Zombies, ghosts, vampires, and evil witches make me afraid when I read stories or watch movies containing them. My solution? Avoidance. No matter how much I tell myself (and truly believe) they aren’t real, I still get nightmares. While I’m not exactly afraid of them, they somehow get to me on a subconscious level. These fears really don’t affect the way I live my life much, though.
Many other fears do affect daily living and life choices to varying degrees. For example, those afraid of heights avoid skydiving and climbing ladders, and a fear of spiders causes entertaining reactions from many people. These fears are manageable, though, and not usually significantly life-altering.
Then there are the fears that keep us from progressing in life.
Fear of failure makes us not even try. Fear of what others think leads to dangerous conformity. Fear of rejection prevents relationships from blossoming. Fear of the future causes staunch routine and vehement resistance to change. Fear of what might happen motivates many to seek relationship-damaging control. These fears I know well either through observation and/or personal experience.
To some extent, every fear holds the potential to limit life and keep us from following God’s will, but some fears certainly seem to have more power for doing so than others. What can we do when fear grips us? What do we do when we’re so afraid we simply want to hole up somewhere and live a safe, comfortable life?
The Bible says numerous times — someone counted 365 times, one for every day of the year — to not be afraid. God obviously knew fear would be a stumbling block, so he gave an abundance of encouragement for overcoming it.
“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)
For me, overcoming fear lies with the examples found in God’s word of how others handled fear. These stories help change how I think about fear.
My favorite example is when Joshua became the leader of the Israelites and faced the daunting task of leading God’s people into the Promised Land. God encourages Joshua by telling him to “not fear” and “be of good courage” multiple times (Deuteronomy 31; Joshua 1:5-9).
The same God who encouraged Joshua and promised to never abandon him — and Scripture shows God followed through on that promise — is the same God who will do the same for me today. That gives me courage to keep moving in spite of my fears.
Benaiah is another example of courage in the face of fear (2 Samuel 23:20-23; 1 Chronicles 11:22-25). He faced a lion, two great warriors, and a man with a spear when he himself had only a club, and he came out victorious. In fact, his bravery (as well as many other positive characteristics) moved him up the ranks in both David’s and Solomon’s armies. Benaiah must have felt fear, but he still did what was necessary to achieve victory.
We can’t stop fear. We will face it, and it will grip us. While we may not be able to control the circumstances surrounding our fear or often even our reactions to what we fear, we can choose to pursue freedom from all fear.
“We confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)
Remember that focus determines reality, and with the power of God working in and through us, we can face our fears and push through to accomplish the will of God. We can focus on the fear itself or on the one who conquered sin, death and the grave. That choice determines the impact fear has on our lives.