It’s been said that fear is the greatest motivator and that’s not hard to believe considering the dramatic impact of the coronavirus on the world in the past few weeks.
Fear certainly stirs the human heart unlike any other emotion; it drives us in a visceral way. Thanks to scientific discovery, we know the human body’s nervous system is designed to send signals to our brain when a part of our body has been injured, causing us to experience physical pain. If this were not the case, we would ignore our wounds and subject our bodies to further harm.
In this sense, we can see that God designed physical pain for a good purpose. Knowing this, can we assume He also created our bodies to experience fear as a warning signal against harm? And, if so, how do we distinguish between fear that’s meant for our benefit and fear that will actually cause us further harm?
There was a woman in the Bible whose fear was undoubtedly used for her benefit–so much, that God included her in the lineage of His Son, Jesus.
Her name was Rahab, a Canaanite living in the city of Jericho just before God sent the Israelites to take it over. Despite her pagan upbringing, Rahab stepped out in faith and chose to believe in the God of Israel after hearing stories about His miraculous acts.
She disobeyed her own king by hiding two Israelite spies in her home, telling them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you….for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:9,11).
The Israelite spies repaid Rahab by sparing the lives of her and her family, while the rest of the Canaanites living in Jericho were destroyed.
After taking a closer look at Rahab’s words, we can see that she was not the only one who feared the God of the Israelites–all the people living in Jericho were “melting” with fear.
This is a crucial detail, because it tells us more about the difference between Rahab’s fear and that of her fellow Canaanites. Like Rahab, they too had heard the stories about God parting the Red Sea for Moses and the plagues He brought upon the Egyptians.
Though these people worshipped many false idols, they clearly knew something was different about the power of Israelite’s God. But Rahab alone submitted her fear to the Israelites’ God, showcasing a true faith and respect for Him rather than putting her head in the sand. She elevated her fear of the Lord above all of her other fears.
“The fear of the Lord” is a phrase used repeatedly in the Bible, but this type of fear does not reference a literal feeling of being frightened. Rather, it describes the respect, awe and sense of wonder believers experience when they start to grasp the fullness of God.
Rahab’s story is interesting because in a way, it actually plays on words with the “fear of the Lord.” While initially, she did experience a true fear of death, she eventually submitted that feeling of fear to a greater one–the awe and respect she felt toward the Lord.
Later in the Book of Joshua, the Israelites themselves were starting to worship false gods. Joshua appealed to them, saying, “Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
In a time when we are experiencing so much fear and uncertainty created by the coronavirus, let’s remember that we are living in a world created by a mighty God.
That is not to say that this virus isn’t a real threat to people and that we shouldn’t take the necessary precautions to avoid spreading it–but I can’t help but think we are serving our fears rather than submitting them to God.
God does not expect that we will never experience feelings of fear–His commands throughout the Bible for us NOT to have fear are actually His acknowledgment that we DO experience fear. And some fear can be used to help us to stay away from evil and other things that will harm us.
But God alone knows what is best for us, which is why He tells us that in all things we should seek His wisdom and offer up our daily decisions to Him.
He will direct each of our individual paths when we fear Him above all else.
“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psalm 37:4)