Fear is a universal emotion. Everyone, at one time or another, experiences fear. In some, fear produces anxiety or even panic, but fear can also be useful at times. It’s what causes us to drive carefully, and keeps us from walking too close to the edge of a mountain trail. No one likes to be afraid, but there is something to be said for a healthy fear of danger.
For most of us, though, if we’re fearful it’s not because we’re in any immediate danger. Most of our fears are based on “what-if.” What if I get cancer? What if my teen doesn’t make it home from the party tonight? What if something happens to my husband? If these thoughts are familiar to you, then you also know that you can what-if yourself into a full-blown panic attack! When fear reaches this level, then we know that we are dealing with a heart problem.
The heart that gives in to fear is the heart that does not trust God. Now, you may want to argue with this. Some have said, “Well, my fears are legitimate! I have so-and-so circumstance that makes it very likely that my fears will be realized!” Take, for example, a lady whose husband has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She is very fearful of what the future might hold for them. She’s not sure she’ll be able physically to care for him as the disease progresses. What if they can’t afford the care he needs? What if she becomes ill or disabled also? What if the disease progresses faster than expected, and his years of earning money are cut short?
Only the Lord knows the answers to these questions, yet this lady must press on. So she begins to ask the Lord to take away the fear she feels, and replace it with His peace. She waits for the fear to subside, for that sense of peace and calm that comes only from the Holy Spirit to wash over her…but it doesn’t. She continues to experience the racing heart when the doctor calls; the sweaty palms when it’s time for a test or procedure; and the overwhelming sense of dread when a new symptom means the disease has progressed. No matter how she pleads, how insistently she trusts Him, the Lord does not take away the fear. So, what is she to do?
Sometimes fear does not subside and one must choose to do it afraid. ~Elizabeth Elliot
This is the answer for the lady I described, and it may be the answer you’re looking for, too. We may be afraid, but we do not have to give in to fear. There is a difference! I said before that the heart that gives in to fear is a heart that is not trusting God. However, the heart that fears and yet keeps going anyway is a heart that is trusting God in the face of fear. The fact that you are afraid is not a sign of weak faith or unbelief. It is a sign of being human. It is giving in to fear that should make you check whether you are trusting God or not. So, using the example of the lady in our story, if she continues to love and serve her husband one day at a time, even as she is feeling fearful, then she is showing love for him and trust in God. If, however, she begins to despair, stops getting out of bed in the morning, and is too paralyzed with fear to accompany her husband to his doctor appointments, then she has given in to fear and is failing to trust in God.
There are numerous biblical accounts of people who kept going in spite of fear. Moses was afraid of Pharaoh. Elijah feared Jezebel. Esther was surely terrified as she approached the king on behalf of her people. And, as our prime example, Jesus sweat great drops of blood as He anticipated being separated from the Father on the cross of Calvary. Clearly, we have many biblical footsteps in which to follow as we obediently go on, even in fear.
What are you afraid of today? A loss? A diagnosis? An enemy? No matter what the object of your fear, if you belong to the Sovereign God, then rest assured that He is on your side. There is no loss, no illness, no pain that you will encounter in this life through which He cannot be glorified. Moses, Esther, Elijah, and Jesus Christ all faced their fears, and walked in obedience to God in spite of them.
So what do we do with the “what-if’s?” We carry them in our sweaty, shaky hands to the Lord, and leave them there. Then, we walk on, even if our steps are trembling, in the faith and belief that our loving and merciful Father will honor our obedience and give us the strength to do whatever He has called us to do.