Overcoming Worry and Fear in the Christian Life
By Pastor Scott Roberts
Who hasn’t struggled with worry and fear in life? It seems to be a common human experience. Sometimes our minds get carried about by the “what ifs” of the future. Unfortunately, this tendency is both pervasive and acceptable in our world, but worry and fear betray a deeper problem in our life. That problem is a lack of trust in God.
Mark Twain once said (or wrote), “My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.” Isn’t that an accurate way of describing and defining what fear is and does to us? Another unidentified writer penned these words, “Worry is a trickle of fear running through the mind, ever cutting a deeper gorge into which all thoughts are drained.”
But the Scriptures repeatedly forbid us to worry (Mt 6:25, 31, 34; Phil 4:6). And the Fear of God is the only fear that is commended and approved of by the Word (Gen 26:24, Ex 1:17, Lev 19:32, Dt 10:12, 1Pt 2:17). All other fear and worry is to be shunned by the Christian, taken captive, and made obedient to Christ. Fear and worry about things, people, and circumstances are an indication that our hearts, eyes and mind are fixed upon something other than the good and gracious God who loves and cares for us and is working out all things for our good. Unfortunately, fear and worry sneak their way in and rob us of this precious scriptural truth.
So when we find ourselves or others stuck in the life-sucking quicksand of fear and worry, what can we do?
First, we must understand what is happening. When we fear and worry, we are orienting our life around something that we don’t want to happen or encounter. Admitting this is the first step.
The second step is recognizing and choosing to fear God more than the potential future. When one fears God, he or she is orienting life about God and his ways.
Third, we must remind ourselves and others that the God of Scripture, our father, brother and counselor, cares about us when we struggle. He invites us to rest with him, not worry without him (2Ki 1:15, Lk 1:30).
Fourth, we can reflect on the incarnation. Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us that one of the results of the incarnation is to free us from the power of death, which is incidentally the ultimate object of future fear and worry. If Christ’s incarnation frees us from the ultimate fear and worry, then his strength and life can free us from the lesser worries and fears that can carry us away.
Fifth, we need to examine and correct our faulty view of God and align it with the truth proclaimed in Scripture. These diagnostic questions can help to pinpoint why one is fearful or worried:
- Do I really believe God can be trusted?
- Do I really believe God loves me?
- Do I really believe God has a specific plan for me?
- Do I really believe God is powerful?
- Do I really believe God is sovereign?
- Do I really believe God is a good king?
- Do I really believe that nothing can separate me from His love?
- Am I willing to endure trials if that is the means God wishes to use to conform me to the image of Christ?
Sixth, based on the answers to these questions, one must repent of believing lies and embrace the truth that God is good, trustworthy, loving, powerful, sovereign and is working all things for my good even if they are painful. As one confesses and fills their mind with the truth of God’s character and goodness, then they will grow in their ability to successfully combat fear and worry.
Seventh and finally, one must focus on the tasks for the day or the moment, instead of the fears and worries of the future. Matthew 6:33-34 reminds us that each day has enough trouble of its own without us taking the liberty to import tomorrow’s trouble into the present.
May these steps help you to recognize your worry and fear and turn back again to the Savior who wants to set us free.