Fear and the Orthodox ManSep 29, 2021
Something I have heard other preachers say is: “The Bible says 365 times, Fear Not, or some derivative of that. That’s one for every day.”
I don’t know if that is true, it could be, I am not about to count. It’s a nice preaching device whether it is true or not.
I have no reason to doubt it based upon my own life and the lives of the people in my life, Orthodox or not, we all incline toward fear and catastrophic thinking at times.
Of course, there are times and situations when fear is an appropriate response. Standing at the door of an airplane with a parachute on, for instance. At the top of a cliff. Fear, as a survival skill was given to us by God, for our own protection and salvation, (after the Fall) primarily so we would fear sinning and joining the rebellion. Fear was originally provided for us to understand our place in God’s creation. There is a holy fear and a worldly fear.
Worldly fear is a very negative fear. The one being pushed by the media and culture. It is like the fear of St. Peter walking on the water. The fear he had to be rescued from.
So do we.
How does an Orthodox man approach this negative fear?
The antidote for fear is not courage. It is Trust. (Which admittedly requires courage.)
Ultimately worldly fear is a lack of trust. As in, I don’t really trust God.
On the recent feast day of St. John the Theologian (September 26) we read in part, the following: 1 John 4:17-19 “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him because he first loved us.” (Emphasis mine)
Never make a decision based on worldly fear.
Decisions are found and made with confidence in God. He is perfect love. His will for me is for the Good, for my salvation. He is Good. Therefore, I fear not.
We pray we ask, we seek, we get advice. Then with trust in God, we make wise, informed, careful decisions; trusting that God IS leading, guiding, directing us, all for our salvation.
Why can we do that? Because we ask Him to lead, guide and direct us. To help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us O God, by thy grace.
Then we make faithful decisions based on love, based on who God is, not in fear of what might happen to us. There is closer to a holy fear.
St. Anthony the Great (ca. 251–356) said,
“Always have the fear of God before your eyes. Remember Him who gives death and who gives life,” and “Die daily, that you might live eternally, for one who fears God will live forever,” and “If a man wishes to attain to love of God, he must have fear of God. Fear gives birth to mourning and mourning to courage. When all this has ripened in the soul, it begins to bear fruit in all things.”
He also said, “I no longer fear God, but I love Him, for love casts out fear.”
St. Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022) said,
When a man walks in the fear of God he knows no fear, even if he were to be surrounded by wicked men. He has the fear of God within him and wears the invincible armor of faith. This makes him strong and able to take on anything, even things that seem difficult or impossible to most people. Such a man is like a giant surrounded by monkeys, or a roaring lion among dogs and foxes. He goes forward trusting in the Lord and the constancy of his will to strike and paralyze his foes. He wields the blazing club of the Word in wisdom.
St. Dorotheos of Gaza (6th century) said,
Holy Scripture says of the midwives who kept alive the Israelites’ male children, that through the God-fearing midwives they made themselves houses. Does it mean they made visible houses? How can they say they acquired houses through the fear of God when we do the opposite, and learn in time, through fear of God to give up the houses we have? Evidently, this does not refer to visible houses but to the houses of the soul which each one builds for himself by keeping God’s commandments. Through this Holy Scripture teaches us that the fear of God prepares the soul to keep the commandments, and through the commandments, the house of the soul is built up. Let us take hold of them, brothers, and let us fear God, and we shall build houses for ourselves where we shall find shelter in winter weather, in the season of storm-cloud, lightning, and rain; for not to have a home in winter-time is a great hardship.
“Goodness itself [is] knowing what it is to be with God… This is the man who has true love, which St. John calls perfect love, and that love leads a man to perfect fear. Such a man fears and keeps to God’s will, not for fear of punishment, not to avoid condemnation, but because he has tasted the sweetness of being with God; he fears he may fall away from it; he fears to be turned from it.”
“With the fear of God, with faith and love draw near.” The Divine Liturgy.
Fr Stephen Lourie
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