I confess that I once believed fear and the things it would tell me in the darkness.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
It says “do not fear” hundreds of times in the Bible, one of God’s most frequently repeated commands.
Almost every person spoken of in the Bible faced terrible fear, and it’s very possible even Jesus was overwhelmed with this feeling in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
When Jesus says that He is troubled, that is the Greek word ἀδημονέω, which can be translated as heavy, feel fear, or lack courage.
Why would the Bible say multiple times that we should not fear, and then show Jesus, a perfect being, as fearful? Well, probably it’s because God understands that most of us will be afraid when facing pain or possible death. The point is not let fear determine our actions nor let it incapacitate us. Jesus showed us what to do when afraid. He turned to the Father and prayed, nonstop. He asked for companionship with fellow believers. Sometimes, though, we are alone in our darkest hour, like Jesus was, and others don’t stand by our side. In that case, let there be no doubt that we need no companionship more than the one with Father God. He will never leave your side.
“Do not fear” is not a command to switch our fears off like a light switch, which is impossible. It’s a comforting phrase to remind us that God is in control always.
“But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
When, not if, I am afraid, I will trust you God. All of us will be afraid at some point. What will you do with it?
Fear is spoken of often in the Word because it is a universal spiritual battle.
“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
Fear is not from God. It has touched us all in some form, and it is very powerful. However, it’s important to remember that God is more powerful, and with God, you are more powerful.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22
“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper.” Psalm 118:6-7
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” Proverbs 29:25
We could go on all day with these verses, but I think you get the point. Let me tell you a more personal story.
I’ve dealt with anxiety all my life. I didn’t always understand why I would feel so uncomfortable going to the store or going to tae kwon do classes I’d been going to for years. I didn’t always get that my chronic nightmares were a product of unrecognized emotions. I just avoided things that made it happen when I could. One night as a child, God planted a seed in me that I needed later.
I was relaxing in my safe bedroom when I became unreasonably afraid. Now that I look back, I’m not sure if I just got the creeps for some reason or if it was an anxiety attack. All I know is that I went on high alert, and I couldn’t move from my spot to tell anyone. All I could do was whisper to God from underneath my blankets. So, I did, and I sang to Him for at least an hour.
Slowly at first, the invisible claws that squeezed my heart in fear released until they disappeared. When I say I became unafraid that night, I don’t mean that I simply felt normal again. I felt so without fear, brave, confident in my safety that I was literally smiling as I finally fell asleep.
“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.
“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them:
“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out,
“Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying,
“Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:22-33
Note that Peter said, “tell me to come to you on the water.” He asked for God to help him face his fear. He wanted to experience the fear with God at his side.
Anytime I’ve felt afraid again or anxious in anyway, I try to make it a point to face the fear. Sometimes, I’m unsuccessful. However, I know that the feeling can be overcome with God’s strength, so I pray to myself or aloud in that moment.
Never let fear be the reason you do or don’t do something. Be smart. The emotion is there as a warning signal that there “might” be danger. Don’t walk into a fire or jump off a building because you aren’t acting on fear, obviously. However, if you feel fear when the future is uncertain, don’t act on that fear. The fear will build a wall to block life out. Tear down those bricks; hide under a blanket and say a prayer. Focus your sights on God. Then, come on out and face the world.
God’s got you.
*This article is dedicated to Erin Vincent, a friend who is currently undergoing her own “walk on water” situation.*
Sources other than the Bible: