Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Function of Fear

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? Psalms 56:3-4

As we saw in yesterday’s devotion, fear can cause a great deal of damage in our lives.  However, fear can also play a healthy role in our lives.  God created us with this emotion and its power for a very specific reason.  So, what is the function of fear? When is it helpful? When is it harmful?  Let’s take a closer look at what fear does for us. 

Because life is full of dangerous situations, fear is not only unavoidable but often necessary.  In the realm of emotions, fear is like friction.  Too much friction heats things up, wears them out prematurely, and hinders movement.  With too little friction, things can quickly get out of control and dangerous.  That’s true about fear as well.  We need fear to keep things from spinning dangerously out of control. But too much fear can suffocate creativity and reduce life to mere survival.

A certain amount of fear and anxiety is good for us. Healthy fear can serve us well by:

1.    Warning us of danger. The primary function of healthy fear is to warn us of danger.  It alerts us to our vulnerability and urges us to take precautions.  It’s foolish not to be afraid when the shrillness of a blaring smoke alarm pierces the stillness of a restful night’s sleep.  You would be ignoring a warning signal that danger lurks nearby and you are at risk.

·      In much the same way that pain functions in the body to alert us that we’ve been injured and are in need of medical assistance, fear grabs our attention and prepares us for dealing with danger by either getting out of harm’s way or by confronting the danger head-on.

·      The Bible illustrates the healthiness of self-preserving fear in the presence of danger.  On several occasions, David fled for fear of his life from the presence of a jealously murderous King Saul.  Joseph and Mary, in obedience to an angel that spoke to him in a dream, fled from Bethlehem and escaped to Egypt because they feared the wicked King Herod would attempt to kill Jesus.

In all these cases, fear was appropriate because the danger was real. It isn’t cowardly or wrong to be afraid of life-threatening danger. When recognized and heeded, the warning alarm of fear can help us to live wisely and more safely in a dangerous world.

2.    Motivating us to excel. All of us deal with deadlines of one sort or another. If you don’t meet them, you’re dead! Or at least you wish you were. Properly harnessed, the fear of failure can be a powerful motivation to do your best.  The apostle Paul spoke of the fear of God’s final judgment as a powerful motivation in his ministry to persuade others of the hope of the gospel.  Not only did he want others to escape the wrath of God as their judge, but he also wanted the approval of God as he stood before Him for his reward.

But fear is not always a friend. It can go awry—and often does. When it does, it becomes a foe to be reckoned with.  We will share some thoughts on that tomorrow.  Today, recognize that healthy fear can be a protection and a motivator.  To say it simply, we must not fear fear.  Properly handled fear can be an asset to our lives.  Thank God today for the way He made us to live in a fallen world.

Scripture to Claim:
Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin."  Exodus 20:19-20  

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