Despite the prevalence of fear in our culture, the Bible equips Christians to respond appropriately when fear arrives.
By Daniel Price
Fear is an incredibly powerful emotion that impacts everyone. While it is universal in its presence, it is powerfully individualized in practice. Fears can be driven by storms, snakes, secrets, sharks, and senses. A sensible and rational fear for one person can appear absurd and ridiculous to another. Some fears arise from past experiences, while others fester and grow from the sod of the unknown. People can grow out of one fear and simultaneously grow into a new one. Fear can cause constant dread. Fear can incapacitate us and inhibit our abilities.
Conversely, fear, when addressed correctly, is beneficial. Fear based on properly assessing dangers and determining the appropriate response can save one’s life. Fear can drive one to achieve great things and overcome obstacles. Fear can influence proper behavior to avoid punishment.
A 2021 study from Lifeway Research showed fear was the most common feeling Americans sought to avoid. Regardless of its impact on a person’s life, people do not generally enjoy fear, outside the occasional thrill-seeker and scary movie aficionado. Fear is not constant in every moment of life, but it regularly impacts everyone.
Christians and fear
As Christians, we are not exempt from the power of fear or its influence on our lives and decision-making. Many Christians fail to evangelize due to fear. Some will not pursue a calling based on a myriad of fears. At the time of conversion, we are not adorned in a blazer of courage that repels fear like spiritual scotch guard.
Recent research shows nearly 7 in 10 American pastors believe there is a growing sense of fear in their congregations about the future of the nation and the world. A solid majority (63%) believes their congregation has a sense of fear regarding the future of Christianity both in the U.S. and the world.
Despite the prevalence of fear, Christians should have a different response to fear than the world does. This should be reflected both in how we act in fearful situations and in what triggers fear. The Bible does not shy away from discussing fear. There are numerous passages throughout Scripture where God encourages His followers to live with their fears.
10 Bible passages on fear
1. Proverbs 1:7
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline” (CSB).
This is the starting point for developing an appropriate relationship with fear. In this context, fear is not about being scared but showing proper respect and reverence. It is about placing the Lord in His proper place regarding our lives and actions. By having God as the starting point, we can relegate other fears and concerns to the lesser standing they obviously deserve. A healthy fear of God initiates a healthy attitude toward fear.“A healthy fear of God initiates a healthy attitude toward fear.” — Daniel Price Click To Tweet
2. Isaiah 41:10
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand” (CSB).
God is our constant companion. He promises to give strength and aid when we need it. God wants us to rely on Him fully and, when we do so, we have no need to be afraid. This promise does not mean all problems we encounter will be resolved without harm—whether physical, emotional, financial, or personal. God is telling us that even if things go haywire, He will hold us and strengthen us.
3. Psalm 23:4
“Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me” (CSB).
When going through dangerous places, the Christian can turn to Psalm 23 for confidence and security. This verse demonstrates how God is present in our most challenging circumstances. He will not leave us during dark times, and He provides comfort through trials. God may require us to leave our comfort zone to fulfill His mission. But He says you will not go alone.
4. Psalm 56:3
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (CSB).
Life is full of scary moments. Graduations represent a change from the usual to the unknown. Marriage presents a transition from living for yourself to living for someone else. Becoming a parent brings tremendous responsibility combined with total ignorance. Moving or starting a new job can be a thrilling experience with new opportunities along with palpable trepidation. David’s enemies were pursuing him in a way most of us will never experience. During this time, he recognized his fear and realized the resolution was trusting God. We should do the same with our fears.
5. Haggai 2:5
“This is the promise I made to you when you came out of Egypt, and my Spirit is present among you; don’t be afraid” (CSB).
God charged Haggai with exhorting the Israelites to complete the rebuilding of the temple. The people faced many challenges and became discouraged. Haggai reminded them how God had been with their ancestors and stood by them as they left Egypt. Christians should similarly look at moments in their own lives and the lives of other Christians to find the confidence to follow God’s directives.
6. John 14:27
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful” (CSB).
Jesus was preparing His disciples for the events to come. Jesus knew He would die soon and depart for heaven. He promises to give peace. We should realize we would only need peace if trials and tribulations were part of following Christ. If our lives were never disrupted or chaotic, peace would be unnecessary and irrelevant. He also promises a true, lasting peace as contrasted with the temporary façade of peace the world can deliver. We should not live in fear, knowing the Lord is in control.“Jesus promises to give peace. We should realize we would only need peace if trials and tribulations were part of following Christ.” — Daniel Price Click To Tweet
7. 2 Timothy 1:7
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (CSB).
Stated plainly, God does not want us to live in fear. He does not desire for His people to be in a constant state of concern and dread about the present or the future. God has instilled in us three valuable traits which override fear. He has given us power to accomplish His goals for His glory. He has imbued us with His love which radically changes our perspectives and allows us to interact with Him and others optimally. Finally, He has given us sound judgment to discern those fears which are ineffectual. Using these God-given attributes, the Christian can walk assuredly and decisively.
8. 1 Peter 5:7
“…casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you” (CSB).
In this verse, it is once again obvious the Christian life is not exempt from problems, stress, or fears. God proposes His followers take their concerns and bring them to Him through prayer. God has such tremendous concerns for us that He pleads with us to relinquish our inferior methods of coping and instead dump our cares on Him. This is not limited to those big issues that concern us most but every problem we encounter. God wants us to approach Him with all our concerns. There is no fear so small God is unwilling to provide comfort and security.
9. Hebrews 13:6
“Therefore, we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (CSB).
The writer of Hebrews understood followers of Jesus would experience fear, worry, and anxiety. This verse encourages Christians to feel emboldened when confronting difficult circumstances. This confidence is not born of human fortitude but is fully confirmed through understanding the presence of the Lord in all challenges. Due to this truth, there is no need to be afraid. In response to the concluding rhetorical question, the Christian can confidently proclaim: “Nothing!”
10. 1 John 4:18
“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love” (CSB).
John is discussing judgment day and how the Christian can stand without fear before God. This standing is solely based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.There is no need for fear on this day for the one who has accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.
This verse should also affect the Christian’s perspective on fear in general, knowing even if the worst-case scenario occurs, i.e. death, they can stand before God without fear of punishment. Conversely, the non-believer lives with a consistent sense of dread regarding their eternal standing even if they are not cognitively aware. At no time, do they have peace regarding what will occur after death.“By exhibiting faith is greater than fear, Christians enhance their ability to show others the power of Christ in their lives.” — Daniel Price Click To Tweet
Put fear in its place
During his first inaugural address, with Americans suffering through the Great Depression, President Roosevelt declared, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” With those words, he encouraged people in an extraordinarily challenging time and exhorted them to look beyond their immediate concerns. He wanted people to control their fears and not allow fear to destroy their thoughts and inhibit their ability to act.
Similarly, but with infinitely more power, God’s Word provides Christians with words to propel them through their fears. If we can focus on our Savior and not our fears, we can have a more fruitful relationship with God, other Christians, and non-believers. By exhibiting faith is greater than fear, Christians enhance their ability to show others the power of Christ in their lives.
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.
Daniel is a statistician for Lifeway Research.