For several years we had a cat that liked to be left alone. She was a stray that showed up in our garage and we couldn’t get her to leave. After several weeks, we gave in, realizing that the cat had chosen us as her family, and we accepted her as a permanent resident.
She wasn’t a difficult cat. You barely saw her. She would find places in the garage to hide and only come out in the evenings. Even then, if you went to pet her, she would run away. I guess you could call her a scaredy cat.
On more than one occasion, I’d be looking for something in the garage and she would jump out unexpectantly and scare me! I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly like jumping out of my skin because an unforeseen cat jumps out of its hiding place.
I also didn’t like her jumping out because it is such a cliché in scary movies. You’ve seen it, I’m sure. Someone hears a noise and goes to investigate, the music gets intense, and all of a sudden, a cat jumps out of somewhere, scaring everyone in the theatre, except those who know it’s coming. It’s always a cat too! Well, unless it’s an insane clown.
Do you like to be scared? Do you like the feeling of shock, surprise, and foreboding?
Some seek fear, others avoid fear, but one thing is for sure, we are all afraid of something. Scary movies may not scare us much, but there’s something out there that certainly does scare us.
Fear is the most ancient and common emotion we experience. According to Dr. Kerry Ressler, who is the director of the Neurobiology of Fear Laboratory at McLean Hospital, “fear is the most evolutionarily conserved behavioral reflex for survival.” He also says that we experience fear in the same way for all of human history. We are all afraid of something.
What are you afraid of? Being fired? Getting sick? A death in your family? Your own death? Even the more “fearless” among us are afraid of something.
The Bible tells us to fear God and goes as far as to say the “fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).” When we read such statements, it seems odd. God loves us, why would we ever fear God? Sometimes we redefine this fear as “a healthy dose of respect” which is appropriate, but maybe there’s something deeper here in all this “fear God” stuff.
We tend to avoid what we fear. Not only do we avoid what we fear, but we also attempt to structure our lives to avoid what we fear. We buy security systems because we are afraid of a break-in. We increase our savings and put money in 401Ks because we are afraid we won’t have enough in retirement, or that we won’t be able to retire. We structure our lives to avoid that which we fear.
We never realize that what we fear becomes our God. Think about it for a moment. If we go around changing our entire life to avoid certain things, situations, or experiences, we are allowing fear to determine our lives. In those areas, fear takes on a god-like role. We bow at the altar of our fears, allowing them to determine the pathway of our life.
No wonder the Bible tells us to fear! There is only one we should truly fear and Jesus points this out in Luke 12:3-6. The crowds gathered around Jesus, but he first spoke to his disciples and told them to beware of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and not to fear those who can simply kill and do nothing more. Instead, he tells them to fear the one who has “authority to cast into hell…”
That’s a pretty sobering warning! But Jesus isn’t finished. He goes on to point out how important sparrows are to God and that “even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6)
In that short passage, Jesus says two things: 1) Fear God, 2) But don’t be afraid because you are loved! Jesus literally says to fear God, but don’t be afraid.
In some ways, that doesn’t make sense, but in other ways, it makes perfect sense. If we structure our lives according to our fears, they become our gods. However, if God is our God that means we only fear God, but the good news is that the God we fear, is the One who loves us more than any other. So….we don’t have to be afraid.
Not only does wisdom begin with the fear of God, but freedom also does. We are free to face whatever situation comes our way with confidence and courage because we are loved and there is only One we fear…and that One has our back.