Our bodies react to our feelings of dread and fear. A weight in the pit of our stomachs, along with our hearts pounding as we gulp for breath, signal our sense of anxiety. Our physical nature keeps us from ignoring these feelings of unease.
The disciples felt shockwaves of fear one night after Jesus had performed the miracle of feeding more than five thousand people. The Lord had sent them ahead to Bethsaida so He could be alone to pray. During the night, they were rowing against the wind when suddenly they saw Him walking on the water. Thinking He was a ghost, they were terrified (Mark 6:49-50).
But Jesus reassured them, telling them not to be afraid and to take courage. As He entered their vessel, the wind died down and they made it to the shore. I imagine that their feelings of dread calmed as they embraced the peace He bestowed.
When we’re feeling breathless with anxiety, we can rest assured in Jesus’s power. Whether He calms our waves or strengthens us to face them, He will give us the gift of His peace that “transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). And as He releases us from our fears, our spirits and our bodies can return to a state of rest.
Fear is Hadassah’s constant companion. Hadassah, a young Jewish girl living in the first-century, is a fictional character in Francine Rivers’ book A Voice in the Wind. After Hadassah becomes a slave in a Roman household, she fears persecution for her faith in Christ. She knows that Christians are despised, and many are sent to their execution or thrown to the lions in the arena. Will she have the courage to stand for the truth when she is tested?
When her worst fear becomes reality, her mistress and other Roman officials who hate Christianity confront her. She has two choices: recant her faith in Christ or be taken to the arena. Then, as she proclaims Jesus as the Christ, her fear falls away and she becomes bold even in the face of death.
The Bible reminds us that sometimes we will suffer for doing what is right—whether for sharing the gospel or for living godly lives that are against today’s values. We are told not to be frightened (1 Peter 3:14), but to “revere Christ as Lord” in our hearts (v. 15). Hadassah’s main battle took place in her heart. When she finally made up her mind to choose Jesus, she found the courage to be faithful.
When we make the decision to honor Christ, He will help us to be bold and to overcome our fears in the midst of opposition.
It was 10-year-old Cleotis’ first time fishing, and as he looked into the container of bait he seemed hesitant to get started. Finally he said to my husband, “Help me, I-S-O-W!” When my husband asked him what the problem was, Cleotis responded, “I-S-O-W! I’m Scared Of Worms!” His fear had made him unable to act.
Fear can paralyze grown men too. Gideon must’ve been afraid when the angel of the Lord came to him as he was threshing wheat in secret, hiding from his Midianite enemies (Judges 6:11). The angel told him he had been chosen by God to lead His people in battle (vv.12-14).
Gideon’s response? “Pardon me, my lord . . . but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (v. 15). After being assured of the Lord’s presence, Gideon still seemed fearful and asked Him for signs that He would use him to save Israel as He promised (vv. 36–40). And God responded to Gideon’s requests. The Israelites were successful in battle and then enjoyed peace for forty years.
We all have fears of various kinds—from worms to wars. Gideon’s story teaches us that we can be confident of this: If God asks us to do something, He’ll give us the strength and power to do it.
“My husband was offered a promotion in another country, but I feared leaving our home, so he reluctantly declined the offer.” My friend explained how apprehension over such a big change kept her from embracing a new adventure, and that she sometimes wondered what they missed in not moving.
The Israelites let their anxieties paralyze them when they were called to inhabit a rich and fertile land that flowed “with milk and honey” (Ex. 33:3). When they heard the reports of not only an abundance of fruit but also powerful people in large cities (v. 27), they started to fear. The majority of the Israelites rejected the call to enter the land.
But Joshua and Caleb urged them to trust in the Lord, saying “Do not be afraid of the people in the land” for the “
My friend wasn’t commanded to move to another country like the Israelites were, yet she regretted letting fear close off the opportunity. What about you—do you face a fearful situation? If so, know that the Lord is with you and will guide you. With His never-failing love, we can move forward in faith.
The doctor’s words landed in her heart with a thud. It was cancer. Her world stopped as she thought of her husband and children. They had prayed diligently, hoping for a different outcome. What would they do? With tears streaming down her face, she said softly, “God, this is beyond our control. Please be our strength.”
What do we do when the prognosis is devastating, when our circumstances are beyond our control? Where do we turn when the outlook seems hopeless?
