If you are a child of the ’90s (or had a child of the ’90s), chances are you watched Nickelodeon’s “Rugrats” at some point. One of the show’s main characters was a toddler named Chuckie Finster. The kid was afraid of everything, despite being one of the oldest in their posse of miniature troublemakers. It was for this reason, along with his allergies and nerd-ish tendencies, that I really identified with Chuckie. I, too, was the kid afraid of much of life.
To some degree, fear is healthy. Children need to fear hot stoves to avoid getting burned, angry dogs to avoid being bitten or wicked witches to understand the plot of most stories aimed at their demographic. Adults too need a healthy sense of fear, the kind that comes from respect. Respectful fear of deadlines keeps us from laziness and apathy. Respectful fear of authority keeps us accountable and humble. Respectful fear of God keeps His holiness and our smallness in perspective.
This is the kind of fear Proverbs 9:10 refers to when it says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and the same fear other verses imply that remind us of His mighty deeds. The Father of Creation deserves our awe and worship.
Unfortunately, there is another kind of fear. The lifestyle of fear. This is what those like Chuckie (and I) have to conquer each time we try something new or encounter a potentially risky situation. 2 Timothy 1:7 calls it a “spirit of fear.” But is it NOT a spirit that we have been given by God.
Instead, the spirit we were intended to walk in is a spirit of power, love and a sound mind (or self-discipline, depending on which translation you use).
How do we know which fear we are faced with? To compare with the examples above, a lifestyle or spirit of fear is when a child stops walking into the kitchen at all because they fear the stove, when they cry at the mere sight of dogs, when they can’t watch movies or read books because of the villain. Adults might be living in a spirit of fear when the thought of deadlines makes us physically ill or shuts us down mentally, when we fear authority to the point of constant rebellion or blind submission, or perhaps most tragically, when we see God as unapproachable, angry, vengeful or scary. We are under a spirit of fear when we lose our soundness of mind, when we surrender our power as confident children of the King and forget the vast love we have been given to give away.
We know we are living in a spirit of fear when:
- fear drives our decisions instead of wisdom
- fear drives our emotional state instead of peace
- fear drives our faith instead of love
The good news is we can be free of the spirit of fear to walk in respect-based holy fear. It is a process. A journey. Sometimes it takes time, work and the help of friends, mentors, maybe even anxiety medicine or phobia counselors, but healing is promised us as loved children of God.
“There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life — fear of death, fear of judgment — is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love — love and be loved.”
– 1 John 4:18-19 (The Message)