You come home late at night ready for a good night’s sleep. But you can’t find your key and don’t have your cell phone. You try to reason and tamp down the panic that is starting to surface. It is almost totally dark and you start to imagine all sorts of dreadful scenarios.At first you are angry at yourself and the situation, then in gradually mounting increments you experience—concern, worry, suspicion, fear and finally terror. Now try to imagine your 1st Century brethren in Christ whose fears were genuine as they hid in caves and catacombs.
Sometimes fear is like the above illustration in that it hibernates and increases until the adrenaline kicks into the fight or flight mode. At other times it seems to pass through all those stages almost instantaneously. There seems to be a very tenuous line between confidence and peace and fear. All the platitudes of those not involved in the cold, paralyzing reality of the moment usually ring hollow when we are the ones passing through the “valley of the shadow of death.” (Ps 23:4)
How then should the Christian cope with such a perverse enemy as death? As always, they rely on God’s promises. When confronted with the actual physical death in battle, God says to the children of Israel, “…do not be fainthearted, afraid or terrified, The Lord your God will fight for you…” (Dt 20:3) (Dt 1:21) When Pharaoh tried to kill Moses, he was afraid but God rescued him. (Ex 2:14-15) Christ’s apostles were afraid of death in the winds and waves but Jesus asked, “…why are you so afraid?” right before he calmed the storm. (Mt 8:26) Jesus also told the synagogue ruler, Jairus, not to be afraid, just believe, and then healed his daughter. (Mk 5:36)
It is not only in life or death situations that we hear God saying, “Do not be afraid.” In our daily struggles with Satan and other humans He continually tells us not to fear. “Let not your hearts be troubled” (Jo 14:27) “The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Heb 13:6) “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” (Ps 27:1) In many other verses God reassures us that He is right there with us. (Ge 26:24) (Ps 56:3-4) etc. Even if our life should be taken, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” (Mt 10:28) He will be there to transport our soul to glory. (1 Thes 4:16-18)