God Works in Our Fear, Not Despite It

Erica Wiggenhorn
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Moses’ default in fear is to flee. He prefers to defer rather than step into his assignment. To move past our fear of inadequacy, we have to turn around and face our fear. Sometimes we’ll start striving in another direction in hopes to move further away from the problem. But God wants us to surrender the fear over to Him and allow Him to deal with it. God shows Moses that He is intent on helping him overcome with courage instead of flee in fright. Fearing others’ responses to our failure causes us to run and hide. Moses preferred obscurity and tried to defer his position of leadership to his brother Aaron.

God’s Work in Our Fear

After Moses continually argued with God about his ability to take on this assignment, pleading with God to give it to someone else, God suggested Aaron become Moses’ spokesman. But note carefully what God also said. “He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs” (Ex. 4:16–17).

It was that same staff God made him face in fear, and made him subdue and squash. Aaron speaks, Moses performs the signs. Got it. Except that’s not what happened. And God made extra sure Moses understood His directions, because He repeats them a second time:

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power’” (Ex 4:21a).

Those “yous” and that “your” are not plural. God did not mean Moses and Aaron. He meant Moses.

But look what happens when Moses gets back to Egypt:

And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which He had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people.
— Exodus 4:28–31

Wait, what? I thought Aaron was supposed to speak and Moses was supposed to perform the miracles.

Up to this point, it appears that Aaron is doing everything and Moses is basically standing there along for the ride. He takes a backseat to his older brother. But this isn’t the arrangement God intended. Our fear propels us into passivity, but God invites us to intentionally pursue victory.

Our fear of inadequacy will cause us to hide behind others, deflecting the outcome onto them, so we won’t be responsible for any future failures. But God doesn’t want us to sit back and miss out on what He has planned for us, so He addresses Moses’ unwillingness to follow His commands.

Moses With God Before Pharaoh

Not only does God deal with Moses’ default to flee, He also brings him face to face with his fear of rejection. God’s heart includes freeing us from our fears, so He orchestrates circumstances forcing us to face those fears. People were not cooperative and did not support his efforts, precisely what he feared would happen. When placed in the right set of circumstances, that old serpent slithers close and hisses in our ear, “See, I knew you’d fail. Why do you even try?”

“When the enemy slithers close, silence those hisses with the truth that your God knows the playbook.”

Moses and Aaron go and confront Pharaoh. They ask the king of Egypt to kindly grant a few days’ vacation from brick-making for the Israelite slaves that they may go worship God in the wilderness. Pharaoh scoffs over such a suggestion. “I don’t know your God— why would I let your people go? Get back to work.”

Then Pharaoh takes the matter further. He punishes the Israelites. “The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, ‘You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them’” (Ex. 5:6–8).

The Israelites proved unable to collect straw and still produce the same number of bricks.

And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?”—Exodus 5:14

Let’s think about this. During Moses’ first attempt at Operation Deliverance he witnessed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew in front of him. And in anger, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. Now Moses witnesses many Hebrews being beaten because of him. His confrontation with Pharaoh resulted in more than a redo of his initial attempt. It made the situation worse. Talk about the perfect circumstance for his fear of inadequacy to erupt!

The foremen met with Moses and Aaron and they were not happy. “The Lord look on you and judge,” they said, “because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us” (Ex. 5:21). The people reject Moses and express their anger and blame toward him. Moses in turn responds to God: “Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all” (vv. 22–23).

Did this come as a surprise to God? Why did He let events unfold in this manner? Why did God cause the very thing Moses feared most to be what actually happened?

God in Our Fear of Rejection

Could it be that just as He showed Moses he did not have to run in fear from the serpent, neither did he need to run in fear from the serpent’s lies? Moses faced rejection. He heard
those words spoken by the Israelites, which no doubt pierced him deeply. He complains to the Lord over it. But he pressed on. He faced the fear and continued to obey. We may not have to tangibly tackle a serpent, but we will battle his insidious suggestions that our only future is failure. God may allow us to experience rejection so we learn that once we’ve walked through it and pressed on in His power, those lies of the enemy no longer sound so ominous.

What opportunities, circumstances or situations do you avoid out of fear of inadequacy or rejection? It’s time to grab it by the tail and squash it in your fist. Running away will never make it go away. If God has placed this person or position in your path, maybe it’s time to stop running, turn around, and face your fear. When the enemy slithers close, silence those hisses with the truth that your God knows the playbook. Even moments of rejection hold purpose.

For Further Reading:

Letting God Be Enough

by Erica Wiggenhorn

Everyone thinks you’ve got it together. But inside, you’re asking, “Am I enough?” No matter how good we look to others,...

book cover for Letting God Be Enough