The Effects of Fear in the Bible
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The Effects of Fear in the Bible

Fear is a powerful emotion that can greatly impact our lives. In the Bible, we see many examples of how fear influenced people’s actions and decisions, both for good and for bad. As Christians, it’s important that we learn to properly handle fear and not allow it to control us. In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll explore the various effects of fear found throughout Scripture and key lessons we can learn. Get ready for an in-depth look at how fear operates and how to respond to it wisely as a believer.


Fear is a natural human response hardwired into us for survival and self-preservation. God gave us the capacity to feel afraid as a protective mechanism. However, unhealthy levels of fear can be paralyzing and detrimental.

Throughout the Bible, we see numerous instances where fear influenced people’s choices and actions. Sometimes it was a beneficial fear that showed reverence and awe for God. Other times it was a destructive fear that led to poor decisions and disobedience.

As Christians, it’s imperative that we learn how to handle fear in a godly manner. The Bible provides us with many examples to guide us. By studying how fear impacted people in Scripture, we can glean important lessons about managing our own fears.

In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll thoroughly examine various effects of fear found in the Bible. You’ll learn key takeaways for properly handling fear in a way that honors God and leads to wisdom. Let’s dive in and see what God’s Word teaches about this powerful emotion.

Key Takeaways:

  • Destructive fear can lead us to make poor choices and rebel against God.
  • Godly fear shows reverence for God and leads to righteous living.
  • The antidote to unhealthy fear is trusting in God’s perfect love.
  • We must be on guard against the enemy using fear to immobilize us.
  • With God’s help, we can find courage to do what He calls us to do.
The effects of fear in the bible

Examples of Destructive Fear in the Bible

Unfortunately, many examples exist in Scripture where unhealthy fear caused great harm. Let’s explore some of these cases and what we can learn from them.

Adam and Eve’s Hiding from God

In Genesis 3, we read the familiar account of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. After eating the forbidden fruit, verse 10 tells us, “And he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.'” (NKJV)

Here we see the first case of fear resulting from sin. Feeling ashamed before God, Adam and Eve hid themselves. Previously they had enjoyed close fellowship with God, but now their fear drove them into hiding.

This reminds us that sinful choices can strain our relationship with God and lead to hiding from Him out of fear and shame. However, God longs for restored intimacy with us. He seeks after us despite our running away due to fear.

The Israelites’ Unbelief at Kadesh Barnea

In Numbers 13-14, Moses sent 12 spies into the Promised Land to explore it. Though they confirmed it was a rich land, 10 of the spies feared the people there were too powerful to conquer. Their frightening report spread fear among the Israelites.

Because of their fear, the people rebelled against Moses’ leadership and God’s promise to give them victory. Numbers 13:32-33 says, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants…we saw the giants there…and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight.” (NKJV)

Here we see fear leading to self-doubt, pessimism, and rejection of God’s promises. The Israelites felt too small and powerless to drive out the giants, despite God’s assurance that He would deliver Canaan into their hands.

Fear skewed their perception and ability to trust God. It kept them from entering the Promised Land. Their fear-fueled rebellion caused God to forbid their generation from possessing Canaan (Numbers 14:22-23).

This illustrates how believing exaggerated reports that stir up fear can lead us to make wrong assumptions about our situations. We may feel too weak and give up instead of trusting God to empower us.

Saul’s Disobedience Due to Fear of Man

In 1 Samuel 15, God commanded King Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites as judgment for their evil deeds. But Saul disobeyed by sparing their king Agag and keeping the best livestock.

When the prophet Samuel confronted him, Saul justified his actions by shifting blame, claiming he only kept the animals to sacrifice to God. But Samuel discerned through the Spirit that the true motivation was fear.

1 Samuel 15:24 records Saul’s admission: “Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.'” (NKJV)

Though Saul was king, he feared losing the people’s support more than obeying God. This drove him to partial obedience while covering his real motives. His fear of man led him to rebel against God, resulting in God stripping away his kingship.

This reminds us that the flip side of fearing God too little is fearing people too much. When we make decisions based on what others think rather than obeying God, we allow fear to control us like it controlled Saul.

