If you asked me what I hate more than anything in the world, my answer would be being afraid, closely followed by burpees. Oh, how I hate doing burpees.
Burpees, however, are a temporary, passing pain. Fear is something that can get inside you. Fear sits in a nook in your chest as you do your daily tasks, frequently reminding you that something’s coming up, something you may not be able to handle, something that will take away any illusion of power or mastery you hold dear.
And by you, of course, I mean me.
In about three months, I will be moving to a new city. I will have to leave the job I’ve had since graduating college and find a new one. Husband will be going back to school, and we don’t know what the financial future looks like yet.
We are moving to a city of 75,000, and I haven’t lived in a town of more than 10,000 people since I was a small child. I am afraid—afraid of being surrounded by thousands of people, and being known by none of them. I am afraid of feeling closed in.
Since it’s three months out, it’s easy to turn away from the fears, but I’ve still been thinking about the concept of fear lately.
If you have any Christian friends on social media, you’ve probably seen some variation of the following sentiment: “365 times in the Bible, we are told not to be afraid. That’s a reminder for every day of the year to trust God!”
Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be true. Though you could find more than 365 passages, including reassurances, commands to trust God, and “fear not,” that phrase (or variations on it) does not appear exactly 365 times, according to some people who’ve tried to look them all up. How this came to be a common misconception I’m not sure, though my theory is someone saw the title of this book, made assumptions, and started repeating it.
In the above-linked book, each day has a passage related to fear, but not necessarily the phrase “fear not.” Some of the passages cited include instances where people were said to not have fear, to their detriment (2 Kings 17:25.) Some are spoken in conversation that doesn’t necessarily reflect Godly reassurance. In Judges, Jael tells Sisera to not be afraid to come into her tent, where she promptly murders him. (See Judges 4:17-21.)
I think people like the number 365 because it’s cute, and it’s easier to remember that number than it is to simply hold the command in your mind. And if we did that, there wouldn’t be a place for fear inside.
But there’s the rub. Fear doesn’t just come upon you. You make a way for it by holding on to control, through desire to make things come out right if you just do things right or work hard enough.
I think that’s why God says to fear not. If you admit that your worrying, your actions, all your trying, can’t control the future, maybe you’ll realize that God does.
And by you, I mean me.