When does caution cross the line into fear?
I’ve been thinking about fear a lot lately. But as soon as I mention my concern over fear in our society, some people have thought I want to throw caution to the wind. Not so!
Life is full of potential landmines. Maybe you face some of these threats in your life:
- Contagious illnesses
- Area-wide crime
- Greater vulnerability to infectious diseases
- Unreliable community services such as police or first responders
- Severe weather danger
- Higher personal risk for cancer, heart disease or other fatal diseases
As human beings, we tend to fear the unknown and unpredictable.
Fear stems from helplessness to control those things that are bigger and more powerful than us. We feel driven to take measures to control the situation.
If you are a follower of Christ, you read in your Bible that we are not to be afraid. We’re to trust God. You don’t want to have blind trust, but you also don’t want fear to rule your life. What do you do?
Does caution show a lack of faith?
The story of Nehemiah, governor of ancient Israel, gives a good example of the balance between cation and fear. When Nehemiah organized a work party to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, surrounding tribes opposed the efforts and threatened harm to the workforce. It was a tense situation. Giving up would be giving in, but the threat was real.
Nehemiah chose to arm his workers with swords and spears. Half the crew stood guard while the rest worked. Those who carried materials carried them in one hand and held a sword in the other. The workers had a sword attached to their side.
But they kept working. (Read the story for yourself in Nehemiah 4.)
That’s the secret of the balance between caution and fear. You take the precautions. But you keep moving forward. You do what God has called you to do despite the threat.
How do I know if I’m giving in to fear?
Fear responds emotionally in irrational ways. Fear overreacts to the truth and accepts false, incomplete, or overblown information without checkout the facts or sources. Fear has the attitude of, “if a little bit of caution is good, a lot of caution is better. It can’t hurt.” Unfortunately, too much caution can hurt.
Caution gets the facts, weighs the options, calculates the risks, and moves forward anyway, trusting that after we’ve done all we can, God will take care of the rest. Caution puts on protective gear, and then opens the door to face the threat.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.Ephesians 6:13
I can control only so much.
I control what I can, and then trust God to protect me from the part I cannot control—whether it’s an approaching storm, other people’s decisions to act carelessly, or the cancer that will break down my body despite my eating habits and exercise program. I focus on what God has for me to do rather than on the things that might hold me back or destroy me.
Think of it this way.
Name one thing you are currently concerned about. Calculate how much time, money, and mental energy you devote to self-protection and prevention. How much time do you spend thinking about and researching the latest news about the fear-threat?
If you are spending most of your resources seeking information about the possible threat and protecting yourself against it, perhaps you’ve tipped the balance toward fear.
Are you like me – you still don’t know if you are living in fear or taking necessary precautions? Pray! Tell God you need His wisdom to know how to manage the situation. Ask him to bring reliable resources to you so that you can make sound decisions. Finally, ask him to show you what work He has for you to do in the midst of the threat or obstacle. Then be willing to do what he calls you to do, trusting that he will protect you and walk with you as you choose to do his will.
God loves you!
God cares about your safety and health even more than you. He will be with you, no matter what happens to you or the people you love. Let his perfect love remove fear from your life.
Are you struggling with fear? You know you’ve stepped over the line, but you don’t know how to control your fear? Check out this resource to find the balance between fear and peace.
Here’s another great resource to help you prepare for any crisis without fear: Ready For Anything by Kathi Lipp
Listen to Kathi Lipp talking about faith and preparedness here.