by Dale Reeves
The past few months our staff has spent a decent amount of time calling people from our church just to check in on them. Some of them we haven’t seen in person for over six months, not because they have left the church, but because they are afraid to come back in the church building. They might not say they’re afraid; they might say, “I’m just not comfortable yet.” They have been participating in our worship services by watching them online, at home, in their pajamas—like many other folks this year. We aren’t calling them to ask how their giving to the church is going; we aren’t calling to berate them for not being in church for months; we are simply calling to let them know we care and ask if they have any specific requests they would like us to be praying about. Our church staff begins every Monday morning in prayer together, and this is a great time for us to seek God, praise him, and bring the petitions that have been shared with us.
In more than one of my phone calls with members of our church, when I have asked for specific prayer requests, I have received this response, “Please pray that this situation (COVID-19) will be over soon; I’m worried about all the bad things happening in our country . . . the wildfires out west, the hurricanes, the riots and looting, the violence, the political divisiveness, and not being able to see people. I’M AFRAID!” I have spoken with a number of people in their 60s and 70s and that has been the typical response. Many of them have felt very isolated and lonely during the past six months. And Satan has had a field day with them, working on their minds.
Lots to Fear
There are plenty of things for us to be afraid of these days, such as . . .
- I’m afraid I will get the coronavirus and no one will be able to visit me.
- I’m afraid my life will never go back to normal again.
- I’m afraid my kids will be sent home from school because of exposure to the virus—and I don’t want to do the distance learning again.
- I’m afraid I will lose my job because I don’t know if our business is going to make it.
- I’m afraid the coming election will not go the way I am hoping for.
- I’m afraid the violence we see in many cities will happen in my area too.
- I’m afraid for what the future of America looks like.
- I’m afraid what wearing a mask for eight hours a day at work is doing to me.
- I’m afraid we’re going to have to cancel our upcoming vacation.
- I’m afraid my anxiety disorder is getting worse.
- I’m afraid we are teaching the next generation to live in fear.
- I’m afraid of dying.
According to numerous surveys, between 85-90% of the things we fear will happen never end up taking place. But we also know that the more we obsess and worry about things, the worse we feel—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Why do we struggle with fear so much when God has commanded us numerous times in his Word not to fear? The phrase “Do not fear” is used at least eighty times in the Bible, most likely because God knows that our enemy, the devil, uses fear to decrease our hope, steal our joy, and limit our victories. So much fear is based on the wrong assumption that we (or someone else) has made a mess of a situation, we think there is no help in sight, and we either believe God doesn’t really see our need and care, or we are too proud to reach out for his help. Fear causes us to settle for less than what God wants us to experience.
A Scared and Scary World
Writer and theologian A. W. Tozer famously said: “A scared world needs a fearless church.”
We are living in a scared and scary world these days. When people who don’t know Christ look at the lives of those who claim to be Jesus followers, do they see a difference? Do your unsaved friends, loved ones, and neighbors see you reacting differently to life’s challenges when they arise? Would they describe you as a person of faith, or a person of fear?
God’s Word promises us . . .
“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:8, NLT).
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43;1, NIV).
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18, NIV).
God is perfect love, and the closer we come to him, the less power fear has over us. When Jesus was born into this world, he was to be named Immanuel, which means “God with us.” One of the names for God in the Old Testament is Jehovah Shammah, which means, “The Lord is there.” God desires to be continually present in our minds and hearts. When faced with crippling fears, we need to believe that God is still with us in the midst of our anxieties.
Freed from Fears
In his helpful book, Putting an X Through Anxiety, pastor Louie Giglio says:
“I know firsthand that if you’re trying to control the world, or the people around you, you’re spending a lot of time staring at the ceiling at night. But, Jesus offers a better way. First Peter 5:7 invites you to cast all your anxiety on Jesus, because he cares for you. I love the mental picture of us throwing our anxiety onto Jesus—off-loading what’s troubling us onto him. . . . To put an ‘X’ through anxiety we have to admit that we cannot manage the actions of people, events or nations.”
So, admit to God that you have control issues. Then choose to do some practical things every day to control what you can control—what you allow to dominate your thoughts, and how you choose to react to things that happen in your world. I highly recommend meditating on Scriptures that will help you overcome your fears. If you’re looking for a good list of them, check this out.
Read these Scriptures in the morning to get your day off to a great start, then read them in the evening before you go to bed. Pray these Scriptures aloud, and make the words of Scripture come to life as your words! Over time, these words of life will become so familiar that they can replace the negative thoughts in your mind that you have been battling. Fears may pop up from time to time, but they don’t have to be paralyzing. They don’t have to consume and control you. You can choose to not allow fear and anxiety to control your life. You can choose to focus your mind on the truths of God’s Word that do not change—even in the midst of uncertain times.
Choose to begin your day each day by reciting these words from the psalmist:
“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4, NLT).
May God free you from ALL your fears today!