If you ask me what I’m most afraid of, get ready for a spider horror story. Usually, people tend to accept my arachnophobia without much objection. But, for the occasional skeptic, I’m always ready to defend my fear of spiders with a lovely narrative about how four-year-old me was bitten by a poisonous spider, unable to walk once the venom settled in my leg, and forced to endure the traumatizing procedure of getting an anti-venom shot. Generally, this is an accepted form of justification.
Unfortunately, life is not so simple that a nickel-sized, eight-legged creature is the biggest source of fear one could possibly encounter. An honest reflection of our hearts would reveal that we harbor much darker fears than aversions to deep water, wasps, and heights. Everyone knows about the kind of fear that robs a girl of sleep by night and strips her of joy by day.
Isolation. Rejection. Failure. Emotional pain. Financial instability. Insecurity.
Just like any other human struggle from selfishness to lust, fear is inevitable. Perhaps this is why fear is one of the most discussed emotions in the Bible; over 300 times God commands his children to not be afraid.
This does not mean we should completely eliminate fear from our lives. Fear can be a very good thing. It’s necessary to a healthy, happy life. Fear is the thing that tells us when it’s time to give up on the over-the-counter meds and go to the doctor. Fear reminds us not to text and drive or leave our doors unlocked at night.
Sometimes though, fear tries to micromanage our minds; it takes on an authority it was never equipped to handle. This is when we must put fear back in its place. Fear is going to come, but it does not have to possess authority over our lives.
One of the most relatable biblical characters who experienced fear is the disciple Peter. Most often, Peter is known for his incorrect response to fear. Out of fear for his reputation and life Peter denies that he knows Jesus three times in one evening, and after Jesus’ resurrection Peter can be found hiding with the other disciples behind locked doors from the Jewish leaders. Once Jesus restores and commissions Peter into his service, though, Peter’s response to fear drastically changes.
As far as history tells us in the book of Acts, Peter was the first disciple to publicly preach the gospel, and, along with John, the first Christian arrested for his faith. Once Peter and John were released, Acts 2 records that the men, “went to their own people and reported everything the chief priests and the elders had said to them.” There they prayed, “Lord, consider their threats and grant that your slaves may speak Your message with complete boldness” (Acts 2:23, 29).
A prayer for boldness doesn’t come from a man who is already feeling fully courageous. A prayer for boldness comes from a man who recognizes fear in his life and knows that he must turn his fear over to the Lord. Peter didn’t lose the ability to feel fear somewhere in the pages between John 20 and Acts 4. He did however, gain the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a new perspective on what it means to be afraid.
Fear should alert us to our need for Christ. That is its true purpose. If fear drives us into hiding, convinces us to start manipulating others, or causes us to take up complaining and accusing, Satan has does his job well. We’ve let our emotions draw us into sin. But, if we learn from Peter’s example, we will instead respond to fear by asking God for boldness to defy the lies we tell ourselves about fear. When this happens, we truly become more than conquerors, bold and courageous soldiers of the Lord who bring light into a world full of people who are afraid of the night.