Where Do You Run?

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells us to not be anxious about anything (Phil 4:6). God commands His people dozens of times in the Old Testament to “fear not” (Isa 41:10, Isa 43:1, Josh 1:9). Jesus even rebuked His disciples for having fear in the midst of a massive storm (Matt 8:26).

Despite His commands, being fearless is difficult; seemingly impossible at times! Part of the trouble stems from the nature of the sin. Fear and anxiety are internal emotions—something we feel. We can’t always control what we feel…right? And if we are not supposed to fear ever, then why do we even have fears in the first place?

Fear has many faces: anxiety, panic, and PTSD, to name a few. All of these types of fears have this in common: they come from the heart and they call us to action. They give one message: something I value is under threat. In the right context, fear moves us toward taking protective action and therefore has a purpose in a fallen world.

The problem with this is that, in such a fallen world, God’s perfect design can be distorted. Even before the fall, before there were threats to what we hold dearest, Adam and Eve knew fear. Before sin entered the world, fear existed in its proper place—a holy fear, directed in awe, reverence, and wonder at their Creator. However, as soon as Adam and Eve chose to not fear God’s command, their fear distorted. Rather than a fear of God, they began to be afraid of Him. Where they once ran to Him as their protector and provider, now they ran and hid from Him as the threat to their safety. In an attempt to leave behind our one true fear—God—we have opened Pandora’s box to a thousand others, filling the world with pain and suffering.

If it wasn’t for God, our story would end there. Mankind would be fleeing from God in perpetuity and running to any semblance of refuge we could find. However, God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah that He would later write fear in the hearts of His people that they will not sin. Somehow, fear is both the ailment and the cure. He writes:

I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. (Jeremiah 32:37-41)

This passage shows us the redemptive side of fear when in its proper place.

Fear of God is for our good (32:39). Properly placed fear causes us to run toward God, not away (32:40). Properly placed fear recognizes that God at any time can destroy us, but He chooses to rejoice in us, plant us in faithfulness and do good to us (32:40-41). Our lives are in the hands of a good and merciful God. He may not be safe—He still requires of us that we die—but not that we do so alone. Our God is with us.

Consider how fear may be impacting you. Here are three things I remind those I counsel: 1) God is with you; you are not alone. 2) Take time to identify what desires are causing your fear, and cling to truth found in Scripture. 3) Steward your physical body by sleeping, getting enough exercise and eating well. What one step can you take today to put fear in it’s proper place and run towards God?

Britney Hagsten