Fear can come at us from any angle:
- Layoffs are coming where we work.
- A major earthquake shakes California, near where we have family living.
- Half a world away, a terrorist group threatens innocent victims.
When fear seizes you in its grip, your body responds. Hormones give you the strength to run. Your coping mechanisms work overtime, pushing you to survive.
Fear can cause digestive problems, rapid heart rate, sweating, weakness and temporary paralysis. Even thinking about fearful things causes a physical response.
There’s not even a need to experience a tragedy first-hand. Fear is as close as your TV. Anxiety is fed by stories about Ebola, war, hackers stealing credit card numbers, bombings, murders, and other unsettling events.
Researchers studying the 2013 Boston Bombing have found that “people who exposed themselves to six or more hours of media daily actually reported more acute stress symptoms than did people who were directly exposed—meaning they were at the site of the bombings,” says professor Alison Holman of the University of California, Irvine.
You can become so obsessed with prepping for a “worse-case scenario” that you’ll feed the fears growing in your mind. Panic makes itself at home through the 24-hour news cycle, a nonstop flood of violent images and news bingeing.
Add to this the natural worries of life—the daily fears. The fear of the harm or death of a loved one. The fear of economic disaster. The fear of not being successful or employed.
But for Christians, there is good news. We know the world is a troubled place. But we, as part of God’s family, are assured that the Lord has us sheltered in His hands.
Most of us can scarcely imagine our lives free of fear. We carry our fear like a huge backpack carried by a hiker trudging out of the Grand Canyon. The pack seems to be a part of his own weight, and he can’t remember a time without it. His legs are always heavy; his back always aches. Only when he rests without the pack does he realize how heavy it is; how light and free he would be without it.
Unfortunately, most of us cannot unload fear as if it were a backpack. Fear seems intrinsically woven into our lives. It lurks somewhere beneath our skin, like a knot between our shoulder blades. It keeps us up at night when we need sleep.
Yet, Jesus says, “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30.
Though those words touch many hearts, this statement is worthless unless the words are true. If they are true, how can we apply them and gain freedom from our burdens? Perhaps you are responding, “I would love to do that, if only I knew how!”
Fear or Faith?
There are only two motivating factors in life: fear or faith. We will base life’s decisions on fear until we truly know that God loves us, cares about us personally and hasn’t forgotten us. The Bible tells us to take heart. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31.
All fear and worry stem from a lack of faith in God. You may not think you are walking in fear, but you are, if you aren’t walking in faith. Stress is a form of fear. Worry is a form of fear. And there are many more forms:
- Worldly ambition is rooted in a fear of failure.
- Many relationships are based on the fear of being alone.
- Vanity is based on a fear of being unattractive and unloved.
- Greed is based on a fear of poverty.
- Anger and rage are based on the fear that there is no justice, no escape and no hope.
Fear breeds selfishness, which is the exact opposite of God’s character. Selfishness breeds pride and indifference to others. All of these are sins. Stress arises when we try to serve ourselves (our fears) and God at the same time (which is impossible to do).
“Unless the Lord builds the house, it’s builders labor in vain…In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat” Psalm 127:1-2.
When everything else is stripped away, only three things remain: faith, hope, and love–and that love is the greatest of the three. Love casts out our fear. “There is no fear in love but perfect love drives out fear, for fear has a torment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” 1 John 4:18.
Before God will make us perfect in love, we must repent of fear and worry that we cling to instead of Him. If we are not merciless with our sin, it will be merciless on us. It will drive us like a wicked slave master. Worst of all, it will keep us from communion with God.
Jesus said, “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” Matthew 13:22.
Small things have extraordinary power to distract us from God. The devil knows that if he can distract us with the cares of this world, we will never be a threat to him or fulfill God’s call on our lives. We must realize that most circumstances we worry about are beyond our control, anyway. Worry is a waste! If we only worried about things we can control, we would reduce our worrying by 90 percent!
As for material needs, they will be taken care of when we seek Jesus first. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow will take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” Matthew 6:33.
God has blessed us with a most powerful tool: His Living Word, the Bible. If used properly, it is a spiritual sword that will separate our faith from our fear, drawing a clean line between the holy and the vile. Allow the Scriptures to bring forth the repentance that leads to life for you.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” John 14:27.
Take My Yoke Upon You…
How it must grieve God to see His children walking around in such misery! The things we really need in this life, He already purchased for us at Calvary. He was willing to give everything to secure our redemption. Are we willing to do our part? Are we willing to lay our lives at His feet, and put on His yoke? We can serve the Lord who loves us or serve the devil who is bent on destroying us.
There is no middle ground nor is there a third option. Praise God that He made a way out of the cycle of sin and death! When sin raged in us and compelled us to run from God, He had mercy on us and ran after us, though we cursed His Name. He is so tender and patient with us, not willing for even one to perish. Come to Jesus now!
“Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend your money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to Me; hear Me that your soul may live!” Isaiah 55:1-3.
Come to Me…
To free ourselves, we must put our faith in Jesus. Without Him, our lives have no real purpose or depth. We simply run from one activity to another, seeking purpose, peace and happiness.
King Solomon wrote, “All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied” Ecclesiastes 6:7. Things haven’t changed since that was written thousands of years ago. We work ourselves to the bone for things we desire—only to crave more.
