What Are You Afraid Of?

There once was this criminal who was caught committing a crime. He was sent to the king for his punishment. The king told him he had a choice of two punishments. He could be hung by a rope, or take what’s behind the big, dark, scary, mysterious iron door. The criminal quickly decided on the rope. As the noose was being slipped on him, he turned to the king and asked what was behind the scary door. The king laughed and said, “You know, it’s funny, I offer everyone the same choice, and nearly everyone picks the rope.”

The criminal, again asked what was behind the door, assuring the king he would tell no one as he pointed to the noose around his neck. The king answered, “Freedom, but it seems most people are so afraid of the unknown that they immediately take the rope.”

There are so many things to be afraid of in our world. What causes you the most fear? Do you have peladophobia, which is the fear of baldness? Perhaps you have chaetophobia, which is the fear of hairy people. Do you struggle with porphyrophobia, the fear of the color purple? Jerry Seinfeld once commented, “According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Some say that there are only two natural fears we face: the fear of falling and fear of loud noises. All the rest are learned fears. To this, comedian Steve Allen responded, “My greatest fear is screaming loudly while falling.” Psychiatrist William Sadler says, “The only known cure (for fear) is faith.”

When young David faced the very real and powerful giant, Goliath, he had every reason to be afraid, but he found courage in his faith. He told the king, “The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine (I Samuel 17:37).” The apostle Paul often faced impossible odds to do God’s work, but instead of struggling with fear he proclaimed, “I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).”

Martin Luther wrote these words about fear. “God and the devil take opposite tactics in regard to fear. The Lord first allows us to become afraid, that he might relieve our fears and comfort us. The devil, on the other hand, first makes us feel secure in our pride and sins, that we might later be overwhelmed with fear and despair.”

In his book Good News is for Sharing (p. 65), Leighton Ford shares five things to remember about conquering rational and irrational fears through faith. First, does this fear come basically from pride, a fear that I will not live up to my own expectations or to those of others? Second, do I remember that God has called me first to faithfulness, then to efficiency? Third, do I trust that the Holy Spirit is working before me, with me, and through me? Fourth, do I remember that I am called to be neither more nor less successful than Jesus Christ was? And finally, do I remember that God does his greatest work when I seem to be weakest? Isn’t that, after all, the mystery of the cross?

What is your greatest fear? How can faith help you overcome your fears? Think about your fears reflecting on the five questions above, and let God help you have the victory. When your fear has confronted you have you ever prayed, asking God to give you the courage, peace, or wisdom you need to overcome your fear?

Though we live in a fallen world, God does not desire us to be afraid. When we turn to him in faith we can conquer all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).