Freedom from Fear

Generous Stewards, African man smiling Freedom from fear is not an esoteric neverland. Some of us – maybe most of us – have seen it in a person’s action or life at some time. A rescuer saves a child from a fire or flood. A wartime buddy aids a soldier, or a stranger helps someone stranded by the road. A survivor of abuse gathers courage within to face it and move on. Freedom from fear can happen – perhaps especially when we think we’re not capable of it, or worthy, or the right person for the job. It’s grace that prods us to do something, or to be so much larger and deeper than we thought we were.

How can we get free of fear? The first thing is to acknowledge the process has nothing to do with self-help. As with all spiritual realities, this is never an “up by my own bootstraps” kind of thing. Yes, it seems to require deliberate openness on our part and regular intentionality, but all of that, and more, begins as a gift of God and continues as a gift, to be able to even imagine walking through such fearful situations and coming out the other side. It’s a moment-by-moment thing, never to be taken for granted.

Maybe one of the most helpful ways to get free of human fear is to begin with the “fear of God.” I don’t mean terror in reaction to an abusive cosmic parent, but fear in the sense of awe – the overwhelming reality of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, who is also our Redeemer. The word “redeemer” in Hebrew is go’el: an advocate who is closer to each of us than any other person in this world or the next. When we start from that vantage point, our fear is put in a much larger context.

Psalm 111:10 gives us an important hint of how to focus on God in fearful circumstances. It says, “The fear of [God the Name]is the beginning of wisdom. All those who practice it have a good understanding. God’s praise endures forever!”

I like that. Encountering God – looking for the real, Living God – doesn’t deny our human fears, but puts them in a larger perspective: looking at life through God’s eye (even if just for a moment). And that’s the beginning of wisdom: both specific discernment and big-picture understanding. It’s just the beginning of wisdom. But sometimes beginning is enough.

Betsy Schwarzentraub