Maybe Peter wasn’t supposed to say anything, but because of his personality and the fact that he was terrified, he spoke. Can you relate to him? As one who shares Peter’s choleric, determined, need-to-have-an-answer personality, I get it. Fear has made me speak up when it would have been best for me to keep still and quiet down.
When I was a teen I babysat for a family who lived just about a mile up the road from our house. I became so close to them that if I wasn’t with Pat, I was at their house, playing with their kids, or watching movies with them. (I can only recall one time that I arrived only to discover the door to their house was locked). One morning I left my home very early so I could watch the kids for Don and Diane for the day. As I approached their road, which was off to the left of the main road, I put my turn single on and started to make the turn. What I didn’t expect was to have my little green Dodge Dart’s engine shut down, halfway across both lanes, on the bend in the road, in the midst of a foggy, hard-to-see morning. Hard as I tried to restart her, she wasn’t going to. Because my gas gauge didn’t work, I tried to keep track of how many miles I drove before I needed to fill up; obviously I had miscalculated, as she was bone dry. I remember now the panicked feeling that came over me as I wondered what I should do. I opened my door and with one leg on the road, sitting half in/half out, I began to use all the strength I had to push. It was only a few minutes later that I heard the sound of something…the sound of something big…the sound of a tractor-trailer truck…and it was coming up the long stretch of the road. Oh Sweet Jesus, after all these years, I still feel the fear that presented itself in that moment. I pushed quicker, I screamed louder and cried harder when a thought hit me and I knew just what to do. I jumped out of the car and ran down the road, waving my arms and yelling at the driver. Why did I do this? I have no idea…that was the same question the driver of the truck asked me, after he hit his brakes and came to a screeching stop—close to my car—and the side of the road. He wasn’t very happy, but he saw me and he also helped me move my car off the road, as he lectured me about the dangers of standing in the middle of a road on a hard-to-see foggy morning. Clearly, fear can make you do some crazy things.
Just take a peek at Abraham, who, fearing for his safety in the land of Gerar because of his wife’s beauty, told the King she was his sister. So King Abimelech of Gerar took Sarah as his wife. Abraham got her back, but it was a pretty sticky situation for them when the King discovered that while she was indeed Abraham’s half sister, she was also his wife (Genesis 20). Have you ever been in a situation where fear presented itself and caused you to only tell part of the story? The poor King had no idea Sarah was married until God came to him in a dream, revealing the truth, informing him he was a “dead man” because of her (vs 3). Can you even imagine? Leaving out important information because we fear the consequences of the truth can put others at risk. I wonder too—did Abraham care so little about his wife that he would give her to another man to save himself? I don’t want to be too hard on Abraham; I’m sure there were times I was willing to throw others under the bus to protect myself. Just ask my siblings. Fear can make you behave in crazy ways.
King Saul told Samuel that fear of the people caused him to disobey following the Lord’s instruction completely when they went to war against the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15). When we are confronted by disobedience, whom do we blame? It might be easy to say: “I feared the people,” like Saul did, but that excuse still cost him when the Lord rejected him as King and removed him from power. Is it possible that we miss out on opportunities the Lord has for us because we have allowed “fear of the people” to determine our course, rather than choosing to obey the commandment of the Lord? I have no doubt this is true, as I have, and continue to struggle with the fear of what people will think. Fear can cause us to say some crazy things.
So what can fear cause us to do? Fear of growing old might make you pursue that which makes you feel younger. This happens in marriages all the time when a spouse leaves the mate of their youth for the younger model. Fear of others discovering truth can cause us to hide behind the wall of lies we build for protection. Fear of having nothing can make you steal. Fear of poverty can make you overwork. Fear of losing can make you cheat. Fear of failure can drive you to succeed, no matter the cost. Fear of commitment can make you flee. Yes, fear can make us do, say and behave in crazy ways. What has fear caused you to do? Has it caused you to forget Whose you are and what you have? I’d like to offer you this reminder…
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ’Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:14-16 NLT).