Fear is one of our most innate and powerful emotions. It can drive us to fight or flight. It can creep up on us at the most unexpected of moments and paralyze us, leaving us incapable of moving forward. While fear is not a pleasant emotion, it serves a purpose. It reminds us that there are things bigger than ourselves that we may not be able to handle. Healthy fear is a good thing. Ask any parent who has tried to teach their toddler that jumping off the top of the play set is a bad idea. A lack of fear can be dangerous.
However, it is easy for fear to become unhealthy. Instead of allowing fear to have its rightful place in our life, we allow it to rule our lives. If we let it, fear will keep us from following God’s calling and even taint our witness to the world. As Christians, we must put fear back in its place. We must learn to cope with fear in a Godly manner by surrendering it to Christ.
Throughout Scripture, the people of God are commanded to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:9), to “not fear or be in dread” (Deuteronomy 31:6), to “let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:27) and to “not be anxious about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34). These verses are not commanding that we eradicate fear from the human range of emotions, but rather that we give our fears to the Lord and trust Him. We will feel fear. But we, the people of God, are not to be characterized by our fear but rather the confident knowledge that God walks beside us each day.
There are several types of fear that are particularly dangerous for the Christian. These fears are some of the most common among human beings. They are not always easy to see, and yet they impact almost every area of our lives. They are difficult to overcome, and yet they are exactly the ones that can easily deter us from following Christ. Let’s unpack what God’s Word has to say about each of these fears, so that we might learn how to trust Him and live without being tied down by fear.
Fear of Failure
Many times, we allow fear of failure to keep us from making any effort. While God has called us to share the Gospel, serve others, and live devoted to Him, we are too afraid of failing to try. Perhaps God has called you to serve Him in a way that you feel personally inadequate, or to an occupation that you feel under qualified for. Maybe He has given you dreams and visions of how He will use you in the future – but you just don’t see how you could ever achieve them.
Moses felt the same way. God chose Moses to be His spokesperson to the people of Israel. Imperfect Moses, with a speech impediment, was going to be the tool God would use to lead His enslaved children out of Egypt, into freedom, and towards the promise land. The irony of God choosing someone who doesn’t speak well to be His mouthpiece was not lost on Moses. As God calls Him to this great ministry, Moses’ reply is doubt (Exodus 3:1-4:17). He doesn’t believe himself capable to achieve that which God has set before him.
God’s response to Moses’ fear is simple: “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:13). Moses refutes God several times, and each time God brings things back to Himself. He reminds Moses that it is God Himself who has called him, and will walk beside him (Exodus 3:12, 13; 4:12). This is the key to dealing with the fear of failure. Our fear of failure must be confronted with the reality that the God who has called us is all-powerful and will walk with us every step of the way. Our fear reminds us that He is calling us to things far beyond our own capabilities – but that it is Him who is going to accomplish His good work through us. In other words – stop listening to fear and start trusting God to do what He says He will do in you and through you.
Fear of Rejection
People like to be liked. We will naturally try to guard our reputation, especially among those closest to us. This fear is very prevalent in the Western world, where “persecution” has become equivalent to being told that somebody doesn’t like your cheesy Jesus t-shirt. In the Church, we have allowed ourselves to be driven by a desire to be liked. We are so afraid of being rejected that we water down the message of the Gospel and do not allow God to move through us.
Jesus does not affirm this fear. He promises us that if we truly belong to Christ, the world will hate us (John 15:19). Paul declares “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). We are encouraged that “if you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed” (1 Peter 4:14). There is no room in the Christian faith for living for approval. When we made the decision to follow Jesus, we made the decision to be rejected by this world.
If you find yourself struggling with the fear of rejection, it is time to reflect on the great gift of acceptance that you have found in Jesus. All the value, love, and acceptance you could ever need are found in His arms. He has adopted you into His family! And now He has sent you into the world to tell others of His love. Yes, you will be rejected…but find comfort and strength in the abundance of His love and the worthy cause for which you suffer – the salvation of the lost.
Fear of Missing Out
We want to experience all that life has to offer. We are constantly reminded that we only have one life to live, and that we should enjoy it while we can. So many people are chasing after pleasures, terrified of missing out on something along the way. We worry about career choices and relationships, wondering if we’ve made the right decisions. What if there is more? What if we are missing out on something?
When choosing to follow Christ, this fear can be a major deterrent. Why? Because the decision to follow Christ is also a decision to let go of what the world has to offer (Matthew 16:24-26). Christ calls His people to live for more than temporal pleasures; consequently, His people will “miss out” on certain pleasures. This fear has the potential to turn people away entirely from the call of Jesus.
When we find ourselves afraid that we are missing out, we must question if we truly believe that Christ is the most worthy treasure we could find. We must repent of valuing things, experiences, and people more than the Creator who made them. We must repent of seeking earthly delights above the ultimate Source of delight itself. While following God’s call, we may “miss out” on some earthly experiences, but we are most definitely not “missing out.” We are recipients of something far greater than anything we could chase here on earth. We have received salvation itself, and have been invited to work with God to accomplish His mission on earth. This should be more than enough for us. If it is not, we do not truly believe the Gospel. Let this fear be dispelled by considering the unimaginable beauty of what Christ has done for us.
Fear of Death
Almost everybody is afraid of dying. However, this should not be the case among Christians. The true Christian does not fear death. We have no reason to. If we truly believe the Gospel, then we believe that the best is yet to come. Every good thing that we experience here on Earth is nothing compared to the glorious and joyful reality awaiting us in Heaven. We will one day enjoy a paradise free from suffering, where we enjoy perfect communion with the Lord (Revelations 21). The early Church was characterized by people who joyfully endured torture, suffering, and even death for the sake of the Gospel. They did not fear death.
To feel the fear of death is only natural, but to succumb to it, is simply not Christian. To confront this fear, we must relish the Gospel and remind ourselves that He is preparing a place for us (John 14:1-4).
Our fear is always an invitation to trust God. Any Christian who is boldly living out their faith will experience suffering, hardship, and trials. Feeling fear in the face of all of this is nothing to be ashamed of, but it may be a reminder that we are not fully trust God. Today I invite you to remember who God is, and look to Him as our sustainer and protector. He is all-powerful, He is all-knowing, and He will always walk beside us. We have nothing to fear.