The people, the men of Israel, showed themselves courageous and lined up for battle again in the place where they had lined themselves up on the first day– Judges 20:22 NASB
We live in scary times.
What with a bizarre pandemic, seemingly endless social chaos, shutdowns, widespread unemployment, riots, censorship and political leaders worldwide taking a more authoritarian stance than at any other time in recent history. This is a legitimately weird time to be alive and there is much to worry about. Over the course of the past nine months I have felt moments of panic and I have seen more fear in more people than at any time in my life. Now I know why God tells His people over and over again in His word not to fear, to be courageous and to trust Him in all circumstances (Psalm 27:1).
There are two truths Christians should understand regarding fear. First, no one in the history of the human race has ever made a really great decision out of fear. Second, at its root fear is a profoundly spiritual thing. Anytime we allow fear to take root in our lives we immediately stop trusting God. When we stop trusting God we hand power to the enemy and effectively give him authority over us (1st Peter 5:6-8). We then lose our ability to think clearly and logically about issues and we believe any lie the devil wants to tell us. No matter what is actually true we become convinced we are unsafe and inevitably do one of two equally stupid things: we either act swiftly without thinking through all the possible consequences. We then do damage to ourselves and/or others with our impulsive actions. Conversely, we can become paralyzed in a mental maze of what-ifs that leads to inaction. Our lack of decisiveness nearly always creates a chain of events that we have no control over. Fear is especially dangerous for Christians because it affects our ability to communicate effectively with God in prayer (Philippians 4:6, 1st Peter 4:7). This causes Christians to be spiritually ineffective on nearly every level and therefore useless to those who desperately need help, hope and something tangible to hold on to.
Our current situation is a perfect example of what can happen when fear is given free reign. The most disastrous consequences of the pandemic have not come from the virus itself. But rather from dumb and impulsive choices leaders have made out of fear. Those same leaders have universally refused to admit their folly and instead pridefully double-downed on their choices. Fear causes non-Christians to panic in the face of circumstances outside of human control. This can lead people to foolishly hand control of their lives over to human leaders who promise them safety and security in uncertain times.
More than anything our world needs brave, clear-minded Christians right now. Therefore, any fear we feel must be dealt with quickly, wisely and aggressively. Following are some do’s and don’ts for when we feel fear taking over and threatening to run the show.
Ask God to make it go away-
Asking God to simply make our fear go away never works. This is because God loves us and He wants us to learn something from everything in this life including scary things like fear.
Simply accept it as normal-
To some degree fear is normal in a fallen world where real danger exists. That said, there are plenty of normal things that are neither good nor even kind of okay (sin, hatred, injustice, disease). Fear may be normal but it is never healthy to allow it to control our existence. We are told eighty-eight times in the Bible to not be afraid or fearful. God would not bother being so repetitive on the subject if He wanted us to accept fear as a routine part of our existence.
Lean into it-
No one really likes to be afraid or anxious. However, paradoxically fear has a strangely addictive quality to it. If we lean into feelings of fear too often or for too long we get to the place where fear feels normal and almost like an old friend. When this happens, we become weirdly superstitious about our fears and may even secretly believe something bad will happen if we stop being fearful.
Instead of ignoring our fears, accepting them or leaning into them God wants us to examine our fears when we feel them and:
Ask God to help us understand what is driving the fear-
Some fears are rational. If a crazy guy is holding a gun to your head you have legitimate reason to be afraid. However, most of the time the thing driving our fear (even legitimate fears that make sense) is a lack of trust in God. When we understand that we understand why God hates fear and why fear is a curse when it’s allowed to run wild in our lives (Deuteronomy 28:58-66).
Ask God to help us know Him better-
The key to dealing with fear effectively is knowing God and walking closely with Him. The only way to really know God is to ask Him daily to reveal Himself to us. The better we get to know God the less power fear has over us and the more hope we have to offer the rest of the world.