Exodus 1:5-10 (English Standard Version)
All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”
As we start this exploration of Exodus, I can’t help but wonder “what if?”…
What if this new Pharaoh had reached out to the people who were so numerous and strong, and worked with them instead of against them? What if he had trained the people of Israel along with his own soldiers, so that they would come to know and trust each other in the event of war? What if, instead of making them slaves, he had made them part of the community? What if he had faced his fear instead of giving in to it?
And yet… that is not what happened. This Pharaoh surrendered to his nightmares, and allowed them to guide his life.
Healthy fear can help us to recognize places in our lives that aren’t aligned with God’s will, and can give us the courage and motivation we need to make lasting changes. But unhealthy fear can steal our freedom and lead us to make increasingly damaging decisions for ourselves and for those around us.
The apostle Paul wrote this in a letter to a young man named Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (1 Timothy 1:7, New Living Translation).
That was, no doubt, a reassuring promise for Timothy to read from his mentor, and it is meant to be encouraging for us, as well. God does not want us to be filled with fear. God does not want us to be overwhelmed with anxiety. What God does want for us is to be filled with God’s power, and to be overflowing with God’s love.
What is it that you are afraid of right now? How could that fear influence your actions in negative ways? How can you begin to address fear, worry, and anxiety in your life?