us to face our fears is probably the most comforting thing. The greatest comfort we can ever have is, knowing that we are not alone to face our greatest fear that we might have. God not only bore the brunt of our sin but stood in the gap by dying on the cross for us. God speaks tenderly to a people who are gripped by fear in Isaiah 40 that ‘her warfare is ended, and iniquity pardoned.’ Not only are our sins that brought about such fears forgiven, but God has also promised to dwell with us and be with us. 

King David wrote in Psalm 23:4:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.”

For many, their greatest fear is facing death. For some, it is the dying process that grips them with fear. And the wages of sin and everyone of us will face death. No one, not even the greatest person on earth can be spared from the sinful consequence of sin. While we journey on, we can take comfort in knowing that even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God’s presence with us is our greatest comfort. He will not abandon nor leave us because we belong to Him! In fact, even if we die, it won’t be the end. We will rise to be with Him in glory!

What is your greatest fear? How are you facing it? Does God’s presence with us bring any comfort to you? Do you feel like you belong to Jesus? Perhaps these are some questions that we need to be asking when and if we are gripped by fear. In Ps 46, a city that is gripped by fear is comforted with these words – “God is our refuge and strength.” What can be more terrifying than the description given in Ps 46:2-3? The earth giving way, mountains being moved to the middle of the sea, waters roaring and foaming while the mountains tremble? Just as the psalmist is comforted that God is our refuge and strength, we need not fear because the Lord is watching over His people.

Eventually we will experience ultimate peace in the city of God where peace like a river flows eternally (Rev 22:1-5) That River brings life and healing to His people. We will ultimately be comforted and be at peace as we live with him forevermore where there will be no more fear!

As we think about our fears and how it drives us to do many things, may the comforting words of the psalmist remind us to be still from our endless strivings and know that He is God. May we not be gripped by the fears of the world but by the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom. And may we live fearlessly, not because we are safe from our fears but because we fear the true living God who is able to comfort, defend, protect and be with us as His children now and forevermore.