Fear comes in many forms and disguises. It goes by different names, such as "discouragement," "worry," "despair," "hopelessness" and "depression." We experience it in every conceivable circumstance, even in our relationship with God. Some fear is good, because it may save us from great harm: the fear of falling, of fire, of hell, etc. But even these "good" fears can become irrational and debilitating. There is the fear of failure, of loneliness, even the fear of being afraid.
The worst thing about fear may be that it can cause us to shy away from God, and to refuse to do his bidding. Jesus' parable of the talents (Matt. 25) introduces the one-talent servant, with whom many identify. His reason (excuse) for failure to use the talent as his master required was, "...I was afraid...." (v. 25) Certainly fear isn't the only reason we may fail God - not even the biggest. But it can and often does play a huge role.
The "$64,000 question" is, what can we do about fear? Many - maybe most - don't do anything constructive. Sometimes we put off trying to doing anything because we're afraid of the commitments demanded, and that it won't work. It can really become a vicious cycle. So what can we do?
It is really a matter of faith. I don't mean to suggest that it's as simple as it may sound. Remember that "faith," which is necessary to pleasing God (Hebrews 11:6), is more than just belief. It also involves dependence and trust. It takes real effort and courage and determination. But the effort and courage and determination and everything else required to overcome incapacitating fear in life are the results of truly believing God when he says "Do not be afraid," as he does, in just those words, over sixty times in holy scripture. And in so many other verbal pictures, our Father makes possible our understanding of his desire and work to free us from the sense of dread which so often threatens to destroy us. John says that "...perfectly developed love expels every particle of fear...." (1 Jn. 4:18, J. B. Phillips) But "perfectly developed love" comes from a mature faith in the One who loved us and gave himself for us. The love of God dwells in those who truly believe in God. (See Jam. 2:16-17)
Among Moses' last words, given to strengthen and encourage Joshua before he led the invasion of heathen Canaan, were these: "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deut. 31:8) To solidify this hope in Joshua's heart, God repeated that promise three times. (Joshua 8:1; 10:8; 11:6) Joshua was encouraged and confident; so much so, he made the same promise of help from God to the Israelites (10:25).
God wants you and me to have that same level of confident reliance and hope, in overcoming fear. Let us follow the example of Joshua and take him at his word, following him into the promise land of God's glory.