Facing Your Fears
Do you lack the courage and peace of mind to cope in today's world? The Bible contains vital keys that can help!
Do you have fears and anxieties? We all experience personal challenges. Many of us sometimes wonder how we can cope in our modern world of constant economic, social and environmental stress. The pressures of daily life may even be challenging our emotional stability, leaving us paralyzed with fear. The good news is that you can face your fears. There are vital biblical keys to faith and peace of mind. In this article, we will explore seven strategies for facing your fears.
The first key is to know the future, and be ready for it. The Bible gives us an outline of the future. It reveals God's wonderful purpose and plan. God gave humans the privilege of choice: to choose right from wrong; to choose the abnormal from the normal; to choose His revealed way of life that brings peace, or to choose the way of evil and war. In the end, the Bible reveals, we will have glorious world peace and prosperity! That good news of mankind's ultimate destiny can give us perspective, and hope for the future. We have a choice! As God told Israel: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19).
The world has most often chosen the way of death. So we must face the realities of the carnal, selfish and evil world in which we live, and take appropriate action. What action? Note this advice from the book of Proverbs: "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished" (Proverbs 22:3). This principle is so important that wise King Solomon repeated it in Proverbs 27:12.
Knowing the future, and being ready for it, will help you face your fears. Jesus told us to understand prophetic events (Matthew 24:15). In Luke 21, He described signs that would precede His coming, and He delivered this admonition: "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away" (Luke 21:31–33). Jesus said that we should be alert to prophetic events so that we will know that the kingdom of God is near. He did not say, "so that we can guess that the kingdom of God is near."
Jesus goes on to explain how we can face our fears by understanding what will come: "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (vv. 34–36).
Where the NKJV talks of the "cares" of this life, the NIV translates this as the "anxieties" of life. The NRSV translates this as "worries." As we remain aware of world events, not just as terrible tragedies but as signs of Christ's soon return, we can overcome our worries and face our fears.
The February 2002 issue of Psychology Today magazine proclaimed, on its cover: "Conquering Fear: Are We Too Afraid?" It featured an article titled "Fear Not." Authors Brad Schmidt and Jeffrey Winters wrote: "Americans have been very jittery lately. As we cautiously open our mail, terror is ever present…. On September 11, terrorists did more than destroy buildings; they scarred the American psyche. The details are telling: Pharmacists report an increased demand for anti-anxiety drugs… and some HMOs have seen a 25 percent increase in calls" (pp. 46, 48). Author Ray Monsour Scurfield, in his article "The Normal Abnormal," gave this strategy for coping: "Balance: Keep up with current events yet pay attention to yourself" (p. 50).
Yes, we need to be alert to fulfilled prophecy around us. Fast-moving events should not cause us to be overwhelmed with fear; we should look forward to the ultimate fulfillment of prophecy: Jesus Christ's return to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth.
A second key to facing your fears is to know your priorities. What is your greatest priority in life? Is it just to survive? Notice what Jesus said: "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it…" (Mark 8:35). Jesus pointed out that we need to seek a greater priority than just preserving our physical lives. His next comments show us what that priority should be. He said that "whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" (vv. 35–36).
The Creator God has planned a wonderful future for you beyond this fearful world. He wants you in His kingdom, which will soon come to this earth. How important a priority is that kingdom to you? Remember what Jesus said, and mark this verse in your Bible: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus Christ tells us that the greatest priority in life is to seek the kingdom of God. Christ will return as King of kings and Lord of lords to establish His kingdom here on earth. You and I need to be there in that Kingdom! Seeking that kingdom should be our topmost goal and priority. In his Psychology Today article, Scurfield gave this advice: "Reassess priorities: Dedicate attention to what is most important" (p. 50). Where do we go to find "what is most important"? We search the Scriptures. We go to the Bible, the Word of God!
Once you have committed yourself to seeking first the kingdom of God, your fears cannot overwhelm you. As Jesus said of those who seek His kingdom: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (v. 34).
Fears sometimes come about because of our own sinful thoughts and actions. When we sin, and know we have sinned, we feel guilty. We fear that something terrible will happen to us; and, lo and behold, it does happen! So a third key to facing your fears is to repent of your sins.
Yes, we need to acknowledge our fears, our worries and our sins! If we genuinely repent of our sins, God will forgive us. We can be free of the anxieties and worry associated with guilt! We can have peace of mind, confident in God's promise that "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
It takes courage to confess our sins before God. But when we take responsibility for our own actions, and we repent of our sins, God will give us peace. To "repent" is not just to say that we are sorry. Real repentance means to change our conduct and our way of thinking. It means to turn around and go the other way. It means to acknowledge our sins before God, and ask His forgiveness.
When you repent, you must accept Christ's sacrifice to pay for your sins, and be willing to obey God's righteous law. Can you obey God's law? Yes, you can—through the Holy Spirit in you, which you receive at baptism. As a Christian, you may not succeed in obeying God's law perfectly, but you will live a pattern of obedience, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and will know that you can go to Christ, in repentance, when you stumble.
