In 1933, the country was in a severe depression. The stock market had crashed four years before. People had lost their jobs and their homes. Savings were gone. There was no social security. People stood in bread lines for food. The threat of starvation and homelessness was constant. Fear pervaded the very atmosphere. A new president was about to take office. After Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in, he gave his inaugural address. One of the things he said as he tried to bolster the morale of his disheartened countrymen has become immortal. He said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!” (Kraft)
What is fear? Merriam Webster Dictionary says that fear is an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger … anxious concern … reason for alarm due to danger.
According to experts there are typically five general categories of fear
- Fears related to animals (spiders, dogs, insects)
- Fears related to the natural environment (heights, thunder, darkness)
- Fears related to blood, injury, or medical issues (injections, broken bones, falls)
- Fears related to specific situations (flying, riding an elevator, driving)
- Fears / other (choking, loud noises, drowning)
Is your heart rate up a bit after hearing that? We’ve all heard of common phobias, but there are some unusual ones.
Examples of some of the more unusual phobias include: (Legg)
- alektorophobia, fear of chickens
- onomatophobia, fear of names
- pogonophobia, fear of beards
- nephophobia, fear of clouds
- cryophobia, fear of ice or cold
Fear is Not Rare
Thankfully, those are rare. But fear is not rare. There has been much fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic we are living through. We are fearful for our health, our families, and even our state and country. Should that fear paralyze us?
Fear is a natural reaction to something that seems to be a threat to ourselves or to someone we love. There are many dangers in this life and it would be easy to fall into the trap of living in fear each day. This is especially true during a pandemic – an invisible virus that has led to the illness and death of many people in our state and in the world.
Vickie Kraft wrote: Fear is part of our Creator’s loving provision for us. Properly controlled, fear protects us from harm and motivates us toward positive action. If you were to see a bear in the woods, you wouldn’t go up and pet it—you’d flee as fast as you could. Your sensible fear protects you. Uncontrolled fear, however, can lock us into an emotional prison and stunt our personal and spiritual growth. Unrestrained fear darkens our lives; it colors everything we do. It is a great obstacle to our spiritual growth.
Fear can also evolve into a psychological issue, becoming a problem that disrupts our lives and causes many issues to erupt.
It should not surprise anyone that the Bible talks a lot about fear – and is usually encouraging us not to give in to fear. In fact, the first humans experienced fear.
When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”Genesis 3:8-10, NLT
Psalms To Help With Fear
Since fear is a way of thinking about things, I want to give you some things to think about when you are facing something that is causing you to feel afraid. I want to begin by spending a few moments in the Psalms. We know from the story of David and Goliath that he was a very courageous young man. But we shouldn’t think that he never had his own fears and struggles. Here are just a few thoughts from the Psalms about facing our fears.
We Do Not Need to Be Afraid because God Lights the Way Forward.
The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?Psalm 27:1
When we look to God, he can free us from our fears.
I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. 6 In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. 7 For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. 8 Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! … 17 The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.Psalm 34:4-8,17, NLT
Notice the emphasis on prayer here. Prayer can redirect our thinking. When we are focused on whatever is causing us to be afraid, we can forget the truth that God is with us, Hears us, and loves us. This Psalm uses language of being guarded, surrounded, defended, and rescued. This is what God does for us when we pray.
God knows we will be afraid sometimes.
But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?Psalm 56:3-4
Melanie Newton noted about these verses this important teaching:
Notice that David doesn’t write, “If I am afraid.” He says, “When I am afraid.” Fear will happen. God gave us the emotion of fear. It was given with a purpose—to alert us to danger so that we will take action against it. Yet, sudden fear can cause us to be terrified. We can let fear take root in us so that we give way to panic and hysteria. Does that ring any bells with you? Are you prone to hysterics? God knows this about us. When we are afraid, God wants us to trust Him and not give way to fear. Learning to do that is our walk from fear to faith.
Praise is a Portal out of Fear and into Security.
I praise God for what he has promised; yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?Psalm 56:10-11, NLT
When we praise God we recognize His power, strength. We are moved to look at our fear in a different light.
Seek God’s Shelter from the Fears
He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day.Psalm 91:4-5, NLT
Sometimes bad things do happen. It’s true that sometimes our fears do come to pass. The arrows do fly from the enemy. But in all of those events, God is near and He can be trusted to see us through. I’m so grateful for the comforting message of the Psalms to help us with our fears.
New Testament Helps With Fear
In the New Testament the subject of fear is addressed as well. In these words the Lord directs our hearts away from fear and into faith.
Jesus affirms that our Father knows everything we are facing in life.
What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.Matthew 10:29-30
The Bible affirms that we can resist fear because we have a Father who cares for us as his own children.
“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”Romans 8:15, NLT
When we gave our lives to Christ we received the Holy Spirit. That’s not a spirit of fearful enslavement, but instead freedom and trust. Two truths give us courage in difficult times:
- We have been adopted as God’s children
- We have a close relationship with Him – He is our “Abba Father” – a term of intimate closeness.
God Cares, God is our Father, and God is our Helper.
For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”Hebrews 13:5-6, NLT
When our fears have taken our thoughts in the wrong direction, we forget that we have a helper that is greater than our fears. No matter what happens, we can trust that God is our helper and he never fails us. Even when we do not understand everything that happens in life, we can have confidence that God has never abandoned us.
To the young preacher Timothy who might have been struggling with some fears, Paul wrote these memorable words:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.2 Timothy 1:7
We know that when we are experiencing fear, we are not experiencing something God gave us. We have the power to make it through each day, the power to love every person, and the self-discipline not to give in to a spirit of fear. Those are gifts / promises from our Abba Father who loves us and holds us closely.
When we focus on love, fear has to leave our mind.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.1 John 4:18, NLT
We do not have to give in to fear because of the truth found in the most beloved verse in the Bible:
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16, NLT
In a world where a majority of humanity had rejected Him, God sent His son to reveal His love for them. God’s love is NOT for a select few, but it is FOR ALL in this world…
This means when you feel alone…God is there and God loves you!
This means when you feel outnumbered…God is there and God loves you!
This means when you feel helpless and of NO worth…God is there and God loves you!
This means that when trouble and trial come your way, don’t hang your head because GOD LOVES YOU!
It does not matter who you are, or what you have done, God’s love is available for you and accessible TO you! This means that you are never out of the reach of God’s love! (Stults)
Fear cannot stand in the presence of God’s love! God’s love fills our hearts and minds and is available to ALL who want to receive it…
God’s not saying, “Don’t ever feel fear” God gave us the gift of fear as a normal human emotion designed to alert us to danger so we can take action against it. He’s saying, “Here’s why you don’t have to be terrified and paralyzed by your fear.” We are to face our troubles without panic and hysteria. We are to TRUST GOD—in whom we have put our hope and by whose Word we are taught to do what is right.
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.Isaiah 43:2, NLT
Do not fear. God is near. Instead of fear, choose faith.
Newton, Melanie. Got Fear? Trust Your God.
Kraft, Vickie. Nothing to Fear But Fear.
Dictionary, Merriam-Webster: Fear
Legg, Timothy J. Common and Unique Fears Explained
Stults, Bobby. Overcoming Fear through the Love of God