Pondering Fear

In the July 4 Christian Century I was drawn into Dr. Marty’s weekly editorial, “Hollowed out by fear”.

“It’s not an overstatement to say there’s a fear epidemic in America these days. Swapping stories of fright has become our national pastime.”

For the next several hours, I monitored my thoughts to see how often the fear of something or someone came to consciousness. More often than I expected.

It doesn’t matter where we land on the political bell curve, fear is invited to be our constant companion.

“No one seems to have an unkind word to say about fear these days, unchristian as it surely is,” says author Marilynne Robinson. That’s part of her larger argument about fear not being a Christian habit of mind. Yet once fear gets aroused in any of our minds, its perspective dominates. All imaginative capacities get overwhelmed. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once preached of the spiritual damage fear created. “It crouches in people’s hearts,” he wrote, and it “hollows out their insides…and secretly gnaws and eats away at all the ties that bind a person to God and to others.”

These strong statements are hard to ignore. What fears are hollowing out our insides? What fears are gnawing away at the ties that hold us together and with God?

I will never forget what I learned from my Hebrew Bible professor many years ago as he taught us the use and misuse of the word “fear” in the Old Testament.

Often the accurate interpretation of the word “fear” in Hebrew is not as an emotion or being scared, but rather the “fear of the Lord” means we have an awesome respect and honoring of God.

Does our current understanding of fear carry any of this meaning? How often does fear come into our thoughts as an honoring and respect for our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer?

My late husband often asked his students to ponder,

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18a
 Does perfect fear then cast out love?”


Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President

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