A recent study by Chapman University revealed Americans wrestle with more fears than you might expect. Top concerns include crime, talking to strangers, romantic rejection, terrorism, natural disasters, public speaking, dying, and going bankrupt.
Oh, and I almost forgot: clowns. Nearly seven percent of us experience angst around make-up wearing entertainers.
Did you resonate with an item on that list? I do.
Fear slips into my life more than I realize. The anxiety affects my body. Five years ago, I began wearing a night guard to protect my teeth from grinding. Sometimes I nibble on the inside of my cheek until I develop blood blisters. Under stress, I’ll scratch at scabs until they leave scars.
I’m not the only one.
One friend plucks his hair out by the roots. Another picks at her cuticles until her fingers develop open sores. Insomnia plagues another. Some fear-induced habits are subtler, but most of us have at least one. Not only does fear hurt, but it causes us to hurt ourselves.
Whenever we feel out of control, we resort to coping mechanisms to regain a sense of control. Fear poisons our bodies and singes our souls.
Fear transforms us from trusting followers to control freaks. We morph into bossy micromanagers no matter who we’re dealing with—family, friends, or co-workers—nothing is ever done right.
Even worse, fear refuses change, since altering a circumstance or inviting a miracle pushes us even further from control and ignites in us the most basic human dread: fear of the unknown.
One of most frequent command in the Bible is: “Do not be afraid.” Or as it is stated in other places: “don’t tremble,” “take courage,” and “be strong and courageous.”
God instructs Abraham: Don’t be afraid. Moses hears: Do not be frightened. David is told: Do not fear. Joshua passes encouragement to the Israelites: Don’t be afraid or discouraged. The angel admonishes Mary: Don’t tremble. Jesus preaches the message to live without fear. God exhorts Israel to live fearless through the prophet Isaiah. Paul instructs the entire Philippian church to not be afraid.
All flesh-and-bone earthlings—even those history proclaims heroes—are prone to be afraid. When you find yourself paralyzed by fear, read these words slowly:
You are joined by me, my friends. Moses, King David, and all those who shudder at the sight of Ronald McDonald.
We live in a world riddled with fear—being laid off, being sued, being diagnosed. Fear drives the news and shapes our entertainment.
We can choose to live afraid all of the time.
But fear is not the only option.
When Jesus appears to the disciples walking on the water, they are terrified because they think they’ve encountered a ghost. Matthew tells us they “cried out in fear.” Coping with fear requires confessing your fear. And confessing your fear is the first step to taking refuge in God.
Jesus hears and comforts them by saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27, NASB).
Some view fear as a source of shame. They consider any fear a weakness, a lack faith in God. But for Jesus, fear provides an opportunity to instill courage and remind his disciples that they aren’t alone. The same is true for us.
Ridding ourselves of fear means resting ourselves in Jesus’ presence.
Every fear issues an invitation to draw near.
When it comes to your fears, do not be afraid. You are not alone in them, and they are not shameful. God wants to be your refuge. On the darkest nights when you can’t see through the fog, open your mouth and confess your concerns. Then start squinting. You might just discover someone striding across the water to meet you there.
Flourish Today: Stop right now and consider what you fear most. Name them out loud and invite Christ into those places of fear.
This Week’s Prayer: Father, please walk into the places where I am most afraid and help me to take courage. Amen.