Our challenge is unavoidable. We’re living in a time when conditions are unstable and unpredictable. If we don’t manage our fears, they’ll manage us. Fear mismanagement can lead to stress, trauma, poor health, toxic relations, and regretful decisions.
What is society feeling fearful about? The 2021 American Fear Index reveals the top 10 fears:1
Everyone can relate to one or more of these items, plus many more.
The Bible references “fear not” in various iterations some 365 times.2 Admittedly, it’s easier to say “Fear not” than to actually not fear. Therefore, it’s essential that believers understand the sequela of fear and how to harness it.
Fear indicates a threat of potential harm, whether real or perceived. It can be physical, psychological, or spiritual.
While fear is often considered a negative emotion, it can, if managed properly, serve an important function in keeping us situationally aware, spiritually minded, and socially conscious. Practically speaking, in dangerous situations fear can cause us to be appropriately cautious or to take wise safeguards.
Our response to fear is our choice. We can choose to resist our fears and resolutely select a mindset of faith, hope, and possibility.
Paul gave Timothy, his protégé, a powerful fear-managing tool: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). From this we derive five practices that will strengthen your fear management.
1. Christ Companionship: Enter a genuine relationship with Christ as Lord. Jesus gives us the gift of salvation and the promise of protection and guiding providence.
2. Can-do Choice: Choose to exercise our God-given power to say no to fear.
3. Composed Confession: Fear creates the opportunity to trust and speak about our dependence on God regardless of circumstances.
4. Conquering Counsel: Fortification of the mind with spiritual wisdom and diligent follow-through increases as we pray, study, and receive seasoned counsel.
5. Conquering Confidence: The sine qua non of divine power and authority is the conviction to be stalwart regardless of the outcome. This is both a gift from God and the result of experience (see Job 13:15).
Undoubtedly, some fear challenges may require external spiritual or professional assistance. But don’t be thrown off by the apparent simplicity of these principles. Through the combination of the human with the divine, these fear-management practices will successfully equip us if we utilize them.
1 https://www.safehome.org/home-safety/ american-fear-study
Delbert W. Baker, Ph.D., is the director of research and development for the Office of Regional Conference Ministries/Retirement Plan based in Huntsville, Alabama.