Most people are familiar with the Franklin Roosevelt quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Yet those living in the grip of fear find these words hard to accept.
Over and over, the Bible tells us, “Do not be afraid … do not fear” (Joshua 1:9; Isaiah 41:10). But, how is this possible?
I will never forget when my friend Eleanor and I drove to North Carolina to move her mother, Josie, from a tiny apartment to a tiny house. After a long day of packing, moving, and unpacking, we collapsed on a couch. Suddenly, Josie began shrieking. Frantically jerking her arms up and down, she repeatedly screamed, “Oh! Oh! Oh!” She was terrified, and I had no idea what was happening.
Finally, we saw what she saw—the image of a snake on a small television screen! Even with no imminent threat, Josie felt consumed with fear.
Hours later, I gently asked Josie, “What is your earliest memory of a snake?”
Cautiously, she replied, “I haven’t thought about this for years. One time our family was sitting at the supper table and, all of a sudden, Daddy said in a low voice, ‘Josie, do not move. Do not move your legs. Do not move your feet.’ I did exactly what Daddy said—I stayed perfectly still. Then seconds later, something slid over my feet … and I froze. It was a snake! I stayed in my seat. I did what Daddy said!”
You see the connection. She felt afraid and frozen. Simply seeing the image of a snake brought back those same old feelings of fear, feeling helpless, feeling powerless.
Was the threat real this time? No, but that didn’t matter—it’s as if the snake was right there.
Fear is a God-given response to a perceived danger. Sometimes it’s as clear as the image of a snake. But more often, it’s more difficult to describe and has a much deeper emotional impact. God created us to react in a protective way with a fight, flight, or freeze response. But while fear is a natural, God-given emotion, fearfulness means living in a state of constant fear—living as a prisoner to a threat that may or may not exist.
If I’m walking down a path, hear a rattle, and spot a rattlesnake at my feet, I should feel fear. But reacting rashly could cause me to be bit by a creature just as afraid of the two-legged giant encroaching on its territory. Likewise, I must remember not to react if a bee lands on my arm, but to remain still so I’m not stung. Realize, the bee sting and the snake bite are merely the result of a defense mechanism meant for their self-protection.
So, what can you do when you are afraid?
Remind yourself …
- God is constantly with me. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
- God has the strength to defend me. “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).
- I am safe in God’s care. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
- God is my help; I have no need to fear. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
We need to put away our fearfulness. When we experience fear and danger, we need to take this verse to heart … “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!