If we do not know our real purpose, life is meaningless. God created each of us for a special purpose. There is something that can only be done by you. Fear springs from the fact that we don’t know who we are or where we are going. Even many believers are anxious because they do not really know who they are in Christ or who Christ is in them.
No matter who we are, we are bound to face tribulation. It is unavoidable—but having trouble is not the issue. The real issue is how we react to problems. That is where fear is born. Our trials will either break us or make us strong.
Jesus said, “I will show you who he is like who comes to Me and hears My words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrents struck that house but could not shake it because it was well built” Luke 6:48.
Jesus didn’t say that once we’ve built our house on the rock, everything would be perfect. No, He said that a flood came in torrents smashing against the house. The key is building on the rock of Jesus, and the rock of putting His words into practice. Is your house built on Jesus?
Until you fully commit to God and your foundation is dug deep into Him, you will never discern His perfect will. When the storms of life come, you will only worry and fret.
Who we are under pressure reveals who we really are. The storms of life expose our hearts, washing away the thin veneer that we present to the world. God, in His mercy, allows the storms that turn us toward Him—and He cleanses us of sins we cannot even perceive during easy times. We can turn to Him with an open heart or turn away with hardened hearts. The hard times in life will make us merciful, pliable, and full of faith in God or angry, brittle and full of doubt and unbelief.
The Apostle Paul offers this guidance, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” Romans 12:1-2.
Bless the Lord, O My Soul…
There are still times when we face difficult circumstances with the power to destroy us. The best way to counteract stress in those times is to praise God for His countless blessings. God delights in a heart that will praise Him no matter what the checkbook says, our family says, our time schedule says or any circumstance says. As we praise the name of the Most High, everything in this world begins to pale against the sheer loveliness of who He is.
Think of Paul and Silas as described in Acts 16:22–40. After they had been attacked by a crowd and beaten, they were shackled in a dark prison, a jailer standing guard over them. Instead of getting angry with God, the evangelists began to praise Him, singing out loud, caring not who might hear or judge them.
Their hearts overflowed with the joy of the Lord. They sang hymns, prayed and praised, filling their cell and the entire prison with God’s love. It was as if a river of liquid love flowed through the prison.
Soon, there was a flood of warm light bathing the whole place. Every demon there began to flee, terrorized by the praise and love for the Most High. Suddenly, a violent earthquake shook the jail, the doors flew open and everybody’s chains came loose! Praise God! Praise always brings freedom, not only for ourselves, but for those around us who are bound up.
We must get our minds off ourselves and the problems we face. Focus instead on the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. One of the miracles of a life transformed by God is that we can be thankful always, praising Him in all situations. He commands us to do this.
Take some time to recommit yourself to the Lord. If you don’t know Him, ask Him into your heart. If you do know Him, tell Him that you want to know Him better. Confess sins of worry, fear and lack of faith, and ask Him to replace those things with faith, hope and love. You can make a fresh start with God. He will fill you with joy unspeakable and full of glory!
When Disaster Strikes
- God has not abandoned us. God is in control, actively involved in the affairs of this world: “In Him all things hold together” Colossians 1:17 ESV.
- God allows fallen and depraved human beings to make their own decisions, even evil ones. You are free (Genesis 2:15-17).
- God doesn't give us all the answers. We’d like to have all the answers, but we must learn to walk by faith. We can trust God even when life doesn’t make sense, even when it seems as if God has abandoned us. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31 ESV.
- God will work out all things for His glory. Good eventually will come out of this tragedy, though we may not know what the good is during this lifetime. “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him” Romans 8:28 NIV.
- God will bring evildoers to justice, whether or not they ever face justice on earth. All powers were created by and for God, and He is before all things (Colossians 1:16-17).
- God will hold us accountable for how we respond to both personal and national disaster. Just as the terrorists will stand before the Judge of all the earth, so we also will stand before Him (Romans 14:10-12). Evildoers (including terrorists and including us) can be justified through the disaster faced by Christ (Romans 2:9-13; 3:5-24).
- Disaster and suffering are often used by God to get our attention (Isaiah 63:9-14; James 1:2-4). As a nation we’ve put our faith in economic power.... Could it be that God is trying to get our attention, reminding us that only in Him can we safely place our faith?
Taken from Finding God in the Face of Evil Copyright 2002 by Ed Dobson. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Feelings We Share
The moment the Twin Towers fell on 9-11, the nation was gripped by fear.
Only 11 years old at the time, Kaitlyn Cimino was sad and scared. So was her older sister, away at college.
To help her sister, Kaitlyn wrote a poem. It remains just as true today—a time of war, terror, disease, economic uncertainty and struggle.
I know you’re feeling worried,
I know you’re feeling scared
And I thought that I should let you know,
These feelings we both share.
I too am having many doubts,
Confused about what’s right
Not sure at all where I belong,
In America’s great fright.
And even though we’re far apart,
and you’re not with people that you love,
We’re both surrounded by Someone special
and that is God above.
He knows that you are feeling down
But as long as you just pray
He’ll hold you safely in His arms
throughout your every day.
Scriptures on God’s Protection
God will be with you in the depths of brokenness and fear. Through the turmoil of life, He will be shaping your character and spirit. It’s all part of His plan to make you more like His Son.
"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by." Psalm 57:1
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7
"In You, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in Your righteousness deliver me! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!" Psalm 31:1–2
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
"But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You." Psalm 5:11