8 Ways to Not Choose Fear

Blue Hen Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Blue Hen Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

As Christians, far too many of us allow ourselves to be controlled by fear.  Our own fears dictate the way that we live our lives, the way we worship God, the way we run our churches, and the way we treat the people around us.

This is not a new phenomenon.  The Jews (both before and after Jesus’ day) were so afraid of sinning that they put structures and rules around themselves – and everyone else – to keep from even getting close to sin.  The theological elite of the Reformation feared various elements of the Roman Catholic Church working their way into their new freedom – not to mention certain groups to the point where they wrote quite abusively about them.  And even this week, I’ve come across several instances where Christian leaders’ fear has caused them to reject, decry, and even oppress those who made them uncomfortable (in other words, the people who made these Christian leaders afraid).

Wildflowers in Panamint Valley, Death Valley National Park, California
Wildflowers in Panamint Valley, Death Valley National Park, California

It’s so easy to point the finger at those who aren’t acting very loving.  And it’s not a bad thing to see it and recognize the fear for what it is.  Often enough, the fear is rationalized: “They’re not a good influence on the children,” “I might be deceived,” “Something might go wrong,” or “Here’s a random verse that proves my point.”

In truth, anything you don’t want to do can be given logic as to why you shouldn’t do it.

Scrambling over a puddle in Little Wildhorse Canyon, Utah
Scrambling over a puddle in Little Wildhorse Canyon, Utah

The cure to this choice of fear over trust in God comes in a few different forms, but all are infinitely better than bowing at the feet of fear – which is really just bowing at the feet of the devil’s plan for your life.  Here are a few ways to choose not to be afraid when the temptation comes:

  1. Choose to look the situation in the face.  In other words, instead of shying away from the thing you’re afraid of (sin, situations, etc.), look at it head-on.  Is it really as scary as it looked at first?  (I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes it’s way scarier than I thought, but 90% of the time, fear of the unknown is much worse than the thing I thought I was afraid of.)  Is there a real reason for fear, and if so, what can be done about it?
  2. Rewrite the narrative of your fear.  Where does your mind jump when something goes wrong?  Do you start imagining all the horrible possibilities, lay out the likelihoods logically, or think of amazing outcomes?  This kind of thinking – the kind that trusts God and takes the route of amazing possibilities instead of danger and fear – is something that is cultivated rather than learned overnight.  But believe me, it’s worth it!
  3. Reduce the amount of fear in your life if possible.  You’re more likely to choose fear when you’re already afraid because the new fear is a release for the fear already inside of you.  Sometimes, breaking free means taking concentrated time to work through your fears and cultivate trust in God or dealing with past pain in your life.  Sometimes it means eliminating fear-triggers from your life, like certain movies and media sources (and yes, even unfollowing friends on Facebook).
  4. Refuse to use others as a shield for your own fear.  Sometimes, it’s easy to take our fear and decide that for the good of others, we need to take drastic measures (or, at any rate, to skip the part about love).  Don’t use others as an excuse for being afraid.  (Yes, I am aware of doing things to protect your family.  This can be very good and healthy when you’re dealing with your fear and acting in conjunction with the Holy Spirit instead of using others as a justification not to face your fear.)
  5. Remember the good things that God has done.  This builds faith and reduces fear’s ability to entrench itself in your heart and mind.  God told the Israelites to repeat and tell their children about the things He had done for them (for example, Deuteronomy 4:9).
  6. Try to make leadership decisions based on abundant life rather than the sin that’s around you.  This doesn’t always work, and there are times to recognize sin and take mitigating action.  But living with the reality of God’s life rather than the burden of the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1) will lead you to faith and victory instead of fear.
  7. Refuse hopelessness.  If you’re struggling with hopelessness, chances are that your God is smaller than your belief in sin and evil.  (I’ve been there.)  Replace God on the throne as the more powerful of the two options in your heart, mind, life, and the decisions you make.
  8. Remember to love – always.  You don’t have to agree with a person to love them.  The person doesn’t have to be pure, have the right beliefs, or be a Christian for you to love them.  God said that He “so loved the world” (John 3:16; italics added) before they were even saved that He sent His son to save them (Romans 5:8).  Love means not standing in judgment of them.  Love means not talking to others negatively about them or talking abusively about them on social media.  Love means choosing to smile at them instead of scowl.  Love means telling them about God’s redemption for the things they are doing/have done wrong, not accusing them of their sins and the consequences thereof.  Love means praying for them – not that they would agree with you, but that God would reveal Himself to them.  Treating them with patience and love doesn’t mean that you agree with their life choices, just that you refuse to cooperate with the devil’s plans for their lives – the plans for them to be hated, ostracized, and cast out from God’s plans.
Mountains near Blackmon Peak, White Cloud Wilderness, Idaho
Mountains near Blackmon Peak, White Cloud Wilderness, Idaho

Those who are not controlled by fear become some of the most influential and world-changing people.  What changes would enter society if only we would choose not to be controlled by fear but rather by the Holy Spirit?

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