The prophet Habakkuk’s situation was out of his control, and the fear that he felt terrified him. The coming judgment would be catastrophic (Hab. 3:16–17). Yet, in the midst of the impending chaos, Habakkuk made a choice to live by his faith (2:4) and rejoice in God (3:18). He did not place his confidence and faith in his circumstances, ability, or resources, but in the goodness and greatness of God. His trust in God that compelled him to proclaim: “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (v. 19).
When we are faced with difficult circumstances—sickness, family crisis, financial trouble—we, too, have only to place our faith and trust in God. He is with us in everything we face.
“I’m really scared.” This was the poignant note a teenager posted to friends on Facebook as she told them of some upcoming medical tests. She was facing hospitalization and a series of procedures in a city three hours from home and anxiously waited as doctors tried to discover the source of some serious medical problems she was experiencing.
Who of us, in youth or later years, has not felt similar fears when facing unwanted life events that are truly frightening? And where can we turn for help? What comfort can we find from Scripture to give us courage in these kinds of situations?
The reality that God will go with us through our trial can help us to hope. Isaiah 41:13 tells us, “For I am the
In addition, God offers indescribable, heart-guarding peace when we present our difficulties to Him in prayer (Phil. 4:6–7).
Through God’s unfailing presence and His peace that “transcends all understanding” (v. 7), we can find the hope and help we need to endure situations in which we are really scared.
A friend shared with me that for years she searched for peace and contentment. She and her husband built up a successful business, so she was able to buy a big house, fancy clothes, and expensive jewelry. But these possessions didn’t satisfy her inner longings for peace, nor did her friendships with influential people. Then one day, when she was feeling low and desperate, a friend told her about the good news of Jesus. There she found the Prince of peace, and her understanding of true peace and contentment was forever changed.
Jesus spoke words of such peace to His friends after their last supper together (John 14), when He prepared them for the events that would soon follow: His death, resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Describing a peace—unlike anything the world can give—He wanted them to learn how to find a sense of well-being even in the midst of hardship.
Later, when the resurrected Jesus appeared to the frightened disciples after His death, He greeted them, saying, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19). Now He could give them, and us, a new understanding of resting in what He has done for us. As we do, we can find the awareness of a confidence far deeper than our ever-changing feelings. May we know this peace as we mark the events of the Passion of our Lord.
French artist Henri Matisse felt his work in the last years of his life best represented him. During that time he experimented with a new style, creating colorful, large-scale pictures with paper instead of paint. He decorated the walls of his room with these bright images. This was important to him because he had been diagnosed with cancer and was often confined to his bed.
Becoming ill, losing a job, or enduring heartbreak are examples of what some call “being in the valley,” where dread overshadows everything else. The people of Judah experienced this when they heard an invading army was approaching (2 Chron. 20:2–3). Their king prayed, “If calamity comes . . . [we] will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us” (v. 9). God responded, “Go out to face [your enemies] tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you” (v. 17).
When Judah’s army arrived at the battlefield, their enemies had already destroyed each other. God’s people spent three days collecting the abandoned equipment, clothing, and valuables. Before leaving, they assembled to praise God and named the place “The Valley of Berakah,” which means “blessing.”
God walks with us through the lowest points in our lives. He can make it possible to discover blessings in the valleys.
After being encamped near Mt. Sinai for 2 years, the people of Israel were on the verge of entering Canaan—the land God had promised them. God told them to send 12 spies to assess the land and the people living there. When the spies saw the strength of the Canaanites and the size of their cities, ten of them said, “We can’t!” Two said, “We can!”
What made the difference?
When the ten compared the giants with themselves and the giants loomed large; the two—Caleb and Joshua—compared the giants with God, and the giants were cut down to size. “The
Unbelief never lets us get beyond the difficulties—the impregnable cities and the impossible giants. It preoccupies itself with them, brooding over them, pitting them against mere human resources.
Faith, on the other hand, though it never minimizes the dangers and difficulties of any circumstance, looks away from them to God and counts on His invisible presence and power.
What are your “giants”? A habit you cannot break? A temptation you cannot resist? A difficult marriage? A drug-abusing son or daughter?
If we compare ourselves with our difficulties, we will always be overwhelmed. Faith looks away from the greatness of the undertaking to the greatness of an ever-present, all-powerful God.