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.
The last three years have given us a bizarre pandemic, seemingly endless social chaos, canceling, shutdowns, widespread unemployment, political upheaval, riots, censorship and authoritarian governments.
This is a weird time to be alive and there is a lot to worry about, legitimately. Over the course of the last three years I have seen more fear in more people than at any time in my life. For the first time I totally get why God tells people not to fear, to be courageous and to trust Him in all circumstances (Psalm 27:1).
First, no one in the history of the human race has ever made a really fantastic decision out of fear. Think about it: it’s just true. Every decision we make in a state of panic is a bad one. Always. It’s a fact.
Second, fear is a profoundly spiritual thing. Anytime fear starts running the show 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). Then we lose our ability to think clearly and logically about issues We start to 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. That causes us to damage ourselves and/or others with stupid and impulsive actions.
We become paralyzed in a mental maze of what-ifs that leads to complete inertia. The lack of decisiveness creates a chain of events 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.
Covid-19 is a perfect example of what can happen when fear is given free rein. The most disastrous consequences of the pandemic were not from the virus itself. But rather from impulsive choices leaders made out of fear. Those same leaders have universally refused to admit their folly and instead pridefully double-downed on their choices. Fear causes leaders to panic in the face of circumstances outside of human control. This can lead average people to foolishly hand control of their lives over to human leaders who promise them safety and security in uncertain times.
Our world needs brave, clear-minded Christians. 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.
Ask God to make it go away-
Begging God to take fear away never makes the fear go away. It just doesn’t. Asking God to make fear go away, without also asking Him to help us understand our fear actually makes us more fearful.
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 not even kind of okay (sin, hatred, injustice, disease). Fear is 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-
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. It’s weird, but true.
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 fear is a legitimate response. However, most of the time the motivation 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.