In the Bible, God tells us to fear nothing 466 times. In the Bible’s 66 books and 31,102 verses, fear not is God’s most frequent command to His children.
In the first chapter of Joshua, the words “be strong and courageous” are spoken four times in just 18 verses. God says it to Joshua three times, and Joshua’s men say it once. God also reminds Joshua not to be afraid several more times throughout his journey toward the promised land.
Joshua was facing a nearly impossible situation, entirely impossible if you view the world without God’s abundant grace and power. His mentor and leader, Moses, had just died, and the Lord appointed him to continue Moses’ mission by leading the Israelites to the promised land. In order to gain access to the promised land, the Israelites had to defeat a large number of tribes, all encompassing Israel’s seven enemies. God’s people faced multiple setbacks as they progressed further into Canaan.
They had to cross the Jordan River, which looked impossible.
They had to defeat a strong city with impenetrable walls, which looked impossible.
They had to make a second attempt at defeating Ai, having lost the first time, which looked impossible.
Throughout this war, Joshua is the pinnacle of strength and courage, just as the Lord commanded him. However, he was just a man, and I have little doubt that his faith wavered and nearly broke numerous times throughout his conquest of this land. There is no way around this conclusion. The things that the Lord asked of Joshua were impossible by human standards, and it was only through the miraculous intervention of God that the Israelites were able to conquer the land.
Since God tells his people not to fear 466 times in His word, He surely knew fear would be a strong and real presence in His children’s lives. I’ve realized with my children, that just as we are born sinners, we are born fearful. My youngest son is beginning to panic and cry when I am out of sight, just as all babies do. This is revealing a baby’s fear that he will be left alone. As a child grows, he begins to fear the dark, monsters, the first day of school, losing his friends, not fitting in, getting cut from the basketball team, etc.
When he becomes a man, he will fear just as often, but his concerns will be with much different things. We are born fearful, so why does the Lord command us so many times to do such an impossible thing as not to fear?
I have lived with a fear, some would call it a phobia, all my life. It has followed me around throughout many of my days like a shadow, and I have never been able to fully escape it. There have been moments in my life where it has become debilitating, where it took control of me and my logic escaped me. I thank God for the moments I have been able to control it, and push it far away from the forefront of my thought.
Since it has mostly just been a quiet, gnawing within me, I have ignored it most of my life, dreading the day it took control of me once again. Part of me thinks since I have been afraid for so long, it is more instinctual than anything else, like my brain has been trained to be afraid, more so than I have been given any reason to fear.
I have hesitated to pray for healing, because of the painful knowledge that the Lord often answers our prayers by making us face the things we don’t want to face. Since I have known this fear would dramatically affect the way I parent my children, I began praying vehemently to be freed from it just two weeks ago. This is the first time in my life I have begged the Lord for healing.
In these two weeks, I have had to face my fear not once, but twice. God immersed me in it so much that I was unable to escape it, unable to run, which is how I had been handling it throughout my life. Just like Joshua was asked to do the impossible, I was also asked to do the impossible.
A life without fear is the way the Lord intended us to live, before sin seeped into our world. A life without fear would be indescribable, and humanity would be unstoppable. My life without this fear would be the epitome of freedom. It is my hope that someday it will not define me, but that Christ will define me. It is my hope that someday this fear is such a distant memory, that I laugh about it with my husband. It is my hope that whether the Lord frees me from my fear or whether I struggle with it until I see Him in paradise, that He will use it for His glory, that my suffering will serve His purpose.
Even though all of us have fears, we need to remember to credit the One who always carries us through them. I have never been able to follow God’s command to not be afraid, but He has never failed to prove His promise, originally made to Joshua, but now for us all, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
God never fails us. In the deepest, darkest hours of our worst and strongest fears, the Lord works, and the Lord remains our King. It is Satan who tells us to be afraid; it is Satan who tells us there is anything to fear at all. Satan has been whispering lies to me my whole life, and I believed him, and have allowed him to gain strength within my mind.
If we could only see how impenetrable and immovable God’s protection really is, we wouldn’t dream of being afraid of anything. However, when God tells us to fear nothing, He knows we will fail. We will fail every time. The beauty of the Lord, however, is that He works in our weaknesses, and it is our weaknesses that often bring Him the most recognition and the most glory, for it is in our weakness that we call upon Him, plead with Him, and depend upon Him.
In our fears, in our joys, in our triumphs, and in our sorrows, all praise be to our Father.