Updated: Jun 25, 2020
Fear is something I struggle with often. It’s especially easy for me to become fearful when I’m in a place of uncertainty, I have to make a difficult decision, life takes an unexpected turn, or when things don’t go the way I planned. Fear seems to be prevalent in a lot of people’s lives, and even more so now while the whole world is battling COVID19. For us, this virus caused my sweet, hard-working husband to lose his job due to his company’s fear and subsequent budget cuts. This tossed us into a new season of uncertainty and running to God for help and provision.
I have talked to a lot of people who struggle with fear and/or anxiety, and I completely understand. We live in a world full of uncertainty and tragedy. We hear stories of worst case-scenarios, and fear tells us those things might happen to us. If you are struggling with fear or anxiety right now, I'm here for you. And I'm here to tell you that there is hope and you can overcome this.
When Ryan first lost his job, both of our initial reactions were shock and fear for the future. But God is faithful. He answered so many of our prayers, continues to provide, and brought us into a place of peace and stronger faith. Coming from someone who struggles with fear often about so many things, my prayer is that I am able to shed some light on this topic and help you fight in faith when you’re afraid.
Understanding Fear - The Right Perspective
Before we get into how to overcome fear, I think it’s important to have the right perspective about what fear really is. It's good to remind yourself that fear is an emotion. It occurs when we feel like a person or situation is or could be dangerous. Fear can take so many forms, and can arise from almost any situation if you let it. Fear can even become an unhealthy habit if we don’t keep it in check - so much so, that it can deprive you of fully enjoying the blessings or happy seasons of your life.
Fear in and of itself isn’t a sin, but it is definitely something Satan uses to torment us, make us doubt God, and ultimately lead us away from the Lord and into sin. The more we doubt God, the more apt we are to go our own way instead of God’s way. This is Satan’s goal. If he can use fear to lead you away from God, he will. This is why it’s extremely dangerous to react when your fear-emotions are high.
When we are hit with that initial fear-feeling, many times we are tempted to react in an irrational, controlling way. The temptation can be to take things into our own hands in order to prevent what we’re afraid of. It’s hard to recognize this for what it is, but ultimately controlling the situation is a blatant lack of trust in God. It’s going our own way because we think we can handle it better than God can. When we do this, 9 times out of 10 we make the situation worse, and we miss out on what God could have done if we chose to trust him instead.
Fear is a natural emotion that we can’t really prevent from feeling, but what we can do is learn what to do when we feel afraid. Fear can actually be something that draws you closer to God, causes extreme growth in your faith, and results in a testimony that could help someone going through a similar situation. So here are a few things to do when you feel afraid.
Flight then Fight
When thinking about common reactions to fear, you might think of the fight-or-flight response you learned about in your 5th grade science class. Wikipedia defines this response as a “physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival”. You may remember learning that some people are more prone to fight in a fearful situation, and some are more prone to run away.
In my experience, I have found that running away and then fighting is the best way to overcome fear. Here’s what I mean:
Flight - Where to Run When You're Afraid
When you feel that uncomfortable fear feeling, your first reaction should be to run to Jesus. As I mentioned above, it’s never a good idea to react when your emotions are high. So the best thing you can do is run to Jesus with what you’re afraid of before anything else. Find a place where you can pour out your heart to God in
prayer. Tell Him your fears, why you’re afraid - get it all out. Write it out or cry it out if you have to. This is not only therapeutic, but it also allows you to hear and recognize any irrationality that fear can also cause. Then ask God to help you with your fears and to see them with the right perspective. Ask Him to show you what you should do next.
When we run to God with our fears in prayer, we should then make it a habit to remember or remind ourselves of what’s true. My mom has told me since I was young that “feelings are a bad indicator of reality”. This is so true. I think a lot of times the temptation is to dwell on our fears, which makes it easier for irrational thoughts to grow more and more dramatic and real-seeming in our heads. A way to combat this is to recognize that there might be some irrationality at play here. Then make an effort to remind yourself of what’s really true and reveal what’s not.
Reminding yourself of what’s true will bring your thoughts back to rationality, and provide comfort and peace. What helps me do this is looking up verses such as the ones at the end of this article, or reading stories in the Bible that remind me of God’s faithfulness. The Psalms are also a great place to find encouragement and peace when you’re feeling afraid. If you need some direction, here are a few truths to remember when you’re struggling with fear and anxiety:
Who God is (really think about what each of these words mean): Creator of the universe, good, compassionate, just, perfect, righteous, all-powerful, in control, gracious, merciful, abounding in steadfast love.
God’s faithfulness throughout your life, and in the lives of others you’ve observed
What He’s done throughout history and in scripture that show God’s attributes, faithfulness, and power to redeem circumstances
The cross. Remind yourself that Jesus died for you, taking away your sin, so that you could be an adopted daughter and have eternal life with Him. If God didn’t abandon you while you were deep in your sin, He won’t abandon you now. Remind yourself Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death. This means you can overcome anything with Jesus by your side, and one day God will redeem everything so that things like fear won’t exist anymore.
