What is it with fear?

This weekend, I went to the movies with my two oldest kids. Shocker of all shockers – we were early! Which means we got to see the trailers. All was fun and fine until my daughter turned to me and said, “Don’t watch this!”

Hilarious that she’s telling me to avert my eyes. The tables sure have been turned. Does that mean I’m old? … Probably best to not answer.

“This is a trailer for It,” she loud-whispers.

I guess there’s a Take-2 for that gem. And though I never saw it (scary movies and I have never been friends) I know I don’t want to. I look over at my young adult kids and both of them have their ears closed and eyes down. I take their lead and do the same. At the creepy music climax-end of the trailer, we look up. What can we do but laugh.

So, we might have looked silly – but seriously, who wants to invite fear? Especially that late night kind that leads your thoughts into eerie places where clowns hide and pop out of closet doors. Not us.

Because it’s usually at night, in the dark, that fears rise.

Case in point, I had a kid poking my arm around midnight. I don’t know if it was the storm that barreled through Dallas this weekend (the strength of it and almost instant destruction sort of unnerved him) or something he saw that grabbed his thoughts, making him afraid. But there he stood, “Mom – I can’t sleep.”

And to me, one of the greatest delights in parenting (even in friendship) is getting to reassure and comfort. The opportunities never stop, even as the kids get older, since life seems to always have surprises pop-outs behind doors or around corners at all ages. I honestly relish the chance to encourage and remind. Maybe because I get to hear the reassurance too, “Everything is okay.”

Fear is an interesting topic. One that deserves a minute or two of contemplation to put it in its place. Especially since afraid and fear seem to be two different things.

From what I can tell, there are three types of fear.

  • Instinctive: amazing fight or flight, literally sewn into the fabric of our bodies for protection.
  • Man-centric: fear that is informed by the world – pressures, stress, worry, anxieties that can instantly overwhelm as they find life in afraid
  • Holy fear: God-centric – not afraid of, more along the lines of utter respect, actually the only solid-ground place of safety

Fear at its core involves and relies on things that are not seen. Besides instinctive, fear lives in our minds where mind-sight is not 20/20. And once ignited, fear finds life in a transfer of trust. Meaning that I act on what I’ve decided is going to happen or on perceived fall-out from things that have happened.

It’s a tiny bit of a mind-bender, but one I’ve been thinking about this week as our summer Bible study has been contemplating faith. And it dawned on me that faith isn’t just attached to religion. It’s at play in any arena where limited-view seating prompts the need to act on that which we can’t see. Like worry, anxiety, expectation, anticipation, and fear (plus probably a few more.)

A key to managing fear (and other un-seens) is considering where our mind and thoughts are anchored.

Dallas Willard, one of our great philosophical thinkers shares:

Now we need to understand that what simply occupies our mind very largely governs what we do. It sets the emotional tone out of which our actions flow, and it projects the possible courses of action available to us. Also the mind, though of little power on its own, is the place of our widest and most basic freedom. … Of all the things we do, we have more freedom with respect to what we will think of, where we will place our mind, than anything else.

Therefore, the lenses through which we see and the consideration of what is captivating our thoughts is important to acknowledge. Especially since we have a choice, actually a faith-choice. The choice between which unseen to trust and upon which to act. Do I linger in and act on my fears – OR – do I linger in and act on holy-fear?

Speaking in Psalm 46, God offers a helpful directive: “Be still and know that I am God.” From His mouth, to our ears – life-giving instruction for our benefit.

 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

There’s much to learn about thoughts anchored by Him and in Him – his dominion (Lord of Hosts: literally “the Self-Existent Universal Sovereignty”, Lord over everything in heaven and on earth”), God of Jacob (Creator, who sees and knows all, faithful to all generations), powerful, mighty, warrior, ruler… the list goes on.

Be still and know

Still might imply physical activity. But still as it applies to the mind is equally, if not exceedingly, important. Thoughts anchored, thoughts set “on things above”, thoughts seeking to “retain the knowledge of God” so that they are not “given over to a depraved mind.” (Colossians 3:2, Romans 1:28) reveal the power to put world-centric issues in their place.

Because, truth be told, our lives are hidden with Christ in God. We don’t have to take the world’s bait. Especially as children of God (Romans 8:16), because the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

So – are we giving our thoughts over to unseen things attached to things of this world (things that can prompt fear, anxieties, worry, etc.) or to things unseen attached to God? The latter gives, rather than steals, life as we:

  • Remember whose we are: You are mine. (Isaiah 43)
  • Remember your worth: You are precious to me. (Isaiah 43)
  • Remember you are redeemed: The old has gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore,
we will not fear.

Fear intersects with faith (sure of that for which we hope, certainty of what is not seen.) And faith prompts action, transfer-points of trust. So, a question for today: in and to what are we transferring our trust? Man-centric reasoning? Or Holy-fear (respect)/trust in and God.

Hmmm…. a little spiritual food for thought for the day. What’s got you thinking today?

Thanks for walking the road with me.


By faith, Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. Hebrews 11:5

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