Fear. It’s an emotion you’re probably all too familiar with. That knot in your stomach when danger is near. The paralysis that grips you and holds you back from action. The anxiety that floods your mind with “what-ifs” in uncertain times. Fear can be a good thing when it keeps us safe, but all too often it crosses the line to become unhealthy and ungodly.
As Christians, God calls us to live by faith, not by fear. But what exactly does the Bible say about fear? How can we strike the right balance of godly caution and dangerous distress? This article will walk through biblical truths about fear – what it is, what causes it, the damage it brings, and most importantly, how to overcome it through faith in God.
- Fear is a natural human emotion, but unhealthy fear leads to sin when it controls us.
- The root sources of fear are lack of trust in God, threats from evil forces, and consequences of sinful choices.
- Fear brings torment, slavery, and separation from God’s love and purpose for our lives.
- We overcome fear by trusting God’s power and promises, resisting the devil, and walking in righteousness through Christ.
- “Fear not” is the most repeated command in the Bible – God wants us to live in His perfect love which casts out all fear.
What is Fear?
Fear is a natural human emotion wired into us by God to sense danger and protect ourselves. As an instinct, fear can be helpful and save lives when promptings to “fight or flight” keep us safe from harm. The Bible speaks matter-of-factly about appropriate fear – like caution around deadly snakes or respect for authorities (Romans 13:7). Proper fear moves us to godly living as we reverence the Lord and want to please Him. The book of Proverbs even says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).
However, the Bible has much more to say about unhealthy fear that goes beyond wisdom and prudence. This kind of fear is marked by dread, anxiety, and loss of control. As 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” When we move from reverent awe of God to being controlled by worry and distress, we’ve crossed over into dangerous territory spiritually.
This kind of fear often leads to sinful attitudes and actions as we stop trusting God and take matters into our own hands. Fear breeds things like anger, control, lies, violence, paralysis, and escape. It shifts our focus from God’s providence to perceived threats, real or imagined. Unhealthy fear grows into a vague dread that colors how we see the world and process our circumstances.
What Causes Fear?
1. Lack of Trust in God
The root issue beneath most unhealthy fear is simply lack of trust in God. We don’t believe He is who He says He is. We fail to rely on His perfect love to cast out fear (1 John 4:18). Doubts about God’s goodness, sovereignty, wisdom and power breed fearfulness that He won’t come through for us.
Without childlike faith in the Heavenly Father, we’re left to our own human logic and strength which will always falter. We start relying on our own understanding rather than trusting His perfect plan (Proverbs 3:5-6). But as Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters…You cannot serve God and mammon [money]” (Matthew 6:24). Either God is in control or we are – and we do a poor job playing god!
2. Threats from Evil Forces
Ephesians 6 reminds us that our battle is not ultimately against flesh and blood but against demonic forces of darkness. Satan actively works to steal our peace through lies, accusations, deception, and oppression. He plants thoughts of fear in the hopes we’ll turn from God to other useless sources of comfort and control.
The enemy knows that fearing him keeps us from fearing the Lord in the right way. As John says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). As long as Satan can keep us living in fear of what he can do to us, we remain slaves to him rather than resting in what Jesus has already done for us.
3. Consequences of Sin
Finally, fear often grows in the fertile soil of sin and disobedience as we worry about reaping what we’re sowing. When we know we’re straying from God’s best and covering sin, fears of getting caught or facing consequences often follow.
In these cases, we are reaping the consequences of turning from the Lord rather than fully trusting Him. We fear the chastisement of loved ones, loss of human respect or standing, financial insecurity from bad choices, and a host of other outcomes of walking away from God’s wisdom and ways.
What Damage Does Fear Bring?
The authors of the Bible point to four main areas of damage that unhealthy fear brings into our lives when it goes unchecked:
- Torment: Fear brings torment through endless unhealthy what-ifs, doomsday thinking, and imagining the worst. As anxiety snowballs, we end up tormenting ourselves even when the threats aren’t real.
