Sometimes, almost out of nowhere, fear grips us.
And we can be tempted to maintain a white-knuckle hold on fear to the point where it becomes irrational and obsessive.
Recently, in an attempt to confront fear, I at first approached it intellectually, knowing that God is in control. But fear is not intellectual. It is primarily emotional and the answer is spiritual. I was submitting intellectually to God and submitting emotionally to the world and to the flesh. The fear was not abating.
Only when I got back to devoting some long hours to God’s Word did relief come. God led me to the verses in Mark and Matthew where Jesus calms the storm. In Mark 4:40, Jesus asks His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Matthew 8:26 reads, “He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’”
Jesus connects fear to a lack of faith and a lack of faith to fear. That doesn’t mean having faith will cure us, or take away our scary circumstances, or drop a bucket of $100 bills in our lap. No. But fear won’t do any of that either and in fact will only increase our suffering and perhaps immobilize us.
Jesus wants to carry us through trials without fear. That is His mercy: to grow faith and trust in Him in place of fear. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Jesus loves us and doesn’t want us to suffer in fear. He also doesn’t want fear to block out the hope that we have in Him. That’s why He invites us to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29).
Intellectually, I knew this to be true. But I had to open my heart to these words in trust that the Holy Spirit will sow faith and hope in place of fear. And the Holy Spirit has.
“When I am afraid I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. “ Psalm 56:3-4
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.” Romans 8:15
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13