Understanding Fear

24 Jan

Artist Edvard Munch’s ultimate work was his expressionist series The Frieze of Life. In that series Munch sought to illustrate some of the most fundamental themes of the human experience: life, love, death, melancholy, and fear.

The emotion of Fear was characterized and immortalized in his painting, The Scream. That work is highly-acclaimed because, in painting it, Munch tapped into the epicenter of that universal experience and phenomenon: “fear.”

Fear causes dread. It cultivates terror. Fear is very, very personal. Fear is intimate.

Everyone understands fear. Just meditating on the word itself can cause us to physically shudder. Fear evokes caution within our innermost person. And, ironically, what produces fear in one’s emotions and troubles people’s minds are not necessarily the same thing. Some fears move from the rational into the irrational– resulting in hard to understand phobias. Phobias range from rational fears, such as being uneasy around tight spaces (claustrophobia), to irrational fears like becoming dismayed at the sight or thought of human beards (pogonophobia).

The sense of feeling or being threatened arrests us and is capable of immobilizing us and bringing our entire lives to a grinding halt.

Understanding Fear

So what is fear? Or more importantly, how does fear “work?” Why does it have such an effect on us? And how do some people live with fearless abandon– in spite of fear and threat?

People feel fear because of the fact that we are not omniscient, omnipotent, or sovereign.

Omniscience is the quality of knowing everything. Since we don’t know everything, we are afraid because of the Fear of the Unknown.

Sovereignty is the quality of being “over all.” It speaks to the ability to pull the strings on everything and make reality do what we want it to do. Since we’re not sovereign over our own lives, much less anyone else’s, we have the Fear of the Uncontrollable.

Omnipotence is the quality of being all powerful. Since we are not all-powerful in the least, we have the Fear of Powerlessness.

These fears are very real because those things they represent can harm, exploit, and even kill us. That’s why we are afraid…

The Solution

The solution to fear is for the fearful to locate a higher power that is all of those things– Omniscient, omnipotent, and sovereign… AND ONE MORE THING: Omnibenevolent.

Omnibenevolence has to do with having the quality of being “completely and absolutely good.”

So where does that leave one? Should a person simply grab hold of some “higher power” and feel safe? No, for two reasons.

1. Only the God of the Bible identifies Himself as having all of these attributes, including Omnibenevolence. No other religion even makes the claim to have a god like this. Ah, I’m sure some will doubt what I am saying, but it’s true. Those who are really familiar with other faith traditions know this to be the case.

But one more factor needs to be understood.

2. Just believing in a higher power isn’t enough. That’s because belief alone is inadequate. One can’t just fabricate confidence and fearlessness. We’ve tried that, haven’t we? We can’t fake ourselves out or trick ourselves out। The answer isn’t belief in a higher power without those attributes– because it’s not our belief that makes us fearless… it’s belief in the one higher power that does possess those attributes। His power, knowledge, sovereignty, and goodness ENSURES we’re going to be OK. And that’s how to overcome fear: Place yourself in the care of the One and Only True God.

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