Where Does Fear Come From?
If I were to say in my heart, “There is no God,” it would be a lie. I would be lying to myself, God and the world. When I lie to myself and believe it I choose consciously or unconsciously to live in a false reality. I act as if the world were something that it is not. We do this sometimes and the lies can be big or small. In a conversation recently with someone who had gone through trauma, they mentioned that one thing they thought they remembered so well about an event turned out to be totally false. They believed it to be true so much so that they could recount the pictorial details in their head of the things that happened. However, when another witness recalled the event differently, their eyes were opened. They realized that they inadvertently made up most of the scenario in their head, with their subconscious filling up the details that were lacking. Upon further reflection and research I found this to be a common practice psychologically. In one sense this is natural and by another standard it can be sin.
When we combine this phenomenon with someone who already thinks, “there is no God,” then the cause and effect relationship of the world can take many different turns. The answer to why things happen, why bad things happen, and why I act and feel the way I do is a total shot in the dark. Without a biblical knowledge of God, humans, sin & suffering there is no reference point for reality and learning in the world without a reference point from outside of it bears little fruit.
In Psalm 53:4 David says, “Will evil doers never learn – those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on God?” If you do not believe in God it’s very hard to learn the true cause and effect of circumstances that come upon you. There is no option of God allowing some difficulty to teach you, or him allowing some suffering to perfect and discipline you. There is only a fear that something unexpected may happen and you must save yourself from it. If you can’t trust in a God to deliver you then fear can become a primary drive in life. In v. 5 David says, “There they were, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread…” The word “dread” here in Hebrew is פָ֥חַד which means, “terror or fear.” A mind & heart without God needs to fill in the unknown gaps of understanding where he should be. What we don’t know usually scares us. So, while there may be “nothing to dread” the person who says “there is no God,” finds something to dread.
The question for us then becomes, if there is a place where I have fear, terror or dread, is it because there’s a gap in my life that I have filled with my own thoughts rather than God? Is there any place in my life where I have unconsciously said, “There is no God (here)”? Is that why the fear is there? Do I have a functional atheism that fills in the gaps of my understanding with lies about reality – which holds me captive to fear? Can I acknowledge that I may not be trusting God? Can I decide to trust him and say, “God is here – in this” and I have no reason to fear as a child of God?
Sky Cady | South Umpqua Campus Pastor