I think it’s helpful to start by first explaining why we struggle with fear. As Mrs. Ortlund said in her book, we have been fighting fear since the Garden of Eden. We live in a sinful and cursed world as Genesis tells us—and the entire Bible bears that out. You don’t even have to look very far into the world we are in now to see that things are not right. There are frightening things all around us. Disasters rage. Cancer destroys. Divorce happens. Violence permeates the news and our neighborhoods. The list could go on. Ever since the fall of man, in Genesis 2, we have been plodding through this life as sinners living in a sin-cursed world. This fearful life is not how it was supposed to be. Adam and Eve rebelled against God and sin spiraled out of control. Because of their sin, we too are sinners. And we also are sinned against. But if we are not given a spirit of fear but one of peace, how are we to live when everything around us is screaming terror and fear?
We are not the first group of women who have had to deal with fears. Consider Sarah in Genesis 11:27-12. There are three things to notice about Sarah:
- She was barren. Genesis 11:30 tells us that she had no child. We aren’t given a reason for her barrenness, but we do know that for some reason she is unable to have a child. In this time period, being barren meant a far greater curse than it does today. Being barren is a part of the curse, and in that time period anyone who remembered God’s word to Adam and Eve would know that a woman who lacked a child lacked the ability to bring the promised seed into the world. People didn’t adopt or have fertility treatments. If a woman was without a child for her entire life it was considered to be a tremendous suffering. But notice what God says a few verses later. He tells Abraham that he will make him a great nation, and he continually tells him that his offspring will inherit the land. We aren’t given a glimpse into Sarah’s thoughts, or even Abraham’s at this point. But for them it surely must have seemed impossible. Barrenness/infertility seems like an insurmountable mountain to the one going through it. For Sarah, like so many women, being infertile would have brought moments of deep sorrow and anguish. She just wanted a baby. Anyone who has struggled with infertility understands, the absence of a much desired child can cause many fears to arise. You are left without any control, and sometimes no answers of when or if you will ever conceive.
- Notice also that she had to move far away from her homeland. This was not a time of email or Skype. You could not send a letter to your family back home. You couldn’t find them on Facebook and look at their pictures. When you left, it was forever. And it was very likely that she never heard from her family again. Imagine traveling to a foreign land where you have never been. In those days you could not look up the city on the internet. There were no Real Estate agents helping them get settled. Yet, she goes. Again, we are not given her thoughts—but a circumstance like this one could again cause many fears to arise.
- She was made to stay with a man who was not her husband. Later on in Genesis we see this happening again. But we are told in this passage that Sarah was very beautiful and Abraham feared for his own life because of her beauty. So he asks her to lie to Pharaoh and because of that she is taken into Pharaoh’s house. Her very life and purity were in danger as her husband subjected her to the harem of this king.
Now, Sarah was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. She was just as much a manipulator and deceiver as her husband. Even though she knew God’s promise that he would provide a son for them, Genesis 16 tells us that Sarah, in her impatience, takes matters into her own hands and uses her servant to bring offspring into their family. Of course, it backfired and conflict characterized their family from that point on. The point is that Sarah had cause to fear, like so many of us do. But her fears did not ultimately control her.
In the next post on fear, I will talk about what the New Testament says about Sarah and her ultimate hope in fearful circumstances.