Understanding Fear

Now, imagine trying to thresh wheat in a winepress of all places! To thresh—to separate the chaff from the wheat—a gentle breeze in the outdoor air is needed to winnow the chaff. As all is thrown up into the air, both chaff and wheat, the wind blows away the lightweight chaff, and the heavier wheat falls to the ground. But in a winepress the surrounding walls prevent the wind from blowing in the center and threshing is not likely to be effective.

So here you are in hiding, fearing for your life, fighting an uphill battle for a few grains of wheat. At this point, the angel of the Lord appears, saying, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” He addresses you as what? What’s this mighty warrior?

Who, you?

WHAT IS Fear?

Imagine being asked to do something you know you can’t do. Like Gideon, rather than attempting to meet the challenge, you find yourself responding, “Thanks—but no thanks. You’ve got the wrong person.”

However, the angel announces that you are to lead the battle against your greatest enemy—an enemy that vastly outnumbers your army—one greatly feared by everyone and feared for good reason! The mammoth Midianites have been ravaging and ransacking your people at will, leaving death and destruction in their wake.

How? “Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites [and other enemies] invaded the country. They … ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys” (Judges 6:3–4). Understandably, your heart is terrorized with fear.

  • Fear is a strong emotional reaction to a perceived imminent danger characterized by a fight, flight, or freeze response.1
  • Fear can be real or imagined, rational or irrational, normal or abnormal.
  • Fear acts as a protective reaction, placed in us by our Creator to activate all of our physical defense systems when we face real danger. Fear triggers the release of adrenaline in the body that both prepares and propels us to action often called “fight or flight.”
  • Fear is a natural emotion designed by God. However, fearfulness is not designed by God, for fearfulness suggests living in a state of fear.
  • Fear is a translation of the Hebrew word yare, which means “to be afraid, stand in awe or fear.” 2 When Gideon was trying to thresh wheat in the winepress and the angel of the Lord appeared to him, “he was afraid” (Judges 6:27).

WHAT IS Anxiety?

After the heavenly messenger delivers his initial instructions, Gideon quickly questions: “If the Lord is really with us, why has all this evil happened?” And Gideon makes it most clear—if God wants a deliverer, I am definitely not the man for the job! After all, he is the least in the family belonging to the weakest clan in the small tribe of Manasseh. Gideon exclaims, “How can I save Israel?” cowering with the angst of anxiety.

Gideon knows that the monstrous Midianites have a new weapon enabling them to make swift, long-range attacks against the Hebrews—rendering them virtually powerless. This terrible weapon is nothing other than the camel!

Without food or water and with heavy loads, they cover 300 miles in three or four days. At harvest time, the Midianites simply ascend from the desert and quickly cover the land “like swarms of locusts. The Midianite troops and camels, both “impossible to count,” strip Israel bare of everything edible. Then, loaded with their plunder, they return to the desert until the next harvest is ripe.

Existing like this for seven years reduces Gideon and all the people to threshing meager amounts of grain in winepresses—hiding food and themselves in mountain dens and caves. No wonder Gideon is fearfully anxious and fully persuaded that “The LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian” (Judges 6:13). Gideon’s continual fear has a “close cousin” called anxiety.

  • Anxiety in the psychological/psychiatric world is the “umbrella” word covering varying degrees of worry and fear, ranging from mild to extreme.
  • Anxiety is an uneasiness or distress over a threat or something unknown and is characterized by extreme worry or brooding fear.
  • Anxiety stems from uncertainty—hoping something will happen, but having no guarantee that it will … or fearing something will happen, but having no control over whether it will or not.
  • Anxiety can lead to “catastrophic thinking” overestimating the likelihood of danger or a negative outcome.
  • Anxiety becomes a “disorder” when it becomes so intense that it dominates a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, preventing the person from living a normal life.
  • Anxiety Disorders:
    • Phobias
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder
    • Panic disorders
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorders
    • Acute stress disorder
    • Anxiety due to a medical condition
    • Substance-induced anxiety
    • Generalized anxiety disorder

Article Used by Permission from Hope for the Heart©

Scripture, unless otherwise indicated, taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

June Hunt

June Hunt

June Hunt, M.A. Criswell College, is a biblical counselor whose award-winning radio program "Hope For The Heart" is heard on 900 radio outlets around the world. For more than 25 years, she has counseled people, offering them hope for today's problems. June has helped many people with emotional, relational, and spiritual problems experience God's love through biblical hope and practical help. Click here to find out more about Hope for the Heart.

Hope For The Heart Board of Reference

Dr. Henry Blackaby (Blackaby Ministries International), Dr. Rick Warren (Saddleback Church), Dr. Tony Evans (The Urban Alternative), Joni Eareckson Tada (Joni and Friends), Kay Arthur (Precept Ministries International), Dr. David Jeremiah (Turning Point), Dr. Tim Clinton (American Association of Christian Counselors), Dr. Bruce Wilkinson (Bruce Wilkinson Ministries), Dr. Chip Ingram (Living on the Edge), Roger Staubach (SRS Real Estate Partners), Steve Arterburn (New Life Ministries), Vonette Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), Dr. Charles Stanley (In Touch Ministries), Zig Ziglar (Ziglar Training Systems)


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