Fear and anxiety are a part of the human experience. If someone tells you that they are never anxious or afraid, then they are either lying, delusional, or psychotic – take your pick. So, to be human is to experience some level of fear or anxiety.
I hardly slept the night before my first college exam. It was Chemistry and as prepared as I was, my nerves wouldn’t let me sleep. The morning of the exam I locked my keys in my car, along with my calculator and notebook. Great. So much for my ominous start to what would be an uninspiring college career. I made an A on the exam. So, why was I so anxious?
God’s Take on Fear and Anxiety
The Bible teaches us that we are broken and we live in a broken world. Until God completely cleanses the world, we will deal with the brokenness. It is what it is. And one consequence of that brokenness is that we deal with fear and anxiety.
Fear is the natural reaction to some real or perceived, imminent threat. It’s actually a good thing. It is a survival instinct that can serve us well. Anxiety, on the other hand, is caused by the fear of something that is in the future. We are afraid of the thing that is in front of us. We are anxious about the thing that is around the corner.
So, with that in mind, I would say that fear can be a good thing. There are times when our bodies need the adrenalin rush for peak performance that a little dose of fear can give us. Anxiety, however, tends to be fear that paralyzes us.
Numerous times God told his children – “Do not be afraid” (Joshua 1:5; Mt. 28:5; and too many other places to list). He repeats it so often because he understands that to be human is to be afraid. But, these are not commands of God. They are exhortations. 1
It’s Going to Be Alright
It’s like the times one of my children would come to me in the middle of the night, afraid of a monster. I would soothe their fears by saying, “It’s going to be alright. I’m right here. Don’t be afraid.” Was I saying that as a command? As if to say, “If you don’t do what I just said and stop being afraid, you’re disobeying me and I’m going to punish you.” No. Of course not. That’s silly.
If God meant for “Do not be afraid” to be a punitive command he would have included it in the Mosaic Law. But he didn’t. In fact, it’s such a big part of the human experience, surely he would have included it in the Ten Commandments. But he didn’t. It’s not anywhere in the Law because God never saw it as a Law to be obeyed. He never viewed anxiety as sin. He saw anxiety for what it is — a part of our broken humanity.
God understands that you are going to be afraid at times. He understands that you might even be anxious. But, he doesn’t want fear or anxiety to rule your life. He reminds you, “Do not be afraid,” the same way a loving father does — because he doesn’t want fear and anxiety to paralyze you.
Five Things Jesus Said About Fear and Anxiety
1. Don’t let fear and anxiety overwhelm you.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (Jn. 14:1).
His disciples were about to lose him, but even that would not stop them from changing the world. What can you lose in this world that will paralyze you?
2. There are times when it is appropriate to be afraid.
“But Jesus … said to the synagogue official, ‘Do not be afraid any longer …” (Mark 5:36).
Jairus’ daughter was dying. Jesus told Jairus that he no longer needed to be afraid. His daughter was in critical condition. His fear was understandable. But, now that Jesus was on the case, he no longer needed to be afraid. Fear is okay, up to a point.
3. Faith can help you deal with overwhelming fear and anxiety.
“He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?'” (Mark 4:40).
Again, the fear the disciples were experiencing was debilitating. Jesus didn’t say, “Why are you afraid?” He asked, “Why are you SO afraid?” Some fear? Yes. This much fear? No. At some point, you have to trust.
4. Catch a vision of a larger reality.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
Perspective is everything. When you start living from an eternal perspective, fewer things grip you with paralyzing fear.
5. Ultimately, His sacrificial love conquers all our fears.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).
Sometimes, you can’t conquer your fears. Don’t beat yourself up. Jesus reminds us that his grace is sufficient, for his “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Never forget that Jesus is in control of all things and all power and authority have been given to him on earth. And he loves you!
It is not a sin to feel afraid or anxious. It is a part of the human condition. However, being overcome by fear and anxiety is not God’s ideal for your life.