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Exploring the Bible

What the Bible says about fear

Fear is everywhere. I think fear has always been a huge part of our human lives, and the current pandemic is only magnifying these feelings. People are fearful for their lives, for the lives of the people that they love, for their businesses and employment, for their finances, for their children’s education and future studies. But it turns out that what the Bible has to say about fear, is quite a lot.

I have not personally counted this, but I have heard it said that fear is mentioned in the Bible over 500 times. Some of the things the Bible says about fear, are actually talking about ‘fear of God’ – a deep reverence and bowing before God. But of the 500+ references to hear, 365 of those are when the Bible says “fear not”.

To me, this highlights two things: firstly, that A LOT of people were afraid throughout the Bible, and secondly that the call to “fear not”, was a consistent call. This reassures me that we will find plenty of examples in the Bible of how to overcome fear and what God’s response to us is throughout our fear.

So, let’s dig in and see what the Bible says about fear!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

This verse comes very soon after Joshua was installed as leader, following Moses’ death. He is now leading the Israelites – and that sounds slightly terrifying to me! But even at this very early stage of his leadership, part of his installment is this reminder from God: “Do not be afraid”. It’s a command, to be strong and courageous – this is an important part of what is required for leadership. But the reason given here, the reason for Joshua to be strong and courageous, is that God is with him throughout it all.

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6:25-34

This passage, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), highlights a couple of things for us about what Jesus has to say on fear. Firstly, that fear is unproductive – it does not help us to achieve anything, and can even take time away from us. Secondly, that we do not need to be worried about feeding ourselves, and clothing ourselves, providing these essential things for our survival, because God is our provider. If he can take care of all of creation, keep the whole world spinning and surviving, how much more will he take care of us, his children. Thirdly, it shares a pointer for how to move forwards out of our worry about our basic necessities: “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness”.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”

Psalm 23:4

This imagery of a dark valley is something I think many people can relate to – that feeling of being surrounded by darkness, high walls on every side, penned in, not knowing how to escape (or even if you can escape). In this kind of context, I think the idea of finding comfort is really powerful. For God’s presence to be a source of comfort I believe shows just what an impact he has upon the difficult and scary situations we face.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:6-7

I really love these verses of the Bible. Where most of the verses we have looked at so far have said that we do not need to fear for practical reasons: God provides, he is with us; this verse highlights the fact that we can pray to God about our worries and anxieties, because he cares for us. He loves us and wants to help us because he is a caring father.

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

Psalm 118:6

Following the verse in 1 Peter that shares God’s caring nature, we can also combat our fear by recognising his mighty power. If our God is all-powerful, sovereign over everything, what could we possibly have to fear from the actions of humans?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philipians 4:6-7

This was the first Bible verse I could ever directly quote and tell you the Bible reference for. It directs us to the most powerful thing we can do when we’re fearful and anxious: pray. It calls us to present our requests to God in prayer, instead of remaining anxious about them. It also tells us what this prayer will lead to: peace. A peace that we cannot imagine and can only receive from God.

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

2 Timothy 1:7

The Holy Spirit plays such a big role in helping us to combat fear. Here, Timothy tells us some of the things that the Holy Spirit equips us with to deal with our fears and anxieties: power, love and self-discipline. These are all things that could be incredibly helpful in helping us to overcome fear.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

Jesus’ victory over death, his resurrection, are the most incredible tool that we have to deal with the fears we have. He has overcome the world, so we have hope for the future – we know that one day Jesus will return and there will be no more pain, no more tears, no more suffering. The suffering that we face now is just a blip in the bigger picture of the eternity that we will share with God. This is an incredible truth that we can look forwards to, which can also really help us to put the situations we are facing now into perspective, and free us from fear of the future because we have a greater hope in God.

I do hope you’ve found this post encouraging and helpful in dealing with the fears we face. This is just a glimpse into all that the Bible has to say about fear, so do continue to study the Bible to learn more!

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