David’s Flight from Saul

After David killed Goliath, King Saul grew jealous and sought to kill him. 1 Samuel 18-27 describes David constantly on the run, hiding from Saul in caves and the wilderness. Though David had opportunities to harm Saul, he spared his life twice out of respect and inner turmoil over Saul’s pursuit.

But David also struggled with fear, as seen in his words to Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:3 – “Your father certainly knows that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.’ But truly, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.” (NKJV)

Despite being anointed as Israel’s next king, David lived in fear of Saul. His fear drove him to seek refuge among the Philistines, Israel’s enemies. He even pretended madness to protect himself under King Achish’s care (1 Samuel 21:10-15).

David’s example shows that prolonged fear can cause us to resort to unwise coping mechanisms for self-preservation. Trusting in God day-by-day is the better response.

Elijah’s Fear and Despair

One surprising Bible hero who battled fear was the bold prophet Elijah. After his great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah soon experienced deep discouragement and fear.

When Jezebel threatened to kill him, Elijah was afraid and fled. 1 Kings 19:3-4 tells us, “And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba…and he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life.'” (NKJV)

Mighty Elijah, who called down fire from heaven, sank into such despair due to fear that he asked God to end his life. This reveals that even the most courageous believers can occasionally yield to paralyzing fear.

God did not rebuke Elijah, but comforted and strengthened him. Like David, Elijah’s example serves as a reminder that fear must be countered with renewed trust in God, who remains faithful through all storms of life.

Fear of Persecution Causing Compromise

One final example of destructive fear is seen in the New Testament believers who compromised their faith to avoid persecution. John 12:42-43 says, “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (NKJV)

Fear of exclusion and ridicule caused these rulers to conceal their faith in Jesus. Their fear of man persuaded them to value human praise over obedience to Christ.

In contrast, Peter and other apostles boldly obeyed God rather than men by continuing to preach the Gospel, even when threatened and persecuted (Acts 5:29). They courageously endured floggings and imprisonment, fearing God rather than men.

Key Lessons on Destructive Fear

  • It damages our fellowship with God, causing us to hide from Him.
  • It can skew our perspective, causing us to doubt God’s power and promises.
  • It tempts us to rebel against God’s commands and justify disobedience.
  • Prolonged, it drives us to unwise decisions for self-protection.
  • It causes compromise when we fear men more than God.

If left unchecked, unhealthy fear can greatly hinder our walk with Christ. But by God’s strength, we can overcome it. Now let’s explore positive examples of godly fear in Scripture.

Examples of Godly Fear in the Bible

Fearing the Lord in a reverent manner is very different than being controlled by destructive fear. Scripture instructs us many times to fear God, meaning we should have awe-inspired respect for Him as the Almighty Creator and Holy King. Godly fear leads to righteous living.

Noah’s Obedience

Genesis 6:22 says Noah did all God commanded him due to a godly fear: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” (NKJV)

Imagine building a massive ark because God said a flood was coming, though no storm clouds were in sight yet. But Noah revered God enough to obey this strange command without hesitation. His godly fear produced faithful action.

Abraham’s Fear of Sinning Against God

In Genesis 20, Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife to King Abimelech, repeating his earlier deception. But God protected Sarah and warned Abimelech in a dream not to touch her.

When confronted, Abraham explained his motive: “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife.” (Genesis 20:11 NKJV)

Though Abraham’s fear led him to sin, he still had a deep fear of offending God. This godly fear made him confess his lie later, proving his conscience was sensitive to wrongdoing.

Israel’s Reverence at Mt. Sinai

When God manifested His presence on Mt. Sinai to deliver the 10 Commandments, the Israelites trembled in awe. Exodus 20:18-19 records, “Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking…And they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.'” (NKJV)

The Israelites feared death from being exposed to the overwhelming holiness of God. This wasn’t a paralyzing fear, but a proper reverence for God’s glory.

We should feel a similar sense of awe in God’s presence. Seeing His majesty should inspire godly fear and obedience, just as it did for the Israelites.

