Did you know that there are actually two different types of fear? If you have something you are working on, whether it’s an important relationship or a project of some kind, you may be experiencing fear. But knowing what kind of fear you are experiencing will help you know the best strategy to help you move forward.

This podcast comes at a great time for me, and I hope it does for you too. I have a project, a book. I never dreamed or imagined I would write a book. Just like I never dreamed of or planned to start a business. And yet, here I am. Following the promptings of the Spirit and doing things I never thought I would. So if there’s something on your heart that feels scary, this episode is for you.

Two Types Of Fear

Did you know according to the Old Testament, there are two types of fear? I learned this from my mentor Brooke Snow, who read it in the book Playing Big by Tara Mohr who learned it from Rabbi Alan Lew and his book Be Still and Get Going.

Rabi Lew says the Hebrew Bible uses two different words for fear.

The first is pachad and the second is yirah.

Pachad is fear of one’s life and safety.

Yirah is fear of God, or reverence to God.

I did a bit of research online to better understand these two words and came across some quotes that I think would better illustrate the differences than I can do on my own. References and links will be in the show notes.

Psalms 27:1 “The LORD [is] my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD [is] the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

To those of us in the English speaking world fear and afraid both mean the same things.  Hence we read this verse that since the Lord is my light and salvation there is no one to be afraid of.

The Lord is our strength and again we need not be afraid of anyone.  The truth of that is not to be questioned but this passage is saying much more.

Pachad

There are two different words used here in the Hebrew for fear and afraid.  The first word that is used for fear in whom shall I fear is the word yara’.  The word for afraid is an entirely different word in Hebrew.

It is the word pachad which is a fear or terror.  It is a fear for one’s own safety.  This is what we usually think of when we hear the word fear. 

I have never seen this word used in relationship to God.  That is I have never seen a passage that says we are to pachad God. 

I know that upsets some people who maintain control out of fear, like the old saying: “Putting the fear of God into someone.” 

I have heard some preachers say: “You had better be afraid of God…” 

In I John 4:18 we learn that: “Perfect love cast out all fear”

So what does that make John?

If you are putting the fear of God into someone what you are doing is not putting fear of one’s safety but respect and honor for God into someone. 

For the only word for fear that is used with God is yara’ which is a word for showing reverence. It is also a word for showing concern for one’s feelings and welfare.

So, if you want to put the fear of the love into someone what you are putting into that person is love, respect and honor for God.

Yara

Now if you look at both words yara’ and pachad in your lexicons you will find they both say that the word could mean reverence.

However, keep in mind that there are differences in reverence.  If you use the word reverence with yara’ then that means you reverence someone such that you will do nothing to bring harm to that person, you will respect that person’s privacy, feelings and heart. 

If you use the word reverence with pachad then you are showing reverence like the Hindus show reverence to their gods. 

They are fearful of their gods and they reverence their gods out of fear that if they don’t they will get badly treated by their gods.

Pa’at

It is interesting that Rabbi Solomon Hirsch, a nineteenth century Jewish linguist and Hebrew master sees a relationship between pachad and pachat.  Pachat means to diminish

Fear diminishes our relationship with God.  The word is also related to pa’at which means to access.  Fear will limit our access to God. 

That is why the enemy wants us to live in fear, that is why he wants us to pachad God or us to be in terror of God rather than yara’ God, respect and love Him as one who would never harm us.

Yirah

“The root of the word yirah has two core meanings—fear and awe.

In working to harmonize these two possible meanings, Rabbi Shai Held brings the teaching of Bernard Steinberg, “‘Awe is what happens to fear when it stops being about me.’ When I fear God, in other words, I think about God’s might and the ways it could impact me, but when I hold God in awe, I think only of God’s might; thoughts of how it could affect me simply fall away. Fear becomes awe, then, when I forget about myself and focus only on God,” (The Heart of Torah, v. 2, p. 268).

Revered Lew refers to yirah as

  1. the feeling of inhabiting a larger space than what we are used to (insecurity)
  2. the feeling of when we come into considerably more energy than we did before (power)
  3. the feeling of being in presence of divine (presence or love)

Reverend Lew said pachad is the fear of the imagined. I think of it as the fear of man.

In Matthew 10:28 it says “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body” But with respect to pachad and yirah, we could interpret this verse to say, do not fear man, but reverence God.

Can you see times and places in your life where you embody pachad? Can you see times and places in your life when you embody yirah?

