The Characteristics of Fear - the What, the How and the Who of it
Who Falls Prey to Inappropriate Fear?
Woman – Prone to Fear
Everyone is susceptible to fear – men and women. But I believe that women are especially prone to fear because we lack obvious control in so many situations. In fact, it is so common a struggle with women that Peter addresses it in 1 Peter 3:5-6, encouraging women to put their hope in God so that they can do what is right without giving into fear. By God’s design, men generally lead in every human establishment: the workplace, the home and the church. That is not to say that all men lead well. Many do not, which can really stir up a woman’s fear.
Also, generally speaking, as redeemed women, our role in life is helper, our rule of mind is respect and our responsibility in marriage (and in other places) is submission. Obviously we are not in control, and so, we are often inclined to inappropriate fears. When we lack control, we can either trust God and be confident, or trust ourselves and/or others and be fearful.
But a Woman Who Fears the Lord…
Proverbs 31 tell us about the virtuous wife, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is vain, but a
woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” The description of this woman reveals that she is confident. She fears nothing and no one but God.
But I’ve always wondered why more is not said concerning her relationship to the Lord. While studying this subject of the fear of the Lord, I became aware that embodied in that little phrase, “fears the Lord”, is every aspect of what it means to know and love God. Fearing God involves not only respect for Him, but also love, worship, humility, purity, obedience, service, holiness, complete trust, a passion for Christ’s glory and more. In Scripture there are hundreds of verses that command us to fear God, but only a handful that command us to love Him. I think that is because a healthy fear of God encompasses every aspect of relating to Him rightly, including love. And godly fear is the antidote for inappropriate fear.
The Contagion of Inappropriate Fear
This study has truly been an eye opener for me, not only concerning the fear of the Lord, but it has also made me face up to certain fears that I had not been honest about and commit those fears to the Lord. As He is becoming my only valid fear, those inappropriate fears are being banished and no longer ruling me. Heb. 13:6 says, “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
There are many common fears that most of us have all shared: fear of the dark, fear of heights, fear of flying, fear of the "boogie man" and many more. But I was shocked when I went onto a website called The Phobia List, where I found an alphabetized list of hundreds of supposedly valid, yet inappropriate “phobias”.
Anything and everything goes when it comes to phobias. Some that I found online are: Chronomentrophobia – the fear of clocks; Philemaphobia – the fear of kissing (that’s one that parents hope that their adolescent children have). There is Geniophobia – the fear of chins (when I read this list to my mom she said, “Oh, that’s the one I have – the fear of having double and triple chins"). PoGonophobia is the fear of beards, Amnesiphobi – the fear of amnesia (the cure for this one is amnesia, because you’d totally forget that you had it), Judeophobia – the fear of Jews. I’m sure some of your husbands have Pentheraphobia – the fear of their mother-in-law; there’s Pteronophobia – the fear of being tickled by feathers and Neophobia – the fear of anything new. With this fear you’d never go shopping. That would make some of our husbands very happy men. The fear most children have is not actually a fear of the dark but La-chan-o-phobia – the fear of vegetables.
Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, in which case you would have phobia-phobia, which might not be quite as bad as Panophobia, which is the fear of everything, including phobia-phobia.
But the one phobia I am most thankful that I do not have, is a combo-phobia of some of the ones I just mentioned: “Philema-Judeo-PoGonophobia, which is a fear of kissing bearded Jews. (In case you haven't guessed, my husband, Robert, is Jewish, though he is a Christian, and he has a beard.)
But seriously, fear is running rampant and at a contagion level. So many people are imprisoned by their phobias. Could that be because we were created to fear? Fear is built into the heart of man by God. We were created to fear Him, but instead, man fears everyone and everything but God.
The Consequences of Inappropriate Fear
Inappropriate Fear Forgets God and Fuels Disrespect
As wives, when we trust ourselves in this area of control and do not fear God, we can not show respect for our husbands (or parent, church leader or employer). That is because inappropriate fear lets go of Godly fear, forgets God and fuels disrespect. Isaiah 57:11 says, “Of whom were you worried and fearful when you lied, and did not remember Me nor give Me a thought? Is it because I have not corrected you that you have no fear of me?”
Or how about Isaiah 51:12-16 concerning the fear of man, "I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, that you forget the LORD your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction?"
Can you see the progression in the first verse? Initially, worry and inappropriate fear are allowed to rule in the heart. Though this seems harmless enough, the resulting sin of lying is carried out. In the midst of this progression it is obvious that God has been forgotten. He is not at all considered. And the crux of it all is that there was no fear of God from the beginning. Inappropriate fear always crowds God out and looks to self for the answer. It forgets God and fuels disrespect.
The second verse brings to light the reality that fearing man begets even more fear, "...you live in constant terror every day..." On the contrary, fearing God is a comforting thing. He comforts us when we will but seek Him in the midst of the fear and confess to Him our weakness of being terrified of puny man.
Has this been your experience when you fear man or any other created thing?
For the third part of this series, several examples will be sited from Scripture as well as one contemporary example. We will also see how disrespect manifests itself in marriage.