The words that boil down to “do not fear” appear over 500 times in the New King James Bible. They appear when the Lord talks to people, when angels appear and by the Apostles as they go out and preach the good news.
These words appear for both mental fear and physical fear. Having an angel appear and start talking to would be very frightening in the mental sense. The angel would have to say “fear not” because otherwise whoever is being addressed could be overwhelmed. I think that’s especially true of the women who were approached and probably the shepherds “keeping watch.”
What does it mean to be afraid? It’s an instinctive reaction to something unknown, or something that is known that will cause harm or death. The first vestiges of it can’t be controlled, but after that we can set our fear aside to deal with what is happening. In fact, fear can intensify what is happening.
Why have we been told not to fear? There are physical reasons not to fear. It is a negative emotion that, if felt over a long period of time, can harm the body. That may be part of the answer, but I don’t think it’s all of the answer. I think God doesn’t want us to fear so that we can hear what He has to say.
I spent some time remembering the passages that have that command in them. They have all brought good news, even those in the Psalms. “Fear not, for I am with you.” “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy.” “Do not fear, but…put your petitions before God.”
How can we apply this? It is natural to fear some things. Fearing pain is natural. Fearing death is natural. However, we have something to counter that fear. Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, then who can be against us?” Pain will come, and for some it may be pain caused by our faith. Death will come, but through Christ we will spend eternity with God.
Our means of overcoming fear isn’t something we have to do alone. God knows that we are weak. He knows that we still sin. He sent His Son for the forgiveness of our sins and He sent the Holy Spirit to help us overcome our weakness. We can “fear not” when we put our faith in Him and trust in His goodness.