The Fear of Man

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.

Proverbs 29:25 (NKJV)

I remember it so well – sitting on the floor of the large, carpeted room, each young lady chattering in low voices to another or listening intently as we opened our hearts to share the darkest and longest held secrets most of us had in our lives. Older ones praying to be a cautionary tale for our younger sisters in the Lord to avoid our mistakes and to fight the good fight of faith. It felt safe and warm and completely God-approved to let them in on my long-held secret. I told them with bated breathe and hard fought tears of the one failure, mistake, betrayal and abuse that set the course for the next 15 years of my life. Afterwards, I felt cleansed and relieved that I had done the task the Lord put before me. I spoke as He led me and I knew He would water His word in the hearts that needed it.

Months later I began to question what I had done. Was it really the Lord? If it was Him then why would He have me bear my soul to women who would later openly reject me? Knowing they had my words in my most vulnerable hour of transparency made me blush with shame every time my eyes met their deadened stare. These women did not care about me but they still had my secrets. What would they do with it? Was I already being laughed at by complete strangers? Who else knew of the things I had shared on that once-sacred occasion of open confession amongst sisters in the Lord? The thought would send my heart racing erratically.

The experience colored me in a shade I never expected to wear. The transparency that the Lord granted me with the salvation of my soul was almost stolen from me. When given opportunities to share hard truths of God’s deliverance in my life, I would hesitate ever so briefly. Was it really Him admonishing me to speak? Could this crowd (or small collection) of faces be trusted? Was this an occasion of casting my pearls before swine or giving what was holy to the dogs? The doubts clamored to be obeyed, vying for the position of Commander in Chief of my actions. But for the grace of God, they would have had their way with me. Where the fear and the doubts were strong, the voice of the Holy Spirit was stronger. He would not be ignored. I have had no cause to regret sharing anything that God has directed me to speak. Even the occasion that used to fill me with mortification has been healed. I have suffered no true loss by obeying the Lord (I count nothing as a loss if it resulted in my closer walk with Christ). Any hurt that was inflicted was the work of the flesh and the Arm of the Lord has been strong in healing those self-inflicted wounds.

These days when the zeal of the Lord consumes me and I long to share something I have learned in His word and/or by His Spirit or through His grace in my journey of life, ever so often I have this pause in my heart. Is this giving too much to too many people? Talking to a roomful of believers is vastly different than giving my words to 700+ “friends” online or 1300 “followers” on a site. Was the enemy lurking about, looking to devour me with the very words I provide about my life and my weaknesses? These are the questions I ask myself on a good day.

On a “not-so-good” day, the fear is “how will this be received by older believers whom I respect and whose affirmation I may still be seeking by my content? Will this cause the non-believers whom I genuinely like who have tolerated me thus far to write me off as just another fanatical narrow-minded, homophobic, patriarchal Jesus freak?” I will be honest in saying that there were more than a few times when I have hit the backspace button on content I desired to share because I did not want the accompanying backlash. Thankfully, I can say that these occasions are few and far between and they are never on issues of (eternal) life and death. By God’s grace, the Lord has never dealt softly with me if I dare to withhold His Gospel. The one time I have tried it, my insides felt like they were on fire; I lost all peace and my body physically shook in protest until I obeyed. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. I felt absolutely naked in speaking as the Lord instructed. But as soon as I obeyed, the Lord covered me richly in His grace.

The fear of man has proven to be an entrapment in my life.It has kept me from enjoying the freedom that Christ has so graciously granted me. It has made me doubt the promises of God over me (mainly that I am a new creature in Christ and truly old things have passed away and indeed all things have become new). The fear of man would hold me in bondage to a past that Christ has already washed away. The fear of man would have me remember my lascivious, arrogant, flesh-centered days and convince me that I need to “lay low” in Christ because I have done too much to qualify to tell others of the salvation that can only be found in Jesus. There is no reward in fearing man, at least not in my experience. The fear of man would have me dismiss as “personal conviction” the matters that the Lord through His grace has shown me to be the entrapment of the flesh if I dare give room for them. Rather than sharing what He has spoken concerning these things, the fear of man would tell me not to “impose” my own personal take on the matter on others – knowing in my heart of hearts there are younger siblings in the Lord who would benefit from a sincere warning regarding the snare of the enemy.

I gave my life to Christ a month after my 26th birthday. I had been alive long enough to see the impact that social media has on the lives of young people. I had been one of those young adults who published every high and highlighted very low. Going from boasting in my sin to publicly hating and denouncing it earned me many more snickers and stares than I could ever know. Had I given into the fear of man at that time, I would never have declared Christ as Savior and Lord with such a loud voice. When I find myself cowering now because of what “they” might say, I must audibly remind myself that “they” did not die for my sins. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; the fear of man is a snare.

Do not fall for the trap.

Yours in Christ,