By Patricia Ennis
If you walk into a room and the conversation stops, what is your assumption? Would your response be concern that they were talking about you? Would your reflex reaction be fear of rejection? Or would you trust in your heavenly Father who loves you unconditionally and promises to give you peace and contentment in the midst of potentially challenging situations?
Understanding Contentment & Fear
Drawn from arkeo in Greek, contentment primarily signifies sufficiency or satisfaction. Scripture teaches that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6), God’s promises should lead to contentment, and those who seek contentment from money are never satisfied (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Believers are instructed to exhibit contentment in their callings (1 Corinthians 7:20), with their wages (Luke 3:14), with their possessions (Hebrews 13:5), and with the food and clothing they have (1 Timothy 6:8). Contentment is exemplified in the lives of:
• the Shunammite woman, who did not request anything in return for her care of Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-17)
• Paul, who gained independence from any need for help (Philippians 4:11, 12)
Fear is defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.” We live in a fear-dominated world—serious illness, financial ruin, old age, death, and rejection are all categories of fear that draw our focus away from God and toward our circumstances.
Fear is real, and it is not always negative—when you sense danger fear usually stimulates you to fight or flee. However, fearing people is a negative reaction because you are actually reversing the greatest commandments described in Matthew 22:36-40 and placing more focus on people than on God. We meet many of our yearnings through loving and being loved by others—affirmation, encouragement, companionship to counter loneliness, and provision of physical needs. But others’ potential ability to expose, humiliate, shame, reject, ridicule, revile, attack, oppress, or harm us physically, mentally, or spiritually provokes a natural human response to fear man (Proverbs 29:25).
As an introverted college and seminary professor, each semester I have the choice of allowing the fear of man to affect my classroom performance. Though I have many years of successful teaching experience, the most challenging part of starting a new semester is the potential that this group of students will reject me. I have two choices: I can either focus on my heavenly Father’s previous faithfulness or I can allow negative thoughts to plunge me into despair. Such a response would undoubtedly lead to failure. By choosing to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) I continue to excel in the classroom.
Fear’s Consequences & Antidotes
The consequences of fear are not usually positive—it can:
• Hinder your relationship with others
• Stifle your ability to think rationally
• Rob you of joy
• Contribute to indecisiveness
• Reduce your productiveness
• Create inner turmoil
• Injure your relationship with God
Since fear produces such detrimental results, it seems reasonable to locate an antidote to it. My choice to embrace peace and contentment is based on the truth found in God’s Word. I have learned from Scripture that:
• The natural reaction to fear is panic—the antidote is to replace potential fear with trust in God (Psalm 56:3, 4).
• I am commanded to refrain from fearing the reproach of others (Isaiah 51:7).
• Since God comforts me, why should I be afraid (v. 12)?
• I can be content in every circumstance because God has promised to never leave or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5, 6).
This story shared by an African missionary is a reminder that Scripture constantly urges God’s children to trust rather than fear:
A lion can only be the king as long as he is strong enough to hold his position—and there is always another lion trying to usurp it. Usually by the time the old king is replaced, he does not have any teeth and only a few claws. His hair is matted, he has arthritis in the joints, and he no longer can fight to keep his position; so a younger lion becomes the new king.
However, the old king is not entirely useless—he still has a role in the herd when the lions go on a hunt. When the herd hunts, the old, mean-looking, ferocious lion stands on one side while the young hunter lions hide in the bushes on the opposite side. When the prey appears, the former king looks at it and begins to roar; the roar scares the prey so badly that it runs to the opposite side—right into the waiting jaws of the hunter lions that attack and destroy it. If the prey had run toward the roar, more than likely it would have been safe, since all the old lion had left was his roar.
Scripture teaches that our “adversary, the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8, 9, New King James Version).
I have learned that Satan is going to attempt to derail the role my heavenly Father has for me in his kingdom. Several years ago it became clear that my heavenly Father wanted me to relocate so that I could stabilize a new college concentration in Homemaking while concurrently developing a graduate program. He cemented this direction for me when my Southern California home sold four hours after it was placed on the market.
Despite the numerous joys I experience in my new environment, Satan still attempts to cause me to question my decision. By focusing on the reality that the house sale was one of God’s many confirmations for my relocation, this allows me to run to the roar and resist Satan’s attempt to cause me to be discontent.
When you know sound doctrine and obey God’s Word, you find that fear is dispelled because Jesus defeated Satan on the cross, stripping him of his power and leaving him with his frightening but harmless roar (Hebrews 2:14, 15). If you are going to refuse to succumb to Satan’s impotent roar, you must replace fear with God’s Word (Psalm 119:11; Ephesians 6:10-17).
As you do so may I encourage you to use the strategy I began many years ago? Purchase a journal and inscribe it with Psalm 103:1, 2. Daily record only God’s blessing to you. Weekly review the blessings, and as your journal expands, return to the blessings of the previous year. I am confident that peace and contentment will replace fear in your life as it has mine.
The only positive fear recorded in Scripture is the fear of God. This fear is a reverence of God’s majesty, power, and greatness; as you embrace the biblical definition of fear, you will most likely find the negatives dissipating as peace and contentment fill your heart and mind.
Patricia Ennis is a freelance writer in Fort Worth, Texas.
Achieving Peace & Contentment
• Role models to emulate—Esther, a woman who chose to run to the roar and Daniel, who literally looked the lions in the eye
• Scriptures for meditation and memorization—Genesis 28:15; Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 91:1-7; Proverbs 3:25, 26; Isaiah 41:10-13; Luke 12:6-7; John 14:27; Romans 8:14-16; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:17, 18
• A principle to ponder—Content are those who allow trust in their heavenly Father to be their natural response when faced with fear (Psalm 56:3, 11)