Friday, November 18, 2016

The powerful emotion of dread Pt. 1

Dread pops up in the simplest of things. A young man has a project due at work. He knows he can do a good job, but dreads dealing with his boorish overseeing manager. He sets to work haunted by the notion of being laughed at behind his back. He doubts himself and is angry at the unfairness of it all. He pushes himself to just get it done, but the fear of failure and ridicule dull his mind so that he can’t even think. He decides to boost his spirits with a drink or two, some entertainment, time out with friends, or anything to calm his nerves to tackle the project. But days pass and he can barely look at his to-do list, feeling more convinced he’s a loser. He mentally cuts himself down as an irresponsible, lazy idiot who’s lost his chance for a promotion if he’s lucky to even keep the job. The day of his presentation is approaching but instead of pushing through to get it done, he’s paralyzed by dread. 

Doubt, worry, fear: three emotional states that the Bible constantly commands us not to feel, all condense into the intolerable emotion of dread. Dread of an uncertain future, dread of fulfilling a difficult task, dread of pain, unhappiness, alienation, failure, conflict, ridicule, rejection, loss, death. Jesus says that, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy…” (John 10:10) so it follows that the feeling of dread is a conviction that the devil’s plans will come true. Dread is a form of negative faith that drives us further from God and closer to Satan. We may think we’re just reacting logically to an unpleasant situation, but we’re actually entering into a demonic spiritual state. Surrendering to dread is surrendering to the devil.

After 40 years of wandering in the desert because they rebelled against God and hadn’t entered the Promised Land as God had commanded them, Moses reminded the Israelites of the day they’d stood on the border of their land — still inhabited by strong cities and giant men — and of the words that God had spoken. Different Bible versions use “be terrified” or “fear,” but the King James Version hits the nail on the head saying, “Then I said unto you, dread not, neither be afraid of them.” (Deuteronomy 1:29) Dread not, even though they’re huge, even though their cities are fortified and you’re just a bunch of wandering, homeless ex-slaves. Dread not because I, the Lord, will fight for you. Case closed.

If we’re commanded not to dread, it’s because we can choose to reject it. But a feeling so domineering as dread has to be replaced by a conviction even more domineering. Dread has to be argued down by raw faith. God challenged His people to determine that none of the imposing fortresses or warriors of the Promised Land would be vanquished by their own strength. God would do it. It was His job. They only had to be determined, and obey. They couldn’t just ignore fear, doubt or worry, they had to throw it down and stomp on it. Dread is a demonic spirit of intimidation and the only way to destroy it is to do exactly what it doesn’t want you to do.

And then there’s the curious description that God has for Himself throughout the Old Testament. Malachi 4:5 (KJV) says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” God calls Himself dreadful, says that we should dread Him, that the heathen dread Him, that our enemies will dread us. When it comes to God, dread is a positive spiritual force. The intense dread of the devil’s threats has to be transformed into an intense fear and awe for God. And godly dread is nothing like demonic dread. It doesn’t create weakness or defeat, but joy, love, strength, and an invincible holy bond between us and our Creator.   

Giving into the dread of the devil’s threats is bowing in submission to him. But holy dread as a response to God’s promises is a form of worship and surrender to His power. So how do we develop this holy dread for God? Check back tomorrow for the second half of this topic.  

You should not say, “It is a conspiracy,” concerning all that this people calls a conspiracy, neither fear their threats nor be afraid of them.  Sanctify the Lord of Hosts Himself, and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.  Isaiah 8:12-13, MEV

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