- Slavery: Fear leads to slavery to other sources of false comfort and security outside of Christ. As 2 Timothy 1 indicates, fear has an addictive quality that traps us.
- Separation from God: The agony of fear actually pulls us away from intimacy with God. We often hid our fearful thoughts and feelings, seeing them as evidence of weak faith instead of an invitation to run to Abba Father.
- Separation from Others: Finally, fear divides us from others. We hide inside our fearful thoughts instead of enjoying intimate community, failing to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” as Romans 12:15 tells us.
Clearly, unhealthy fear brings nothing but destruction to our lives. Thankfully, as the sections below explore, we have incredible power through Christ to overcome crippling fear and walk again in righteous freedom and joy. The Bible is full of wisdom to help us do that if we apply it’s truths by faith.
How Do We Overcome Fear?
With so many verses about fear from Genesis to Revelation, how do we boil down the Bible’s guidance into practical steps to overcoming fear and walking in peace? Here are four key things Scripture calls every believer to do when facing fear.
1. Recognize God’s Power
The antidote to fear is remembering how big our God is. When we lose sight of His omnipotence and omnipresence, every wind and wave can feel scary. Our feelings tell us He’s not enough – but His Word says otherwise.
Isaiah 41:10 gives us this firm assurance: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God is mighty to save, near to protect, and faithful to strengthen us. We can rest in His capable embrace.
2. Remember God’s Promises
God’s perfect love casts out all fear. His perfect Word casts out all doubting. Scripture is packed with assurances of God’s care, reminders of our refuge in Him, and warnings to stop worrying. When we meditate on His promises instead of our perceived problems, fear loses its grip.
The Psalms especially can fill our minds with praises rather than panicked thoughts. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears… For the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:4, 7).
3. Resist the Devil
Fear often gains ground in our hearts when we fail to submit to God and resist enemy lies (James 4:7). Pleading the blood of Jesus stops accusation, worship silences deception, and affirming Scripture drowns out demonic threats. We have authority to kick fear right out the door!
With truth as our sword, we can preempt fear and even walk by faith into hard places. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
4. Walk in Righteousness
Finally, living in willful sin throws open doors to fear. When we refuse to follow Jesus in obedience and full surrender, consequences and unrest naturally follow. But as 1 John 3:21 says, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” A clean conscience goes a long way to dispelling irrational thoughts implanted by the enemy.
Doing what is right and trusting God with outcomes allows us to walk in His perfect peace. As Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
How much comfort we can draw from remembering that “Fear not!” is the most repeated command throughout Scripture from Genesis to Revelation! Our compassionate Father clearly understands how prone we are to fear and worry. That’s why He commands us over and over to reject fear and live in the freedom and power available through trusting Him.
As believers, we never need to be enslaved to fearful thinking again. Through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection, we have new life with His perfect love in us casting out all fear. As we walk in the truth that God is for us, who can stand against us? (Romans 8:31). In His presence is where we can live day by day.
Rather than be controlled by fear, we must let His amazing love control us instead. Imagine the impact we could have if we laid fear aside and stepped out in bold faith! May this biblical perspective drive us to pray earnestly for freedom from fear’s grip. As we reject those thoughts and their source in the mighty name of Jesus, we will walk forth in newfound courage.
The world is desperate for believers who are no longer paralyzed and distracted by anxiety and dread. As we rest in who God is and all He’s accomplished, we have mighty power to push back darkness. The next generation is counting on the people of God to rise up in holy confidence instead of cowering in dismay.
By His grace, may we embrace God’s constant invitation to trade worry for worship, chaos for Christ’s calm presence within. As we fix our eyes on the truth of God’s Word instead of being blinded by the deceiver, we can live as daring saints with the fearless faith to move mountains by His Spirit. The choice is ours – let’s choose wisely!