I previously wrote that Christians aim to live a life that is centered on God, but you can also avoid one. I want to discuss this by looking at the life of Jonah so that you won’t avoid a God-centered life but cultivate one. You can avoid it for a...
“Fear is a liar,” my friend says to me with some regularity. And she’s right. Fear cleverly disguises itself as wisdom or maturity, even logic. Often as we try to problem solve through fear, we either convince ourselves that complete avoidance of the object of fear is achievable, or that we are doomed and powerless against it. Both tempt us to either covet God’s position as master and commander over our lives, or to doubt the very attributes that make him God.
Fear is as nasty as it is clever. It clings with surprising strength; pulling us down into sin, fooling us into thinking our God is nowhere to be found. This has been my experience more times than I’d like to admit. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, I’ve learned to ask the Lord to bring to my mind three things – his goodness, his bigness, and his beauty. They are the antidotes to fear.
Because we are finite, we tend to superimpose a finite nature onto our infinite God. We fear that, like us, his patience will wear thin and his mercy is exhaustible. We think his capacity for giving must be constrained by things like time and resources.
Thoughts like these take up more space in our hearts and minds than we know. Otherwise, why are we so quick to fear when trouble comes, and so slow to trust?
But the glorious truth is that our God is not like us in so many ways. Namely, his perfection makes his goodness limitless. When Scripture speaks of God’s goodness, over and over we see words like “abundant,” “good to all,” “endures forever,” “steadfast” (Psalm 31:19; 145:9; 107:1; Exodus 34:6). We can track God’s record of enduring goodness through Scripture as we see him care for a wayward people over centuries of rebellion, all culminating in the greatest gift of his goodness – Jesus Christ.
So when fear comes, be humbled and comforted that God’s greatest goodness was granted to you when he gave life to your dead soul by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Read Romans 8 and be reminded of all you’ve been assured of in Christ. Remember that there’s no circumstance, no sin committed by or against you, that can separate you from God’s love. No matter the fear, whether a result of sin within your soul or in the world, God’s goodness remains.
“My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do!” My preschoolers learn that song every year, and I’m always reminded afresh of the simple yet sound truth in its words. Our God is big. He cannot be contained. In fact, it is he who contains the world. He laid the foundations of the earth and set its measurements; he hems in the seas (Job 38:4-11).
Our God is both literally big, and figuratively in regard to his sovereignty – his command and control of all things. It is absolute. Yet, as with God’s goodness, we tend to place limits on how big his sovereign grasp is. We encounter big pain, big loss, big change, big temptation…and it feels too big for us. So we fear it must also be too big for our God. We forget that he’s already answered temptation with the cross, and that he is the wielder of pain and loss and change, which are tools in his almighty hand for our sanctification, his glory, and our ultimate good.
We know that none of God’s purposes can be thwarted (Job 42:2). Even things that seem to happen by chance are appointed through his inerrant will (Proverbs 16:33). Scripture brims with accounts of God’s bigness. He splits the seas in two. He levels cities with the sound of a trumpet. He defeats armies of 120,000 with 300 men. He feeds thousands with a couple loaves of bread and a few fish.
When we reorient our perspective with these truths, our fears fade. So we draw nearer to our big and mighty God when fearful, rather than push away in doubt.
I’ve started to fear the loss of things I find beautiful and sweet – people, relationships, memorable days. It can be difficult for me to enjoy good gifts for fear of losing them. But this pushes me to look deeper into the beauty of my God. I need to remember that every good and beautiful thing I encounter is only a shadow of the glory of its Creator.
When Moses asked the LORD to reveal his glory, God said he would allow Moses to see his goodness (Exodus 33:18-19). He protected Moses from the fullness of his glory by covering him with his hand (v. 22). Still, Moses’ face shone from merely standing in the presence of the LORD (Exodus 34:29-30).
Our God is beautiful in an awful, majestic, powerful way. He is beauty. Created things and precious moments are mere facets of that beauty.
It makes sense that we fear or dread the loss of beautiful things. Everything we know in this world is temporal, existing only for a time. But our God exists outside of time. His storehouse of goodness and beauty is inexhaustible, so we can be certain that we’ll continue to see the goodness of the Lord in this life—and that should give us courage in the face of fear (Psalm 27:13-14).
No More Fear
Even greater should be the knowledge that when our earthly lives end, we’ll be in the presence of the fullness of his glory. Our faces will shine like Moses’ did. Our bodies will be transformed. We’ll spend eternity in the city that has no need for the beauty of light as we know it because Christ, himself, will be its lamp (Revelation 21:23).
Fear will have no place in heaven, so we do the work of rooting out its stronghold in our earthly lives now. This doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind and live fearlessly by the world’s definition; it means we fix our gaze, by faith, on what is unseen, rather than living by the sometimes-fearsome things we now see.
So we look to our God to be our courage – in all his goodness, bigness, and beauty – and find that he is the antidote to all our fear.