Last week, we began a 3-part study on how to handle fear. We took a look at the “Frozen by Fear” approach and saw that it is an unwise and unbiblical way to deal with our fears. We simply can’t “do nothing” in most scary situations and still be pleasing to God.
So let’s examine another possibility this week:
APPROACH #2: THE “MISPLACED FEAR” APPROACH
What does this particular approach to fear look like?
Imagine this scenario: Something happens in our life that causes fear, and instead of doing nothing, we base our response to the situation solely upon the source/cause of our fear. Although there are other factors that need to be considered, we either don’t see them, or we choose to ignore them. This response to fear may – if only in our minds – temporarily “fix” the situation, but we often discover that our fear was misplaced and that we were afraid of the wrong thing/person.
This approach is typically accompanied by a desire to be liked, loved, or accepted by others, and/or an incomplete knowledge of God’s Word on any given subject. There is something we don’t want to “lose,” and it becomes the driving force in our decision-making. In these situations, we have a desire to avoid what we perceive to be the “immediate consequences,” and generally, our thinking tends to be short-term. This approach might also go hand-in-hand with self-pity, sadness, insecurity, or even depression.
In Scripture, we have several examples of this kind of response/approach towards fear. Let’s briefly take a look at 3 of them:
1. Elijah – I Kings 19 – In this chapter, Elijah had just proven the power and superiority of God during his “showdown” with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18). After returning to Jezreel, Elijah learns that Queen Jezebel has vowed to have him killed within the next 24 hours (I Kings 19:2). Elijah’s fear of Jezebel takes over and causes him to leave his servant behind in Beersheba and run into the wilderness. His perception of reality becomes distorted and inaccurate, and he even asks God to take his life (vs. 3-4). Elijah certainly didn’t “do nothing” as a result of this fear, but his approach indicates a misplaced fear that subsequently showed a very “human” side of this great servant of God.
2. Pilate – John 19 – In this passage, Pilate seemed to know that Jesus was innocent of the things the He had been accused of, and that He had done nothing worthy of crucifixion (Jn. 18:38; 19:4, 6, 12). Pilate had the earthly power to either crucify or release Jesus, and he knew which decision was the right one to make (19:10); however, because of his fear of the Jews causing a riot and perhaps affecting his position of power/authority, he decided to “wash his hands” of the matter and turn Jesus over to be crucified (Mt. 27:24). Pilate allowed his misplaced fear of the Jews to influence him because his position was more important to him than doing the right thing. Even though he tried to “wash his hands” of this decision, his guilt remained.
3. Peter – Gal. 2 – In Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, he talks about a situation where the apostle Peter accepted the Gentile Christians into close fellowship and ate with them publicly. At some point, though, “certain men [Jewish Christians] came from James,” which caused Peter to “withdraw and separate himself” from these Gentile Christians. Why did he do this? We are told in Gal. 2:12 that it was because he feared “those who were of the circumcision.” This was wrong, sinful, and hypocritical, and Paul “called him out” for it (vs. 11-21). Even the apostle Peter sometimes allowed his misplaced fear of the wrong people/things to control his decision-making!
Although Pilate is certainly not one of our spiritual “heroes,” can we take some comfort and encouragement in the fact that both Elijah and Peter (two great men of God) took the wrong approach to fear from time to time in their lives? We can be thankful that God chose to include these mistakes within His Word, giving us a clear picture of these men as imperfect people who often needed correction and encouragement!
Have we allowed our fear of the wrong things/people to lead us into sin? I certainly have, and I pray that God will help me as I try to navigate these difficult situations!
May He bless you and keep you from this deceptive approach towards the fear in your life!