Reminding yourself of these truths will allow you to see your situation through the lense of rational truth instead of irrational fear. This will inturn make your fears grow smaller and smaller and clear your head a little so that you can think about what to do next. We ran to Jesus, now it’s time to fight in faith.
Fight - Responding to Fear
Reminding yourself of Who God is and His faithfulness makes this next step so much easier that it can even be a natural response. When we feel afraid, it’s easy for us to place our trust in what we can see and control; ourselves. But I encourage you to entrust your situation to God and release control to Him. Choose to trust:
God is Who He says He is
His plan is better than yours because He sees and knows everything.
The Cross, that He loves you and cares about your wellbeing.
He is good and just and has your best interest in mind.
Even though things aren’t immediately getting better, there is a greater reason for it. He may be trying to teach you something, reach someone who is lost, or work something out for the future.
The One who has been faithful all throughout history, and Who isn’t going to stop now.
Depending on the severity of your situation, trusting God might still be hard. Sometimes we have to choose to trust God even when it doesn’t make sense or we don’t feel like it. This is acting in faith, and God is so pleased with this. God wants you to trust Him because he knows that His plan is the absolute best for your life.
He will bless your faith, and you will come out of this hard season with an even greater testimony of God’s faithfulness in your life when it seemed hopeless.
Fear can sometimes feel like a heavy burden and can suck all of the energy and life out of you if you let it. But you will notice that when you surrender control and trust God, the weight will be lifted. You will breathe easier and have a peace that truly surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). So make this next step of faith. Choose to trust the One who is most trust-worthy.
Trusting God is one thing, but now it’s time to put your faith in action. The last step is: choosing to be obedient in the midst of fear and uncertainty. Most of the time when we are faced with a fearful or hard situation, the last thing we feel like doing is being kind to someone we don’t like, or spending our time serving bratty kids in the church nursery. Fear has a way of making us self-focused and selfish. But God calls you to be selfless, regardless of your emotions or situation.
You probably won’t feel like it, but choose to obey Him anyway. Ask yourself: what is it that God is calling you to do right now? What is it that He requires of you that you have been putting off or neglecting? Is there someone in your life who is in need? Someone you can love on, encourage, or be there for? Has fear caused you to have a negative mood that has rubbed off on your family or made you lash out at someone close to you? Or maybe for you it’s continuing to be obedient in a particular area even though it doesn’t make sense given your situation.
When Ryan lost his job, the temptation was to refrain from tithing so that we could save as much money for ourselves as possible. We didn’t know how long Ryan would be without a job, so what if we ran out of money or couldn’t pay our bills? We had to make the choice to be obedient even when it didn’t make sense, and trust that God would provide and take care of us. So we continued to give. There has not been a single need that God hasn’t met, and these past few months we have had even more money in the bank than we did when Ryan did have a job - how crazy is that! But that’s how God works. He blesses us and takes care of us when we trust Him.
I have also noticed that God does His best work on our hearts when we trust and obey Him in tough situations. Just like Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness”. It may seem impossible to continue being obedient, but God will strengthen you and give you what you need to carry out His commands. He will be sufficient for you.
God will not only bless you for trusting Him, He will redeem the situation in the best possible way, defeat your fears, and bring you to the other side with a stronger faith and closer relationship with Him. The most hopeless situations display God’s power and miracles the best. And you will be
changed. Whatever area you were obedient in in the midst of your storm (maybe it was patience, generosity, love, service, etc.) will come more naturally to you after the fact. You will be a better person and more like Jesus because you chose to be obedient instead of giving in to your fears.
Being obedient is one of the most powerful ways to overcome your fears because you will see God’s goodness at work right in front of your eyes, even in the small things. Like for us, seeing God continue to provide even more than we are giving back to Him has completely taken away our fears for the future.
Even though Ryan doesn’t have a job yet, we are confident God will take care of us. Fear has no power over us anymore. That’s what obedience can do. You will see God at work when you choose to be kind to that difficult person, or when you see a heart lifted that you chose to encourage even though you didn’t feel like it. You will see His goodness and faithfulness all around you, and you won’t be afraid of your situation anymore. You will gain confidence in the One you chose to trust.
Prayer Focus if You're Struggling with Fear Right Now
Express your fears to God. Remember that He cares about what scares you. Ask God to show you the reality of the situation in light of scripture and what’s really true. Ask him to take away your irrational fears and help you see your situation rationally. Express that you are choosing to entrust the situation to Him. Ask him for the strength to continue being obedient, and to fight and overcome your fears in faith.
Ways to Easily Remember How to Overcome Your Fears
Flight, then Fight (run to Jesus, fight in faith)
Pray, Remember, Trust, Obey
Verses to Help with Your Fears
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you." Isaiah 43:2
"The Lord's unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in Him." Psalm 32:10
"I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4
"The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry." Psalm 34:15
"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all." Psalm 34:17-19
One of my favorite quotes: "You took care of us yesterday, you're taking care of us now, you'll take care of us tomorrow - no matter what" - Unknown