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10 Ways Fear Robs Me
I’m afraid of you.
I believe that people have power over me. Power to wound, expose, shame, injure, and expect something I’ll never be able to deliver. The thought of disappointing you all makes me want to run and hide. I am caught between the rock of their approval and the hard place of their rejection.
I’ve sought refuge under the radar. My fear robs me daily. Here are 10 ways it does so.
1. Fear Robs Me of Experiencing God’s Favor
I’m way more concerned about what people think of me. Pleasing people is my goal and although it’s an ever-moving target, I keep trying to hit the bull’s-eye of their approval. If people compliment me, I exhaust myself making sure I never disappoint people—or I give up entirely. I must know what they think.
2. Fear Robs Me of Hearing God’s Voice
When things go well, when I receive accolades, I miss God’s kind and tender, “Well done,” believing that it simply can’t be true. My ears are tuned to their thoughts and opinions—they’ve become my standard. When God lovingly rebukes me, I run back to their latest compliments and feed on them for a while.
3. Fear Robs Me of Honoring and Obeying God’s Leading
When I receive direction in prayer or conviction through a sermon or sense the Holy Spirit while reading my Bible, I feel a momentary call, a renewed vision, a rush of freedom that encourages me to step out in faith. But if I do that, people will judge me, so I wait, rethink, and conclude that what I heard was probably just my own thoughts and ideas anyway.
4. Fear Robs My Trust in God
I take great measures to ensure that I am safe from what people can do to me. My family’s health and behavior, my job, daily inconveniences, schedules, unpredictable relationships, even my pain—these must all be managed. It is all within my power to control. I am risk-averse. Circumstances are better determined by a spin doctor than the great physician, Jesus.
5. Fear Robs Me of Pursuing Conflict Resolution
Relationships wither as I refuse to address sin and allow its consequences to flourish. Prickly sinful patterns go unchallenged and I only hang out with those who “get” me. I’m certain that people won’t respond lovingly so I avoid building intimacy.
6. Fear Robs Me of Receiving Correction
I don’t trust people because I’m sure their words will hurt me. I miss the comfort of familiar lies. I internalize the worst interpretation possible and focus on my perception of reality. I prefer my own exaggerated version of events. What will they think of me if I’m wrong? Admitting I don’t know or saying I’m sorry just looks weak.
7. Fear Robs Me of Being Fully Known in Community
Exposure threatens my carefully crafted exterior. If I let people get close to me they’ll hurt me. Self-protection ensures my identity stays intact. Intimacy and deeper relationships are for other people. Opportunities to serve people should leave them in my debt. Isolation is my friend.
8. Fear Robs Me of Gratitude and Joy
If I focus on resentment, I can remain entitled. If I’m too grateful for something it will be taken away. Childlike joy isn’t very dignified and my dignity is fragile.
9. Fear Robs Me of My Voice
I doubt that God could speak through the Holy Spirit in me. I cease to encourage or exhort others in case it’s not well received. I neglect opportunities to speak out in faith because I fear their evaluation, their disagreement, or their mockery.
10. Fear Robs Me of Rest and Peace
I’m so consumed with self-recrimination that my daytimes and my dreams are filled with mental tossing. I re-evaluate and reassess my words and actions. I’m defensive and irritable, under pressure to succeed.
I am convicted of how often I have found comfort in their commendation instead of the Holy Spirit’s conviction and I wonder, How can God stand to know that I have chosen to worship you instead of him? How can I be in his presence and confess that I’ve loved your approval more than his? That your words are louder than his voice? Oh Lord, forgive me for my unfaithfulness.
How Has Fear Robbed You?
You may feel exposed just talking about it. We hate to admit our idolatry, but our fear has cost us, and the wages of our sin is death. We chose slavery and condemnation when we chose to please man—all the while God offers the free gift of life in Christ (Rom. 6:23). As Paul says to the Galatians, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Those who fear man are described in Jeremiah 17 as parched wasteland, a picture of spiritual poverty and in John 12 the fearful authorities loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. We are glory thieves, and the struggle to escape this deception is not new.
Here Is Mercy
But here is mercy: “the fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” True comfort is found in the kind discipline of my heavenly Father, who I can trust completely. I worship him because, like David, I would rather fall into the hands of the living God than into the hands of man (2 Sam. 24:14). I love his correction, his approval, his guidance, and his voice. In learning to worship him, I have found freedom from the demands of man. He takes all my sin and fear and replaces it with holy fear of him. People, whom my flesh fears, exert power over me no longer.
Joyfully, the gospel tells us that for those who are in Christ, there is no condemnation—we’ve been set free in Jesus from the law of sin and death. All who are led by the Spirit of God are no longer slaves but sons. As it says in Romans, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry ‘Abba! Father!’”
No longer in bondage to each other, we are liberated to serve a kind Father who has made it possible in Jesus for us to do so: fearlessly.