God’s grace is always flowing ready to wash down over us, and He provides a number of means by which we can encounter this downpour of grace: Bible reading, prayer, fasting, worship, etc. Yet, as we have said in this series, we may be doing all those things, putting ourselves in those varied forms of the means of grace, but a particular unaddressed issue may be keeping us from getting wet. The final grace blocker we ought to consider is that of fear. Fear can serve as a particularly subtle grace blocker.
It’s not that being afraid means you can’t grow spiritually. We all experience fear, and God, in His kindness, gives grace to meet our fears and help us move forward (Ps. 34:4). Yet, a refusal to acknowledge our fears, to cry out to God for help, that will always keep us stuck spiritually. We will stay stuck until we address our fears because fear is designed by God to do one of two things: (1) motivate us to action; and (2) humble us in dependence. If we refuse to address our fear we will never accomplish what God wants accomplished through this powerful emotion.
Fear is intended to drive us to action. God has built into us a sort of constructive concern that compels us to take responsibility for what we can. I fear getting hit by a car so I learn to look both ways before crossing the street. I fear missing important dates so I put them on my calendar. I fear getting behind on bills, so I pay them as soon as they arrive in the mail. Whatever the circumstance, fear motivates me to take the necessary action to resolve an issue. It is a constructive concern that keeps me on task and out of trouble. God gave Adam this constructive concern even back in the Garden. In Genesis 2:15 we read that God instructs Adam to “take care” of the Garden. The Hebrew word for this phrase can also be translated as “keep vigil” or “watch.” Adam was to be concerned enough about the Garden that he kept an eye on it, tended it appropriately. This is the constructive concern we are to have.
Sometimes our anxiety may arise because we have failed to take appropriate responsibility. We have been lazy and gotten behind on tasks and eventually they catch up with us. The fear is not a motivation to get back on track, to take up my own responsibilities again. Until I do that I can’t move forward. Neglect of my duties will only increase my anxiety; it will keep me running frantically from fire to fire, without proper goals and proper focus. God uses fear to motivate us to take responsibility for our duties, until we do that we can’t progress.
Fear is also intended to humble us to dependence, particularly dependence upon God. So, the Psalmist rightly declares:
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you (Ps. 56:3)
Fear should drive us to God. We see this in Jesus who, in the Garden of Gethsemane is feeling the weight of what is about to come, and He spends His time crying out to God. The disciples, on the other hand, sense an impending threat and flee. Fear is meant to drive us to God. When fear reveals that we are not in control, that we have reach not just the limits of our responsibility but the limits of our ability, then we must turn to the all-powerful God.
In Philippians 4 Paul tells us plainly that the way we battle anxiety is through “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” (v. 6). Prayer is vital to dealing with fear as it humbles us and calls us to look to God. Fear is an opportunity to learn to submit to our heavenly Father, to depend upon Him. God has designed our fears to drive us to Him, until we do that we won’t grow past them.
Failing to address our fears, to acknowledge both our responsibilities and our need of God, will keep us in a cycle. God gives fear to drive us to proper action and proper dependence, if we don’t follow His leading we will be right back here again and again. Fear keeps us stuck, not in quite the same way as the other Grace Blockers, but it keeps us stuck nonetheless. Analyze your fears, then, and evaluate what you need to do. God gives grace to meet us in our fears, we just need to remove the umbrella and stand in His downpour.