Fear Is A Mind Killer
Fear itself starts in the part of our brain called the amygdala. This is the part of our brain that drives the “fight or flight” response and it controls our emotional reaction to something that stands out as a potential threat. It starts pumping adrenaline, it heightens your senses, it makes you overly alert, because you may be in a situation that is dangerous, so it prepares your body to survive. There are other parts of our brain that help us interpret the potential threat. (It’s the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.) These parts of our brain are involved in higher-level processing of context, which helps us know whether or not the possible threat is real and how to respond appropriately.
This is why seeing a mountain lion at a zoo is fun, and why seeing a mountain lion on a hike in the Sierra Nevadas isn’t. The “thinking” part of your brain tells the “emotional” part of your brain how to interpret what stands out as a threat and the appropriate way to respond. And the reasoning that drives the context is the measure of control over the perceived threat. The reason you don’t get scared of the lion in the zoo is because the thinking part of your brain recognizes the situation is under control.
Now the problem with fear is it often completely takes over. Instead of the ‘thinking’ part of our brain driving our behavior, the ‘emotional’ part of our brain takes over. This often leads to bad decisions, indecisiveness, overanalyzing, paranoia, and buying into conspiracy theories. It paralyzes our ability to make the correct choices, wrecks relationships, and often leads us into disobedience. Abnormal levels of fear and anxiety can lead to significant distress and dysfunction and limit a person’s ability for success and joy of life. You can’t live in the joy of the Lord while you are living in fear.1
Fear can be a mind killer.
What I hope to do in this series of posts is give us ammunition to combat our fears. Psalm 27 gives us the context we need to know how to rightly respond to things we view as threats. And I think we can all agree, there are a lot of things that are presented to us as threats. But one of the most repeated commands in Scripture, in some form or another, is “fear not.” So let’s dive in. In the first three verses of Psalm 27 we see…
The Person of God Gives Us Courage
I love what David does here at the beginning of this Psalm. He reminds himself of who God is.
GOD IS our light – our salvation – our stronghold!
Because of who God is we can be confident no matter what threat we face in our life. Whatever is causing you fear, God is BIGGER. God is more powerful. Because GOD IS we do not have to live in fear. The Hebrew name used for the LORD in verse 1 is Jehovah. It reminds us he is self-existing, all-eternal. This is the proper name for the all-supreme God.
The very existence of God drives out fear.
The reason we live in fear is not because our circumstances are scary, although they often are. When things in our life happen that are outside of our control, that we have no context for how to handle, it’s easy to let fear take over. But nothing ever happens outside of God’s control. Nothing ever happens outside of the context of all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.2 The reason we live in fear is because we are forgetting about God.
David said “evildoers can be coming to destroy me, an army coming to wipe me out, an entire war breaking out against me, but I WILL NOT FEAR because God.”
Jesus said in Matthew 10:16“Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. I’ll admit, that sounds scary. Wolves eat sheep. I recently ate a lamb and beef gyro. It was good. Wolves eat sheep. And they like it. Jesus tells us that he is sending us into persecution. But we don’t have to let that reality paralyze us with fear. Look at what Jesus said later in that same chapter. After telling us he was sending us into persecution, then describing that persecution, he says…
Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.3
Because God is our good father, because he has secured our soul, because God is our salvation, we don’t have to live in fear. We need to remind our fear that if God wouldn’t even spare his own son for us, he is not going to leave us to this fear. He saved us from that bondage, so we don’t have to go back to living a slave to fear.
- Romans 8:28
- Matthew 10:28-31