When Helena Knowlton of Confusion to Clarity first began talking to me about fear in the cult she came out of, I knew I wanted to write about fear. But since I wanted to have a better grasp of the concept, I spent time studying fear in the New Testament.

So, it may not come as a surprise, but there’s more than one kind of fear.

And . . . it may not come as a surprise, but it’s important, when we read the Bible, to understand which type of fear God is talking about in each passage.

After all, when someone says, “Don’t be afraid,” does that mean of everything and everyone for every reason? (When someone says, “Be afraid” . . . same question.)

I found that the New Testament describes a few basic types of fear. Three kinds of fear are necessary and good (meaning they please God).

But there are  times when fear is unnecessary and potentially harmful. (Does that mean they’re sins? I would say not necessarily, but that’s something to look at when we get there.)

When is fear for sure necessary and good?

1. When it’s fear for physical safety in the face of a genuine threat that motivates you to take essential action.

This is part of the body’s warning system, which when the brain is healthy (undamaged by trauma, or healed from it), can be regulated by the mind/heart that is submitted to God. Though it’s only one of the six kinds of fear described in the Bible, it’s the kind people think about most often when they think of the word. It’s the kind described and validated in Gavin deBecker’s excellent book The Gift of Fear.

As a Scriptural example, Matthew 2:19-23 says,

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.

Joseph was exercising the healthy God-given gift of fear to make a wise choice to stay away from Judea where a wicked king wanted to kill the babies.

In my blog post Don’t be a martyr, but do suffer in your marriage to an angry husband (and other “Biblical counseling”), I said this:

Some of the bravest women I know are women who have come out of abusive homes. They had to face their fears—all of them fears of real dangers, not imagined dangers, but things that could really happen, perhaps had even been threatened—and do almost impossibly hard things, often because their love for their children was greater than their fears. Even in spite of their fears, they did trust God as they moved forward. I would never accuse them of sin for being afraid in a situation such as this.

These women’s fear is not sin any more than was Joseph’s wise fear of Herod that kept him from going to Judea. I wrote about Joseph’s wise fear in the blog post Joseph wasn’t afraid of “rebellion, the sin like witchcraft.”








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