Amathophobia is the fear of dust. Olfactophobia is the fear of smells. Symmetrophobia is the fear of symmetry. Just a quick Google search for “strange fears” will yield literally thousands of results. And while we might scoff at being afraid of rain or colors, much of our life is lived from a posture of fear.
Experience has taught us the skill of self-protection, and while that has its place, that place is not from a posture of fear. In fact, one of the refrains that echoes over and over again through Scripture is this: “Fear not!” It seems that God isn’t a big proponent of being afraid.
But why not? And how might we start to live from a posture of confidence rather than fear?
Not “If” But “When”
And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed. (1 Peter 3:13-14)
Sometimes we might suffer for doing something good. Unfortunate, but true. That was the case of Peter’s original audience. They were suffering despite (and even because of) their commitment to Christ. But more often, we suffer not because of the good we do, but because we live in a broken world. And in that broken world, pain comes to us all in different forms.
The question isn’t so much “if” you will face suffering but “when” you will face suffering. If that’s true, it’s easy to begin to live your life from the standpoint of fear, always wondering if today will be the day when things come crashing down. But as Christians, we can live in confidence, not because we’re immune from pain, but because we no longer fear the same things as everyone else: Who is scared of cancer when we know we’ve been knit together by God? Who is scared of economic hardship when God has cattle on a thousand hills? Who is scared of death when Jesus has conquered the grave?
It’s not that those things won’t happen, and that they won’t happen to us. It’s that in Christ, we have an entirely new and different way to look at them.
Word and Deed
But honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:15-17)
Nothing is wasted with God — not even the suffering of His people. Ironically, when suffering does come, there’s a tremendous opportunity to make much of Jesus in the midst of it. Think about that for a second. It’s one thing to say, “Glory to God! I’ve got a six-figure job, perfect health, and a wonderful family.” It’s another thing to say, “The job market is hard, I’m overwhelmed in school, and the doctor just called my mom about her test results. But glory to God.”
It’s very different, isn’t it? When we choose to be confident and joyful in the midst of suffering, we show to an outside world the true worth of Jesus in our lives. When everything else goes away, we still have God. And because we do, we’re rich even when we’re poor, sick, and mistreated.
But, as Peter pointed out, talk is cheap. This is meant to be lived and not just spoken. It’s meant to be demonstrated with our attitude and actions, from our speech right down to the way we spend our money.
Victory in Jesus
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
that He might bring you to God,
after being put to death in the fleshly realm
but made alive in the spiritual realm.
In that state He also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared. In it a few — that is, eight people — were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now that He has gone into heaven, He is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him. (1 Peter 3:18-22)
We can’t muster up that kind of confidence in and of ourselves, not when there’s so much to fear. The only way we can live in that kind of freedom and boldness is because of what Jesus has done.
Talk about an underdog story. Here was a man whose friends left Him. He was hung and tortured on a cross. He was seemingly defeated, once and for all. But these verses remind us of the triumph of Christ. For three days, the world believed Christ was dead and evil had won. But in a cosmic reversal, God showed the absolute and final dominance of Jesus by raising Him from the dead.
Because Jesus went toe to toe with sin and death and won, we can know beyond a doubt that He is the King of the universe. Because He is, we can also know that no matter how bad things might seem to be, God is for us in Christ. That inspires confidence in the face of the worst and scariest of times.
What, right now, are you most afraid of? How do you counter that fear with what you know to be true of God?