Job’s Upright Life

After losing everything, Job replied to his wife: “…’Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10 NKJV)

What gave Job such steadfast faith even after enormous suffering? Job 1:1 reveals it was his godly fear: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” (NKJV)

Job lived a righteous life because He feared offending God more than hardship. His godly fear strengthened him through trials.

Peter and John’s Boldness

In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested for preaching Christ. When challenged by the Jewish leaders, verse 13 says, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (NKJV)

What gave these ordinary men such courage before the intimidating religious leaders? They feared God more than man. This godly fear empowered them to keep preaching Christ despite threats (Acts 4:18-20).

When our fear of God eclipses our fear of men, we too can showsimilar boldness.

Key Lessons on Godly Fear

  • It motivates us to obey God even when it’s difficult or unpopular.
  • It makes us sensitive to sin and seeks to honor God in all we do.
  • It produces an awe and reverence for God that should shape all areasof life.
  • It gives boldness to keep serving God despite opposition or cost.

Rather than be controlled by unhealthy fear, we must cultivate a godly fear that empowers righteous living. Now let’s explore how to overcome destructive fear.

Overcoming Destructive Fear God’s Way

Seeing the damaging impact of unhealthy fear, what solutions does Scripture offer for managing fear in a godly manner? Here are key principles to remember.

Have Reverent Fear for God

Proverbs 19:23 says, “The fear of the LORD leads to life, And he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.” (NKJV)

This reminds us that the antidote to destructive fear is keeping a proper, worshipful fear of God. When our awe of God is greater than any other fear, it puts all other concerns in perspective and enables us to trust Him.

Trust in God’s Love

1 John 4:18 contains this perfect wisdom for overcoming fear: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (NKJV)

As God’s cherished children, we can rest securely in His perfect love for us. When we intimately know His unconditional love, it drives out tormenting fears.

Abide in Christ Daily

Isaiah 41:10 gives this reassuring promise from God: “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you,Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (NKJV)

Through daily surrender to Christ, we receive comfort and strength to not be dismayed by circumstances. Abiding in Him is the key to overcoming fear’s control.

Take Thoughts Captive

When fearful thoughts assail us, 2 Corinthians 10:5 instructs us to take them captive: “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” (NKJV)

As we capture anxious thoughts and redirect our minds to truth, we gain victory over fear’s paralysis. God’s peace can then rule our hearts.

Be Strong and Courageous

Many verses urge us to choose courage over fear. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (NKJV)

Rather than shrink back in fear, we can move forward in faith knowing God remains with us. His presence enables us to be bold and unafraid.

Key Lessons for Overcoming Fear

  • Cultivate an awe-inspired fear of God that casts out all other fears.
  • Remember God’s perfect love for you that drives out tormenting fears.
  • Abide daily in Christ and His strength to not be dismayed.
  • Take thoughts of fear captive and redirect to truth.
  • Choose courage and strength through trust in God’s presence.

The Bible provides incredible wisdom and equipping to help believers overcome battles with fear. God challenges us to trust in His sovereignty, love, and empowering presence.


Fear is a part of the human experience that can either help or harm us, depending on whether it is godly or destructive. In this comprehensive blog post, we’ve explored the contrasting effects of both types of fear throughout Scripture.

The Bible contains many sobering examples of how unhealthy fear leads to poor decisions and disobedience. Left unchecked, it causes great damage.

But the Bible also shows the protective benefits of a righteous fear of God that produces awe, obedience, and righteous living. When our reverence for God eclipses other fears, we gain perspective and courage.

The key is learning how to properly handle fear as believers. By following godly principles for overcoming fear revealed in Scripture, we can experience victory and freedom from fear’s control. As you face fears big or small, remember to:

  • Trust in God’s complete love that casts out all tormenting fears.
  • Abide daily in Christ’s empowering presence and strength.
  • Take thoughts of fear captive and redirect your mind to truth.
  • Choose to be strong and courageous through faith in God.

With the Lord’s help, you can live boldly, avoid unhealthy extremes of fear, and experience His perfect peace. By studying how fear impacted people in the Bible, we gain wisdom for managing our own fears. May this comprehensive overview equip you to handle fear in a God-glorifying way. Be free from fear’s grip and live fully as you follow Christ each day!

Pastor duke taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.