Fear demands courage. Courage requires fear.
They can’t live without each other. If you’ve ever been afraid and you’re still here, it’s because of courage. Courage to pray. Courage to put one foot in front of the other. Courage to stand strong, courage to get back on your feet when you fall.
And we wouldn’t need courage if there was no fear.
Fear is a training ground for courage. How would we know how strong we truly are, or understand our potential, or begin to grasp God’s greatness if we never experienced fear?
I don’t think it’s fair to tell a person not to be afraid. Yes, the Bible instructs us not to fear, and purportedly it does so 365 times. I’ve heard it, and I believe it. But I don’t think it means to deny our fear. Denial of our emotions is the beginning of disaster. Denial of our emotions can, and almost certainly will, over time, cause or contribute to potentially severe health issues (high blood pressure, heart attacks, severe and ongoing headaches, diabetes, autoimmune issues and so much more). Denial of our emotions can, and often does, take a severe and sometimes irreversible toll on our mental health (nervous breakdowns, depression, anxiety, and even suicide). And then there’s our spiritual life. Denying our emotions can dramatically strain our relationship with God, our sense of purpose, and the wellness in our soul that comes from being able to live in a place of hope. Finally, our relational life takes a beating when we deny our emotions (divorce, infidelity, alienation of family and friends and on and on).
Some folks label emotions as “good” and “bad.” I’ve done it myself, in the interest of brevity and simplicity. But I think it’s tricky and dangerous to call fear a “bad” emotion. It’s perfectly valid. It must be, because it is God-given. It serves a healthy purpose, to warn us off from taking harmful actions or engaging in detrimental behaviors. What I think the Scriptures are saying is not to never experience fear, but rather not to unpack and camp out in a place of fear; not to let it take over our emotional, physical, spiritual and relational wellbeing; not to let it drive or control our hearts, minds or actions.
Feel the fear. Confess the fear. Pray about the fear. Find a trusted confidant and talk about/cry about/rail against/scream about the fear. But let it be like an afternoon thundershower. When it’s over, see the light of hope. Feel the freshness of grace on your skin. Sense the renewal on the horizon. And then look closer. Look inside. Look for him. Can you see him? There he is, reaching out to you. Take his hand. Let Jesus help you up, and even lean on him. It’s one of the reasons he’s here. Allow him to introduce you to the Victor in you (1 Cor. 6:19). Allow the fear, accept the help, and dig deep for the courage that is in you. Lift your chin a little higher and march on, wiser and stronger for your inevitable encounter with fear.