"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).
The Bible has a lot to say about fear, and most of the time, the message is: "Don’t be afraid." But that doesn’t necessarily mean "don't feel afraid." It means, "don’t let your fear control you." On some level, fear is a healthy response to potential danger. It has an immediate physical impact and prepares us to deal with threatening situations.
Fear can save your life. But it becomes unhealthy when it spills over into everyday life or when we allow it to dictate our response to every situation.
Here are four reasons we all need to get our fear under control.
1. We miss opportunities
Most life-changing opportunities show up outside of our comfort zones. It's an angel showing up to Gideon when he's hiding in a winepress. It's Gabriel appearing to Zechariah and Mary because it's time to make preparations for the Messiah.
A desire for security is one way that fear manipulates us. Sometimes golden opportunities come in various forms. It may appear as a bit of a risk, or it might even look like a crisis. When we allow our fear to dictate our response, we risk missing out on a lot.
2. We can't always do the right thing
Sometimes a situation may have several good options, and you can choose the one that seems safest. But there are moments when the only suitable option takes you through treacherous territory. Maybe it's confronting a loved one, or perhaps it's quitting an unethical job. Always choosing the safest route means that we'll sometimes ignore the right option.
It's OK to be afraid, but sometimes we have to feel that fear and do it anyway—that's what courage looks like.
3. We make irrational decisions
Imagine that your friend set you up on a blind date with someone she thinks might be perfect for you. On the way to the coffee shop where you're supposed to meet, you start to get cold feet. And you end up driving right past the shop and going to a movie by yourself. Weird, right? You're not the kind of person who just stands someone up, but in that moment of panic, you just followed your instincts.
This is a tame example of the dumb things we do when we're afraid. In some situations, we may end up doing something so entirely out of character that it's unpredictable. Unfortunately, those irrational, fear-based decisions can hurt ourselves or others.
Most of the Pharisees and Sadducees would have considered themselves upstanding members of the religious community. But their fear of Jesus's popularity and the influence He had in Judea caused them to begin devising how to kill Him. If they could have seen through their fear, they might have been more open to Jesus's message.
4. We don't get to exercise our faith
The writer of Hebrews tells us that "without faith, it’s impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is more than just believing in Jesus. It's about having a belief that influences your behavior. The more trust you have, the more you're willing to do and sacrifice for His kingdom. But faith is like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the bigger it gets.
As we step out in faith, God meets us. We get to see God at work, and our faith grows. One good example of this happens when Peter and John are on their way to the temple to pray (Acts 3:1–10). A lame beggar asks them for money. Peter tells the man that they don’t have any money, but "in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."
Peter reaches down and helps the man to his feet, and it's at that moment that the beggar's legs are strengthened. What if the man wasn't healed?! Can you imagine how humiliated both Peter and the beggar would be? But Peter exercises his faith, and it was another example to him of God being there when Peter needed him, which could only increase his faith.
When we're afraid to step into a situation we can't handle on our own, we don't have as many opportunities to see God at work. And this limits our faith.