This article was originally published on September 7, 2020.
What are you afraid of?
I certainly have had my big moments of doubt and fear in my life. I’ll never forget being at the hospital with my wife to deliver our third child and getting a call from my boss telling me we were out of business. I worked at a large bank during the 07-08 global financial crisis. My boss called and said we no longer offered home equity loans to the national market.
I replied, “We employee hundreds of people who do that work. What do we do with them?”
In the chaos of the financial crisis, there was no clear answer. After some back and forth, I said, “I think I better go help my wife have this baby and call you back tomorrow.”
That was a scary time—preparing to tell hundreds of people they have lost their jobs, understanding I will most likely lose my job while needing to provide for a growing family of five. As the financial crisis continued to deepen, there were more moments of fear during the next 12 months, but you know what stopped my fear?
God showed me through his Word and through others that, even if we need to live down by the river in a tent with our three kids (ages 5 and under), we are going to be just fine. We have a God who loves us, and nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38).
What are your fears?
Here are some fears that we all will face or have faced:
Failure – We fear finding out we’re not smart enough, strong enough, or good enough. We fear losing a job, not being able to provide for our family, or simply not measuring up.
Rejection – We’re not just afraid of messing up—we’re afraid of people seeing us mess up. We fear letting down our guard and then not being accepted or loved.
Loss of Control – We fear facing circumstances we can’t fix—a job offer we can’t get to materialize, a car crash we can’t prevent, a question about the future we can’t answer.
Loss of Security – We fear our stuff getting lost or damaged, but even more than that, we fear not being able to protect ourselves and our families.
Bodily Harm – We fear getting hurt or seeing our loved ones hurt—whether from injuries, sickness, and death.
These aren’t the silly fears we joke about—these are legitimately frightening. But even when we face real threats, we don’t need to be controlled by our fear.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in as President of the United States, he became responsible for a country in crisis. It was 1933, the depths of the Great Depression, and the country’s unemployment rate was close to 25%.
It was in the face of these threats that Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Even when we are facing real threats, our fears are rarely helpful. Instead of helping us solve our problems, our fears can fill our minds and paralyze us. Or, to prevent these fears from coming true, we might spend endless time, energy, and resources protecting ourselves against imagined threats … but can these attempts really protect us?
Throughout the Bible, God tells us not to fear. Some of Moses’s final words to the Israelites were similar: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
But “do not fear” is not nearly as easy as it sounds. We can’t just shut off our own fears; that takes something else. True courage takes caring about something bigger than the circumstances we are facing.
Fearlessness starts with hope in something far greater than ourselves. It starts with an awestruck respect for God.
That’s why the Bible tells us that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). If we know God—when we know how much he loves us and how powerful he is—we know that the fears of this world have no power over us.
God’s word addresses every fear listed above and many more:
Failure – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). God—not our accomplishments—is our source of strength.
Rejection – “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) Jesus loves us perfectly and was rejected on our behalf that we might never fear rejection again.
Loss Control – “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2). Yes, even if everything falls out from beneath us, God holds us in his hand.
Loss of Security – “In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:8) Even if everything we had was stolen, we would have all we need in Christ.
Bodily Harm – “But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well” (Luke 8:50, ESV). Sometimes we don’t know if that will mean being completely healed now or resting in Christ forever. However, we can trust that God loves our loved ones even more than we do.
Our fears usually have to do with short-term events, things that will last a few years or a little more. Even things that could shape the rest of our lives will come to an end when we die. Our hope in God, however, is eternal, and it does not disappoint. Our faith will lead to a hope that lasts forever.
Here’s how Romans 5 explains it:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
Here are some ways to stay focused on our hope and give our fears to God.
“How is the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom?” from Got Questions
“Fear Not, I Am with You, I Am Your God” from Desiring God
“Perfect Love Casts Out Fear” from Desiring God
“The Most Frequent Command in the Bible” from Crosswalk
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