Most people experience fear in some form, at least occasionally. The dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.” Fear is not something we choose to have. Or not to have. But we do have some control over how we respond to it.
So, as a believer, how do you respond when fear rears its ugly head? Or maybe a better question is how should you respond?
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When Are We Afraid?
We are all different. And our life circumstances are all different. What one person fears is not necessarily a fear for another person. But what we all face are challenges in our life. And all too often, those challenges are accompanied by fear.
I have a certain level of fear when driving on the freeway in heavy traffic. But I have little fear of heading out into the mountains by myself for a few days. There is a certain level of fear of growing old and being unable to care for myself. For the safety of my family. That the economy might crash and take my retirement with it. As well as COVID-19 and what it might do. But none of these fears have much impact on my life.
But I have a friend who lives in Ethiopia with a wife and a young child. This is a country that is currently torn by ethnic strife. Innocent people are caught in the atrocities perpetrated by all sides of the conflict. Ethiopia is a dangerous place to live. And where food and other necessities can be scarce. They know a fear that is foreign to me.
Other believers live in places where the practice of their faith is outlawed or curtailed. And they face death daily, or worse, because of their faith. Fear must be a constant companion in many places in the world.
Why Be Afraid?
What causes fear in my life? Generally, it is because I have little, or no, control over what is happening. I fear driving in heavy traffic because I don’t know what others around me might do and if I can react to their actions quickly enough.
Likewise, we might fear a virus, a foreign country, a faltering economy, or the bogeyman in the night. If they threaten my health, safety, or comfort, they will likely cause a certain amount of fear or anxiety in my life.
In contrast, I do not fear spending a few days hiking the mountains near me because I see little threat there. So long as I am careful, there is little danger. Essentially, I am in control. Or at least I am comfortable in being able to respond to whatever might happen. And so, there is little reason for fear.
Responding to Fear with Trust
There are a couple of very different responses I can make to fear in my life. I can allow it to paralyze me and keep me from living a full life. At the other extreme, I can learn to manage my fears and not allow them to hinder me.
I do not fear the mountains because I have spent so much time there and eliminated much of the unknown that might cause fear. I can manage my fear of driving by allowing my wife, who has a much better reaction time than I do, to drive for me. And I can manage my fear of COVID by getting vaccinated and taking other appropriate safety precautions.
I trust my experience, my wife’s driving, and the efficacy of the COVID vaccination to protect me. That does not mean that nothing bad will happen to me. But it does allow me to keep the fear at bay.
Put Your Trust in God
There will always be threats to my health and safety. Threats to my family and our security. And dangers unseen that I cannot prepare for. I can’t prepare for everything. But I do not have to.
Psalm 56 was written by David. And in it, he described many of the fears in his own life. And they were caused mainly by his enemies, and he had many of them. But his response to fear was something that all who trust in God should copy. He said in Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” David trusted that God would be able to see him safely through whatever his enemies tried to do to him.
Nowhere is this trust in God better illustrated than in David’s fight with Goliath. All the rest of Israel’s army saw a giant who would crush anyone who took him on. But David saw something else entirely. When explaining his confidence to King Saul, David said, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:37). We can also trust that God will rescue all who trust in him from any giant we might encounter in this life.
We have no promise that we will experience physical deliverance from all the things we fear. I could die in an automobile accident, get eaten by a cougar, or suffer from COVID. I might lose everything I have in this world and be reduced to homelessness. But I do not need to let that fear dominate my life because I am confident that God knows me and cares for me. And that my future with him is secure. Nothing can separate me from his love (Rom. 8:35). So, when I am afraid, I will trust in God!
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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