A little boy had a part in the school play that read, “It is I, be not afraid.” He came out on stage and said, “It’s me and I’m scared!” Fear is an emotion common to humanity. Even the Apostle Paul testified to his struggle with fear: “For when we came into Macedonia…we were harassed at every turn…conflicts on the outside, fears within.” 2 Corinthians 7:6; and he shared with the Corinthian church that, “I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling.” 1 Corinthians 2:3.
Initial feelings of fear can be normal and even healthy. But fear, if left unresolved, can become detrimental. Fear can cause physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, lightheadedness, panic attacks, or intense headaches. Fear can also impact our behavior toward others. For instance, we can become controlling, intolerant and critical of others, and unable to take on the challenges we face. Like the rabbit in headlights, we remain frozen.
What are our sources of fear? From where do they originate? Past hurts can lead to present fear. Any traumatic event-a painful divorce, a car accident, a debilitating illness can cause us to fear what’s ahead. The hurt we experienced must be properly dealt with before the fear will subside. Lies from Satan and our own self-talk can immobilize us. Satan is called the father of lies (John 8:44), which implies that he tells a lot of them, and he’s good at it. Often, his lies are intended to make us fearful. For example, you will read an article in the newspaper about teenage drug abuse and Satan will suggest, “Your kid will become part of the drug culture.” Lies can often be self-inflicted. Our minds will wander aimlessly, inadvertently attach to a random thought and embrace and embellish it. Perhaps you live with the nagging thought that you will never amount to anything. You live with the fear of failure every day. We can also fear the unusual and the unknown. Perhaps the disciples were feeling anxious about the unknown when Jesus announced that after three years of being together, He was going to leave them. Anxious thoughts no doubt raced through their hearts: “What are we going to do after Jesus leaves? Just fish and collect taxes again?” Jesus, sensing their anxiety, said to them, “Do not let your hearts by troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me.” John 14:1.
So how do we gain victory over fear? Here are a few simple suggestions. The mental dimension of fear is ministered to by truth. (John 8:32). The emotional dimension of fear is ministered to by perfect love. ((1 John 4:18). The volitional dimension of fear is ministered to by faith (Luke 8:25). John 8:32 says that the truth will set us free. When our fear is based on lies, truth will help bring relief. 1 John 4:18 teaches that “Perfect love casts out all fear.” Perfect love can be expressed by a reassuring presence from a loved one, a concerted effort to write, call or visit the person on a regular basis. Don’t leave them out in the cold. Perfect love is expressed by caring involvement. Helping the person to drive again after they have been in a car accident, being trustworthy for a friend who has been betrayed, listening to them as they process their fearful emotions are ways to show “perfect love.” As we look through the future, we can view it through the lens of fear or the lens of faith. Just as fear is future-oriented (we do not fear the past), faith is future-oriented. God promises, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…your Heavenly Father knows what you need…But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:25,32-33.
Never face your fears alone. Jesus is there to meet you in the midst of your fear. God wants us to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) and that includes sharing and bearing the fears and anxieties of those who are paralyzed by fear. Wouldn’t it be profitable to share with someone who loves you, all the fears and anxieties with which you struggle, and to be able to do that on a regular basis? This is God’s design and will!
Ferguson, David, and McMinn, Don. Emotional Fitness. Irving Texas: Intimacy Press, 2003, pp. 69-78.