Trillia is the author of United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (Moody, 2014). You also guest posts at Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition.
When I first became a Christian, I remember feeling “carefree” and to say I was excited about the Lord would have been an understatement. I was also a sponge. Anything anyone said to me I took as “the gospel.” As a young, impressionable Christian this was not good. I didn’t fully understand grace and as people would talk about sin I began to become fearful of not measuring up. I began to fear sinning. I began to question my motives, actions, thoughts--everything and I assumed everyone was questioning them too! I was afraid of the judgment of others. I was terrified of the opinions of others. I feared man.
The fear of man is a term to describe someone who will act or say or will not act or say certain things in fear of what others may think. We see it in Scripture in John 12 when the people and authorities believed Jesus but would not confess it for fear that they would be shunned (John 12: 42-43). Even Peter, who walked with Christ and was one of his disciples, denied him three times because of his fear of man (Matt 14:66-72). Caring deeply about what others think can be damaging and bring great despair. At least that was my case.
In what seemed like a moment’s time, my joy and carefree spirit became gripped by the fear of man. I was afraid that I was doing something wrong all of the time. No doubt I feared man before, but it was lying dormant and I wasn’t aware that many of my actions to please my father, my teachers, or my friends were out of a motivation not to disappoint them.
I found myself at a crossroads. I would either believe what God said in His Word about His children is true or I would continue to trust my own feelings, my fears, and my thoughts. God says: He is for us (Romans 8:31); He views those in Christ as covered in Christ’s righteousness (Romans 5:17); and He is working in our life (Philippians 1:6).
God began to work in me a renewed vision of Him as well. What God truly renewed in my mind and heart was a fear of Him. For me to stop worrying about others, I had to start thinking about Him. I began to remember things like His holiness (Psalm 77:13), His omniscience (Pslam 147:5), His sovereignty (Deuteronomy 4:39), and His great love (John 3:16). I began to experience the beginning of wisdom and understanding (Psalm 111:10). I began to experience true freedom in Christ and joy in the Lord. My life was no longer partly dependent on others; it was fully submitted to God!
Do you struggle with finding your acceptance and satisfaction in God alone? Sure you do. Everyone does to a degree. But if you relate to what I’ve written and you sense a deep longing to be accepted by others, you may find yourself experiencing despair. You simply won’t be able to please people. But there is One who is already pleased with you. Jesus’ blood covers the fear of man. God looks on you as righteous, as if you fear him perfectly. He also has the power to change you—He will complete His good work. Ask God to give you a vision for who He is, and then trust that He is who He says He is and be safe.
The fear of man can be debilitating. It can keep us from proclaiming Christ. It can keep us from pursuing good and God-glorifying work. It’s a snare. The good news is if you struggle with it God has freedom from it through His cross. We can never please people and the One who matters most is already pleased with you.
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Proverbs 29:25)
Follow Trillia Newbell on Twitter @trillianewbell