Thursday, August 2, 2012
Overcoming Sinful Fear
The following post is by Dr. Stephen Yuille
When the disciples are caught in the midst of the storm upon the Sea of Galilee, they fear for their lives (Mk. 4:40). Here’s an important question: Was it sinful for them to be afraid of the storm? The answer lies in three truths.
First, there’s such a thing as natural fear. Let’s suppose I encounter a rattlesnake in my yard. I know it’s dangerous; therefore, I fear it; therefore, I avoid it. That kind of fear is normal. It’s essential to human survival.
Second, there’s such a thing as sinful fear. Again, let’s suppose I encounter a rattlesnake in my yard. I know it’s dangerous; therefore, I fear it; therefore, I avoid it; therefore, I refuse to leave my house ever again. Something has changed in my response. What? The answer brings us to the third truth.
Third, natural fear becomes sinful fear when we deify the object of our fear. We do this, when we ascribe ultimate power to it. As a result, the object of our fear controls us. And it shakes our faith in God. Simply put, we’ve made it greater than God.
And so, the disciples are caught in a “great windstorm” on the sea. Because they know the storm is dangerous, they fear it. If they could, they’d avoid it. That’s natural fear. But the disciples take it a step further. They ascribe ultimate power to the storm. Their fear begins to control them. Their fear shakes their faith in Christ. In a word, it becomes sinful fear. And that’s why Christ says to them: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Let me personalize this with a few hypothetical examples…
I fear rejection. Rejection is painful. Therefore, fear of rejection is normal. But my fear of rejection prevents me from developing relationships. It keeps me from communicating with my spouse. It keeps me from displaying physical affection. In this case, my fear has become sinful fear. I’ve turned my fear of rejection into an idol (greater than God), whereby it controls me.
I fear disease. Disease is painful. Therefore, fear of disease is normal. But my fear of disease prevents me from going out in public. It keeps me from touching anything anyone else has touched. It keeps me glued to Google for countless hours as I self-diagnose every ache and pain. In this case, my fear has become sinful fear. I’ve turned my fear of disease into an idol (greater than God), whereby it controls me.
I fear losing my spouse. The death of a spouse is painful. Fear of such a death is normal. But my fear means I call my spouse every 30 minutes from work. My fear means I refuse to work more than a five-minute drive from home. In this case, my fear has become sinful fear. I’ve turned my fear of losing my spouse into an idol (great than God), whereby it controls me.
So, what’s the solution? It isn’t medication. It isn’t couch time with a shrink. Nor is it getting in touch with our inner self. When we struggle with sinful fear (and we all do), we must look to Christ. He’s a glorious Savior, a glorious Shepherd, and a glorious Sovereign.
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, and drives away his fear.
Quotable: “Under extraordinary fear, both grace and reason, like the wheels of a watch wound above its due height, stand still and have no motion at all” (John Flavel).