Caution or Fear?

In watching or reading the news lately, I’m concerned with how much of the reporting seems to amount to fear mongering. A hint of good news might be mentioned, but then the reporter or journalist will be quick to say, “but there are fears that …”

We can only be saturated with so much fear. A recent study reports that a third of adults are operating in a concussion-like daze due to stress and insomnia. How much are our fears, plus the fears being peddled by the media, contributing to this malaise?

So should we throw caution to the wind? I don’t think so. By all means, take the precautions you need to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy, to prepare for the future, and just to make smart decisions.

Scripture actually teaches us to be cautious, especially about what we listen to, read, and believe – and for good reason. We need to be discerning, and even more so with today’s rapid spread of information – and with it, fear.

St. John teaches Christians to “test the spirits” because certainly not every spirit, prophet, post, article, or word of mouth communication will help us to trust and confess Christ (1 John 4:1-2). We need to be discerning, to separate the legitimate news and information from the fear mongering and sensationalization, to recognize “the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6b).

St. Paul puts it this way: “test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). How do you go about testing everything? Compare what you hear and read to the counsel of God in His Word. Open the Scriptures. Listen to how God calls us to live. Does He want us to be filled with fear, or to take those fears to Him in prayer and face those fears in the strength of the Lord? You will not hear “fear” mentioned in any Biblical lists of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) or characteristics of the Christian.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)

We need those words from St. John. We need to be reminded of a perfect love, a love great enough to overcome our fears – the perfect love of God in Christ Jesus the Savior.

Through Christ, the fear of God’s wrath and punishment is taken away – He endured God’s wrath and punishment already for us! Through Christ, our fears of life’s “worst case scenarios” can be relieved as well.

You are perfectly loved. That doesn’t mean that when you step outside your door in this world, you will always be perfectly safe from harm. But one of the best ways to overcome our fears and anxieties is to face them head-on. The more we ruminate about our fears (or the fears that are being pushed on us), the more they grow in our minds and the bigger the sway they hold over us.

Be cautious, yes, when caution is reasonable. But don’t live in constant fear. Fear paralyzes. Instead, reach out. Seek help. Admit your fears. Talk to a friend. Come to church. Explore your Bible. Read another good book. Give the fear-filled news a break. Get outdoors. Take a step forward.

A parting word – God’s promise to Old Testament Israel which is also so fitting for us today: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

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