For each of these types of fear, there is a different reaction that will keep us close to God and His purpose for us.

With pachad, we do our best to recognize it as a projection or imagined and muster courage to keep going despite the fear. It may be useful to process the fear in terms of our nervous system regulation. This, remember, is the fear of man, the fear of what might happen, imagined fears, fears for our safety. Our autonomic nervous system is responsible for looking out for this kind of fear. So we might respond in a way that metabolizes this fear to get to the other side of it.

Take Action

Starting around September of 2008 when my third child was born I drove a Honda Odyssey in a minivan without 4-wheel-drive. In the Denver area where we get occasional significant snowfall throughout the winter.

This used to make me so afraid! I would try to not feel afraid, and just be brave, but the truth was I was afraid of driving in the snow. I didn’t feel confident. I would avoid going out in the snow, opting to stay home instead.

Then one day, I really thought about what exactly I was afraid of? I was afraid of getting stuck with traffic waiting behind me. So instead of staying afraid, I decided to prepare myself.

I put a couple bags of sand in the back of my van along with a small shovel. If I did get stuck, I would dig myself out and use the sand to increase the traction.

And guess what? One day I did get stuck! But I didn’t even have to use my shovel and my sand because the people behind me got out of their cars and helped push my van to a place where it could get traction.

The point here, is that instead of letting the fear paralyze me, I took action. If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear. Simply by preparing for what I was afraid of, my fear decreased.

With yirah, we want to allow it to expand us and give us confidence in God. We move forward with faith in God’s power.

Let Fear Protect You

When I was about 15 years old, my parents got into a giant argument about me and my desire to spend time with friends instead of being home doing chores. At least that’s how I remember it.

My mom was defending me and my dad was arguing against her. I remember listening from my bedroom, getting angrier and angrier at my dad. So I decided to go into the living room where they were and speak for myself, instead of allowing my mom to continue to speak for me.

I don’t remember what I said, but it made my dad angry and he walked up to me and tried to slap me across the face. It was as if the Spirit was with me, because I knew exactly what he was going to do, I could see it before he did it. So I moved out of the way and he missed.

With conviction in my voice and looking directly into his eyes, I calmly told him, “You will never touch me again.”

Looking back, I think I was experiencing yirah fear. It felt like I was expanding into a larger version of myself. It was scary, but it felt right. I felt like I was operating out of my true identity as a daughter of God, instead of out of fear of what my dad might say or do.

With yirah fear, we want to allow it, sit with it, embody it.

At the beginning of this episode I talked about a book I am writing. It feels scary. There is definitely some pachad fear: what will people think of it, what if it’s not good? But mostly I notice there is yirah: this is bigger than me.

I am on the Lord’s errand. I want to let go or sacrifice the pachad fear, but hold onto or consecrate the yirah fear.

If you feel blessed, but not good, maybe you’re afraid and you don’t know how to move forward. I hope this episode helps you to do so.

And if you want more support to separate pachad from yirah, and sacrifice the pachad while consecrating the yirah, I invite you to join me in my free Fear Not workshop.

I named it Fear Not as a nod both to the nervous system regulation and to the spiritual, because we do both kinds of work inside my signature program by the same name. I personally believe there are really only two emotions: love and fear.

All other emotions are subsets of love and fear. Fear Not is the space where we explore the spirituality, the somatics and the strategy of powerful motherhood.

It’s where we learn to step more fully into yirah and walk by faith, allowing God to lead us. It’s where we learn to embody our full identities and love more fully.

Let me bring it to the practical: Fear Not is where you improve your marriage, gain more confidence as a mother, create more peace and connection in your most important relationships and you realize your big dreams and goals.

And to be honest, this work also feels bigger than me, but I strive to allow the Lord to lead the way and show me what kind of coach he wants me to be. If you would like to co-create with God the purposes of YOUR life, join us in the Fear Not workshop on Wednesday May 15th at 11 am MDT or Thursday May 23 at 12 pm MDT. Find the link in the show description and show notes to register and get all the details including zoom link information.

I would love to continue the conversation with you! What makes it difficult for you to feel good? Please let me know by emailing podcast@denitabremer.com so I can create a podcast episode just for you. And if you find this podcast helpful, I would appreciate any ratings, reviews or shares.

That’s enough for now, and so are you!

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Cello music is written, recorded and produced by Jacqueline Walker.

This podcast is recorded by me, Denita Bremer, and produced by Jasmine Reynolds.