Did you know that the most common command in the Bible is “fear not”? This command especially speaks into those types of anxieties and worries that are out of our control. God knows we need to be regularly reminded of this– especially with all of the extraordinary things that have been happening these past few weeks. What a scary place the world can be.
God commanding us to “fear not” doesn’t come across as very comforting, and one may be left feeling guilty for even experiencing fear– “Great, something else to worry about”. As always, there are reasons for the commands that God gives. Commands don’t hang out there with no basis in reality. If God commands us to do something, there are good reasons to do it. Consequently, any true abiding hope comes from understanding and believing those reasons especially in the midst of great uncertainties.
So, God is not necessarily saying “don’t be afraid” because you’re sinning by being fearful! (Although, some of our fears can certainly expose the things we truly treasure in our sinful hearts, but that’s a discussion for another day)
His command is reassuring, and it’s a tender call to listen to His promises. “Don’t be afraid, don’t be overwhelmed, don’t give up, don’t despair.” Why? “Because I am here with you and I won’t let you go.” The most consistent promise of the Bible to fearful people is, “I am with you.”
“Do not fear” is a command that doesn’t come with some of the warnings as other commands in the Scripture. Instead, to “fear not” often comes with a promise of God’s help and presence. Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God reminded His people:
‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10 (NASB95)
“Fear not” is the first command at the beginning of the verse, and the second is “do not anxiously look about you”, which is speaking about being overwhelmed by everything happening around you. The two commands in the verse are set in with five promises for fearlessness. It is the nature of all biblical commands to come with divine support! Here they are:
I am your God — therefore, over you.
I am with you — by your side.
I will strengthen you — from inside of you.
I will help you — all around you, from wherever the enemy comes.
I will uphold you — from underneath you.
God is over you, by you, inside you, around you, underneath you. Therefore do not fear.
In Philippians 4, the command in verse 6 to “be anxious for nothing” (which we are often referred to when we are anxious) is preceded in the context by the promise in verse 5 that, “the LORD is near.” That is so comforting! This was further illustrated to me recently when I was babysitting one of my grandkids. He was sleeping and suddenly woke up crying in great distress and fear. I went into his room, and with a child-like terror in his voice, he managed to communicate that he had a bad dream and that he was really afraid of the dinosaur. Being the loving grandad, I commanded him to “not be afraid” and told him big boys don’t cry, right? No, not at all! However, I did reassure him and say, “you don’t have to be afraid, Poppy is here and I won’t leave until you fall back asleep.” That seemed to reassure him, and within 10 minutes he was fast asleep. A few days later, I was reminded of that incident. I thought– this is what actually reflects the heart of God when He “commands” us to “fear not.” He is our heavenly Father who loves us exponentially more than we could love could ever love our kids and grandkids.
We are indeed going through some very distressing times, and maybe you have been experiencing some panicky feelings of fear. You are not alone in that fear. So, if I could say one thing to you, the one thing to always remember. No matter how isolated that experience of fear feels, the reality that actually wraps around us is that you are not alone. There is someone who describes Himself in words that say, “I will never, never leave nor forsake you”. I am your God and I am over you, by you, inside you, around you, underneath you. Therefore, do not anxiously look about you.
You are never, ever alone! It’s not as though hearing that said has some kind of magical power that will immediately make everything feel better. It is one of those truths that needs to get worked into our hearts during those moments when we are feeling panicky and when we are at peace. It is the reality on which you can build your life. God always seems to comfort His people with His presence.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:4–6 (NASB95)
Courage to face our greatest fears will not come from our self-confidence, but from confidence in God’s powerful promise to be with us.