When the Apostle Peter preached repentance on the first Day of Pentecost, what did he tell the people to do? To repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). Baptism is our demonstration of faith in Christ's sacrifice. If you are repentant, and sincerely desire to make a change in your life, you may be considering baptism. Or perhaps you were previously baptized, but you now realize that you had not truly repented at the time of baptism. If so, please contact the regional office nearest you, as listed on page 2 of this magazine. We will be happy to put you in touch with a true minister of Jesus Christ, who will counsel you about this vital key to living a Christian life and facing your fears.
A fourth key to facing your fears is to pray about everything that worries you. Sometimes, your fears come true. As the patriarch Job observed: "For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me" (Job 3:25). How do you cope with fears and worries? Through prayer, you can face your fears with God's help! This was the Apostle Paul's strategy; he wrote: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). In other words, share your worries, your fears, and your concerns with God in prayer! Pray about everything that worries you! Share your intimate thoughts with God; He knows them anyway, and wants to help you if you will come to Him in prayer.
Exactly how should you pray? Notice that Paul says to pray "with thanksgiving." You can thank God for all your blessings. Thank Him for the very privilege of asking for His intervention, and for victory over your fears. Are you overwhelmed with fears, aware of everything that has gone wrong in your life? The author of the old nineteenth century hymn had it right when he wrote:
"When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done."
When you count your blessings—when you thank God for all the blessings you have experienced and will experience in your life—there is a wonderful result, as Paul describes: "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (v. 7).
Yes, you can have peace of mind—the very peace of God. But God expects that you will take action. He expects you to request His help, and to express your faith in God's willingness to help, by thanking Him as you share your fears with Him.
A fifth key to facing your fears is to exercise faith. Hebrews 11 is often called the "faith chapter." It lists heroes and heroines of faith. What is faith? "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is an assurance—a confidence.
Abraham had faith. Though very old, he believed God's promise that he would become a father of many nations. "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore 'it was accounted to him for righteousness'" (Romans 4:20–22).
In other words, God was real to Abraham. He knew that God was more than able to fulfill His promises. Have you ever asked the question: "What has God promised me?" If you have faith, you can read the Bible and find hundreds of promises that God can fulfill for you, if you believe and obey Him.
Are you afraid that you will not have enough to eat, or clothes to wear? Are your worries mostly about your physical needs? Notice how Jesus corrected His listeners who were fearful about their physical needs being met: "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 6:28–30).
We can trust in God to give us His faith, His power and His strength. When we follow the example of Christ and the Apostles, we can face our fears—and overcome them. As Paul wrote: "The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:9).
A sixth key to facing your fears is to fear God. Can you really face your fears by having fear? Many mistakenly call the "fear of God" primitive. But the biblical fear of God is a deep reverence and respect for the Creator. It is an awe at God's majesty and greatness. It is a response to the reality of God. When you choose to fear God, you will not fear man.
The fear of God and the love of God are not mutually exclusive. Many wrongly think that you can have one or the other. That is not what your Bible says. Notice: "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways and to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?" (Deuteronomy 10:12–13).
Yes, God requires that we both love Him and fear Him. Both qualities go hand in hand! If you read through the books of Psalms and Proverbs, you will be amazed at the blessings and benefits of a godly fear! For example: "In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge" (Proverbs 14:26). True fearlessness ("strong confidence") comes from God.
Our world is not at peace today because so few people have a godly fear. The Apostle Paul, quoting Isaiah, makes that very plain: "Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:15–18).
How many people have you known who are arrogant and have no godly fear? Our world needs genuine, humble Christians who revere the true God. We need to follow the example of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He had a godly fear (Isaiah 11:2). He taught us: "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:28–31).
A godly fear—reverence for the true God—gives us peace and confidence. We can know that God values us, and that He wants only the best for us—and that we can have the best if we obey Him.
Faith is an antidote to fear! Seeking first the important things in life will help you grow in faith! As you grow in faith, you will see that God is able to accomplish far more than human beings know or can even imagine. As Paul wrote: "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 3:20–21).
God wants us to be close to Him; He wants us to share with Him our worries, fears, and concerns. And He wants us to ask Him for help! Be bold. Ask God to help you as He has promised, "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think."
Have faith in God's promises, and you can face your fears. The "faith chapter"—Hebrews 11—reminds us: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). The key here is to diligently seek Him. You seek Him by praying to Him every day. You seek Him by reading your Bible every day. Remember that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
A seventh key to facing your fears—the most vital key for a converted Christian—is to ask God for the Holy Spirit. God's Holy Spirit is the spirit of love and of power. He gives us that gift after we repent and are baptized. As we read earlier, the Apostle Peter spoke to thousands on the Day of Pentecost, when the New Testament Church began. "Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'" (Acts 2:38).
The Holy Spirit is God's gift. After baptism, the minister lays hands on the head of the one baptized, and claims that gift. The evangelist Timothy, to whom Paul wrote, received the Holy Spirit by the laying on of Paul's hands: "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy 1:6).
The Holy Spirit is not the Spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind (v. 7). As the Apostle John wrote: "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" (1 John 4:18). God will give you the gift of His love that casts out fear. That is the gift of divine love through the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit, the converted Christian will experience for himself what Paul meant when he wrote: "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7). May God inspire you to face your fears, and live the life of confidence, faith and obedience that He desires for you, as you prepare for your place in His soon-coming kingdom, in Tomorrow's World.