Genesis 32:7: “And Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed:”
This verse almost appears repetitious. He was afraid and distressed. Does not being afraid and distressed mean the same thing? (For the sake of my Hebrew class the word for afraid is not one of your ra words) The word for afraid is yara’. This is a little different than ra. This is a fear of a person or circumstance that has not yet manifested itself.
It is the word for distress is yeser, that I find interesting. This could mean to be distressed or it could mean imagination. It could also mean both. That is important. The sages teach that when Jacob heard the report of his brother he became frightened, and then he became distressed. He realized that his fear was wrong, he should be trusting God. God was leading him to reconcile with his brother and he was not trusting God to handle the situation. Therefore he was disturbed or distressed over having these feelings of fear.
There is also a secondary meaning to this word. The word yeser’ is also used for imagination. When Jacob started to become fearful, his imagination (yeser’) ran away from him and he began to fear for his life. Turns out when he met his brother, he had nothing to fear at all, because God already blazed the trail for him.
Ever have some circumstance or person become threatening to you. You begin to fear and worry and you let your imagination (yeser) run and like Jacob you begin to imagine (yeser’) the worst? But when you confront the circumstance, you discover God has gone before you and prepared the way.
I met one person who said: “Even my anxieties have anxieties.” Calvin Coolidge was once asked why he appeared so calm when he faced the many problems of being President of the United States. He replied: “If I see ten problems walking down the road, I can be sure that nine will fall into the ditch before they reach me.” Well, if I see ten problems walking down the road, I know they will reach my Jesus before they ever reach me.
Hebrews 11:6 we learn that it is impossible to please God without faith. Now if you were like Jacob and you confront an issue or circumstance that creates a fear in you. Would you have that fear if you had total faith in God? Perhaps the opposite of faith is fear. Does not I John 4:18 tell us that perfect or total love cast out all fear? Believing in a God of perfect love and allowing His love to manifest itself in you, should do a number on your fears.
Now suppose your boss announces layoffs, or you discover a lump where is should not be or you are served with papers. Would you yeser in the sense of imagination and begin to imagine the worst, or would you yeser in the sense of being distressed over not putting your faith in God. If you are distressed over not putting your faith in God, and if you are distressed over letting fear rule you rather than the Spirit of God, then, like Jacob you have taken the first step to putting your faith in God. Just pray you don’t have to get into a wrestling match as Jacob did to arrive at his faith level.