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Wednesday Word — July 1, 2020

July 1, 2020 | Jay T. Smith

To Fear, or Not to Fear?

If 2020 has been marked by any primary feeling or emotion, it has been fear. Merriam-Webster defines the noun “fear” as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat;” or “a feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something, or the safety and well-being of someone;” or “a mixed feeling of dread and reverence.”

Fear is something difficult for us to understand. It comes upon us and overwhelms us. It is one of the primal emotions. It takes quite a bit of will power to understand what is causing this fear and then cope with it.

In a time when our world is fighting an unpredictable and still little-known virus, that fear strikes us repeatedly: “Will I get it?”, “Will I die?”, “Will someone I know die?”, “When will it stop?”, “Will we ever return to the way it was?”…

This definition of fear focuses on danger, pain, threat, anxiety, and death. But notice the last word of the last entry: reverence. You see, the experience of fear is not all bad … Both the Hebrew and Greek definitions highlight “fear” as the overwhelming response to something challenging our understanding of life.

Fear is with us as a reminder that we are “contingent” beings. Our lives rely upon a balance of conditions in order to live. In other words, whether we like it or not, we are not self-sufficient. When something new and potentially life-threatening enters our ecosystem, fear and wonder are our natural reactions. Within seconds we can usually determine whether this new thing is life-taking or life-giving. If we determine the new thing to be life-taking, then we engage a “fight or flight” response. If we determine it to be life-giving, then we are filled with wonder and overwhelmed with the rapturous nature of existence itself.

Knowing this, here is what Jesus said about fear:

Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Matt. 10:26-31 NASB95)

Events, accidents, and confrontations happen to us in life, and they change us. Fear is our response to these life-altering events. Yet, we can cope and adjust to the illnesses, accidents, and even the life-taking violence. Jesus says that we should not get bogged down in fear of those things in this world that threaten our physical existence. What we should fear—stand in wonder, reverence and awe of—according to Jesus, is that which cannot only take our physical existence, but our soul as well—God the Father. Our existence, as the pinnacle of God’s creation, the human being with soul, is invaluable to our Father. Our response then to those things that threaten us should not be fright but resolution and calm. Those things cannot take our soul.

So, keep your eyes above looking towards the Father and Creator of all things in love, knowing that He will guide your steps, protect you, and catch you when you fall. It is love that guides us away from fear and into the Father’s arms: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” ( 1 John 4:18 NASB95)

Love deeply and fearlessly my friends.

Jay T. Smith

President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics

Dr. Jay Smith leads the Yellowstone Theological Institute as its president. Dr. Smith has served as minister of youth, music and as senior […]

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