Hope: the Opposite of Fear
When I was still a new believer, I attended a New Year’s Eve service at a local church. At one point in the service, everyone was asked to pick a piece of paper from a grab bag at the altar. On each piece of paper was a Scripture verse intended to serve as a promise or a theme for the upcoming year. A team from the church had prayed over these verses, asking God to match up verses with people.
I don’t remember exactly what my verse was, but I do recall it gave me the sense that the following year was going to be a hard one—which didn’t seem likely in the moment, because things were going so well in my life at that time. But sure enough, that following year, all hell broke loose; despite the great joy of welcoming my second child into the world, it was one of the hardest years of my life.
I never forgot that experience. So when I moved to Virginia and hosted my first New Year’s Eve party, I decided to share that tradition with my family and friends. I randomly picked some promises from the Bible, typed them up on little slips of paper, prayed that God would make sure that the right people got the right verses, and let everyone choose a verse.
Over the years, I’ve added themes to this tradition. More recently, a few New Year’s Eves ago, I felt the Lord urging me to choose verses about hope. My own grab bag verse was 1 Corinthians 9:10: Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.
As usual, I took some time to do a study on my verse. In the course of that study, I looked up the Greek word for hope. What I found really surprised me because it led me to meditate more on fear than on hope.
Strong’s Concordance notes that the word “hope” in the Greek is “elpes” from the primary word “elpo” (to anticipate, usually with pleasure). But it was the first two definitions that caught my eye:
- Expectation of evil, fear
- Expectation of good, hope
The key word was expectation. If we expect evil, we live in fear. If we expect good, we live in hope.
It was so appropriate for me because, as I read it in context, I realized that the Lord was dealing with an area of my heart that was not yet healed and filled with His truth—an area of what I was soon to recognize as a deep-seated fear.
Fear is the most pervasive and universally shared emotion in every human’s heart. We are born with the propensity to fear—and the need to somehow forestall the fates we foresee.
God exhorts us to not be afraid countless times in the Bible. He understands the lengths we will often go to avoid whatever pain or evil we expect to encounter. He knows that, until we have recognized and forsaken the lies that we have believed, we cannot expect the good that He wants to give us—we cannot have hope.
I saw that the passage surrounding my verse had to do with the hope, or the expectation of good, of material compensation for spiritual work. This was only a year after I had launched into individual ministry, so I could see that I still needed to be set free from a fear that had long been in my heart and mind; specifically, the expectation that I would lack provision. God was not satisfied with partial healing of this particular fear. His desire for me was total healing.
One major key to my own healing journey had been renouncing negative expectations and inner vows. Negative expectations can be defined as negative belief systems that we establish in our hearts along our life journeys. We look for ways to protect ourselves from these negative expectations by making decisions—or inner vows—designed to protect us from the evil or hurts that we are expecting.
As I was healed from shame through dialogue with God, one negative expectation after another was uncovered in my heart. I created a list of all of these because I wanted a visual of how many lies—fears and their accompanying inner vows—had to be uprooted so I could find healing and wholeness in Christ.
Sometimes I think that, had I learned nothing else about prayer counseling except this concept, I would have still had all I needed to find freedom.
That’s because, when it comes to healing from shame, depression, and even trauma, hope that comes from the Lord is what we need to hold onto.
So when we pray to replace negative expectations with God’s truth, we are replacing fear with hope!
But when fear is an established pattern, how do we start to replace fear with hope?
First, we must ask God to show us what is truly in our hearts. What firm beliefs do we have that are not in line with what the Word says? Do we believe in our hearts that we are alone? Do we believe in our hearts that we are worthless, and devoid of value?
Second, we must ask God to show us the ways in which we have tried to protect ourselves from the evil we expect. Have we made a decision not to need anyone, since we believe we will be abandoned? Have we decided not to let anyone know how much we care that we think so little of our worth?
Third, we must ask God to show us His truth about our negative expectations and beliefs.
Are we truly alone? No; the Lord has said He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Are we really worthless? No; God has said that we are His people, His unique treasure (Deuteronomy 7:6).
Finally, we must replace these old decisions—these inner vows based on fear—with a new purpose rooted in hope—that is, the belief in His truth and the expectation of good from a good God.
We pray this way while still recognizing that out of our own strength we cannot do what is right, but that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can do all things.
As you continue on your journey, ask God to help you understand what it would look like to bring your negative beliefs and inner vows to death on the cross. Ask Him to show you the hope He wants you to have instead.
And as you continue to be set free from the lies you believe, fear will be driven out in greater and greater measure, just as the Israelites drove out the inhabitants from the land of Israel. There will be more and more room for the light that is hope to shine through and reign in your heart, so you can be all that He has created you to be.
Fear blots out our God-given vision of who we are called to be in this life. But no matter what evil or pain you have experienced, knowing God’s truth can free you from that fear, and lead you into a renewed sense of hope. FHI’s Freedom From Trauma seminar, happening on Saturday, Sept. 16, is one way you can start to learn strategies that will help you along this path. And The Identity and Destiny Conference on Oct. 13-14 will be another amazing opportunity to come alongside others and connect with all of your God-given potential.