Everyone is afraid sometime, about something. We live in a world that offers plenty of chances to fear, and we can be rather creative in thinking of new things to be fearful of. Maybe that’s why one of the most oft-repeated commands in the Bible is do not be afraid. Of course, the Bible does more than issue the command; it gives us good reasons why we do not need to be afraid.
Here are some biblical keys to not being afraid:
Trust in God. This has to be the starting point. Do we trust God or not? The psalmist models the proper choice: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3). Faith overcomes fear (Mark 4:40). We remember that our Good Shepherd is with us, even “through the darkest valley” (Psalm 23:4). We do not need to be afraid because He will never, ever forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He is our salvation, our strength, our defense, and “he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2). In trusting God, we pray to Him, we believe His Word, and we obey His commands. Scripture abounds with reasons we should not be afraid, based on our trust in the Lord (see Deuteronomy 31:8; Psalm 27:1; 34:4; 118:6; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 10:28; John 14:27; Romans 8:38–39; 2 Timothy 1:7).
Trust in God will counteract the effects of fear. The Bible’s admonition to not be afraid naturally implies faith in God. As Scottish minister Alexander McLaren put it, “Faith, which is trust, and fear are opposite poles. If a man has the one, he can scarcely have the other in vigorous operation. He that has his trust set upon God does not need to dread anything except the weakening or the paralyzing of that trust” (from “The Heath in the Desert and the Tree by the River” in Triumphant Certainties: And Other Sermons, Funk and Wagnalls Co., 1905, p. 247).
Don’t focus on the fear. We choose what we dwell on. To focus on the source of fear is to engender more fear; to focus on the One who takes fear away is to find solace. We can choose to fix our thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. We “think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT). As Jairus the synagogue ruler was bringing Jesus home to save his daughter, he received news that his daughter had died (Mark 5:35). Immediately, Jesus told Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (verse 36). In other words, Jairus must forgo the natural focus on the tragedy and fear and focus instead on faith and the Lord’s nearness. In choosing to not be afraid, we remember that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Choose to praise the Lord. “How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting!” (Psalm 147:1). Praise is an antidote to fear, and gratitude negates worry. Habakkuk the prophet was fearful of the invasion of his country, and he described his fear vividly: “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled” (Habakkuk 3:16). But in the following verses, the prophet handles his fear in a godly manner: he “waited patiently” to see the Lord’s intervention (verse 16). He acknowledged that difficult times could be on the way (verse 17). He purposed to praise the Lord (verse 18). And he focused on the Lord’s power and promises (verse 19). In that focus, Habakkuk learned to not be afraid. And that’s how he ended his book, on a note of praise to the Lord.
Remember the future God has promised His children. We should not worry about tomorrow, Jesus clearly taught (Matthew 6:34). In this life, we have God’s promise to meet every need His children have (Philippians 4:19) and to accomplish His work in us (Philippians 1:6). As David passed the throne to his son, he encouraged Solomon in the knowledge of God’s plan for him: “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished” (1 Chronicles 28:20). In the next life, the redeemed have an even greater hope: “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3–5). Jesus’ gentle words gladden the hearts of all who tend to fear: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Combat the temptation to fear. We are in a spiritual battle, and one of the enemy’s tactics is to promote fear. In His grace, God has given us spiritual armor to wage a successful battle. We have “the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16, NKJV). There’s a wonderful promise here. The shield we wield extinguishes the flames of all the devil’s darts, including the temptation to fear. Faith overcomes fear of any kind, and it is with confidence in God that we take our stand (see verse 11). Part of combating temptation is following the path of wisdom and obedience, which always brings good results: “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (Proverbs 3:24).
John Newton’s hymn “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds,” first published in 1779, expresses the hopeful spirit within the believer:
“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.”