Society has been turned upside down. We have been jolted from our couches of ease by the spread of the coronavirus. It has created panic and hysteria as we have been given directives as to how we should and shouldn’t conduct our daily activities. We have been removed from our comfort zone and as a result fear has gripped the hearts of many. Jesus spoke of coming days when the foundations will be shaken and “men’s hearts failing them for fear (phobos)” (Luke 21:26).
The Greek word for fear in Luke 21:26 is φόβος (phobos), which means to “flee, withdrawal, to avoid because of dread or fright, to remove oneself from because of feeling inadequate, withdraw from without sufficient resources.” In Greek mythology Phobos (fear) was the offspring of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess associated with love, and Ares, the Greek god of war. Phobos (fear) had a twin brother named Deimos (terror). Phobos (fear) and Deimos (terror) were known for accompanying their father Ares into battle. In time Phobos (fear) became the personification of fear brought about by war. For the Greeks the word carried with it the idea of running away from, of fleeing panic-stricken from a battle.
We experience many wars in our lives and fear often appears alongside terror, fears twin brother, making us want to flee. Fear is the opposite of courage, the opposite of enduring with fortitude, the opposite of peace. Today as the result of lives being upended from the pandemic scare, we see people responding in panic and fear. People are fearful they or a loved one will catch it, fearful they will suffer financial loss, fearful of having to change their comfortable lifestyles, fearful that this could be the end of life as we have previously known it, and fearful of sailing uncharted waters.
Fear is a paralyzing emotion. Fear grips the soul when one feels they have lost control and that they are powerless to change the situation. Fear causes people to withdraw; to respond negatively attitudinal, such as paranoia and cynical. Fear, a well, can be detrimental to our physical well-being. Fear results in the loss of one’s creativity as one hunkers down instead of being innovative and productive.
When events shake the very foundation of our lives, what are we to do? For the Christian, the message that surrounds the Christ event is filled with “fear nots.” When the angel delivered the news to Mary she would give birth to the Christ Child, she was greeted with, “Fear not.” When the angels appeared to the shepherds on the first Christmas night their announcement began with, “Fear not.” All through Jesus’ ministry He proclaimed, “Fear not.” When the women appeared at the tomb of Jesus they were greeted by an angelic message, “Fear not.” The Gospel message is saturated with “fear nots.”
What is the cure for fearing not? In speaking of the love of God, John writes, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18). Anytime we find ourselves giving birth to emotions separated from the Love of our heavenly Father, fear will result. Trust, though, casts our fear. The Greek verb translated “cast out” in First John 4:18 is in present tense, active voice; meaning it continually casts out fear no matter the circumstances. Charles Spurgeon was once visiting a farmer and noticed on top of his barn a weathervane which read “God is love.” Spurgeon asked the farmer, “You mean God’s love is fickled like the wind, ever changing?” To which the ol’ farmer replied, “No, it means whichever way the wind blows God is still love.” That’s it! Understanding the eternal sureness of such love will not produce fear, no matter which way the circumstances of life blow.
One who is fully resting in the holy-love and grace of the sovereign God, what has he to fear or flee from? One whose sins are forgiven, and whose heart is filled with the knowledge of the love of God in Christ for them, has nothing to dread in this world or the world to come, because they know nothing can separate them from the love of God which is Christ Jesus (Romans 9:35-39). Resting in the love that was demonstrated on Calvary’s Hill, His holy-love being victorious over sin, death, and the devil, should free one from the apprehension of what is to come and all dread in regard to the future. Knowing we have a Savior who supplies us with resources which are more than adequate to sustain us, casts aside fear of the unknown.
He whispers to us amidst the panic of the day, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isiah 41:10). The remedy for fear is: even in the midst of uncertainty we abide in the love of Christ, whom we trust as in control and holds all things in the palms of his hands, even our very life.