It usually comes at the worst possible time and often in the dark. It numbs us and makes us feel alone, isolated, and empty. Like a thief, it steals our joy, our hope, and even our faith.
Its name is fear.
We live in a fallen world, far from Eden and even farther from Heaven. We work, we struggle, we do our very best – but sometimes it’s not enough. The bills can’t be paid, employment can’t be found, but our families still depend on us. The pressure mounts, worry turns into anxiety, and anxiety turns into fear. We can feel the hot breath of Satan on our necks and on the necks of our loved ones. What are we, as Christians, to do?
Fear does serve a purpose. When facing a physically dangerous situation or a moment in time when fight or flight can literally save our lives, it is an important part of what makes us human. But what about the fear, especially the fear of the future, that paralyzes us and takes away our will to go on, even though many need us and depend on us?
We are not the first people in history to be afraid. However, our fears in America in the 21st Century are very different from mankind’s fears two thousand years ago or even just two hundred years ago. Most diseases are now under control, and giving birth no longer presents a mortal risk to most mothers, but we have become dependent on the industrial and technological world around us. We no longer grow our own food, we no longer build our own homes, and most families no longer include inter-generational members who can count on the others and be counted on themselves. It is, in the words of Charles Dickens, “the best of times – and the worst of times.”
The Word of God contains many reasons for not being afraid:
“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! … The Lord himself watches over you! … The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” – Psalm 121:2, 5, 7-8
But how do we cling to these truths when fear is so real and help seems so far away? The Word of God again comes to our rescue with two specific ways we can fight back against fear – and win.
Two ways to fight back – and win
As the Son of God, Jesus understands that most of our fear is focused on the unknown and that much of it is focused on the future. For these reasons, Jesus tells us, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and your heavenly Father will give you everything you need. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:33-34)
From these few words, we can discern how Jesus wants us to fight back against our fears: focus on God, and focus on today.
Focus on God
First, focus on God.
I know how simple this may seem, but I also know how hard it is to do. When we stop focusing on ourselves and the problems at hand, we free ourselves to focus on God – and then to trust – and then to overcome. Focusing on God comes by way of such actions as reading and meditating on His Word, praying, praising Him, and worshiping Him. See God for who He is and what He does, and then lean on Him. If necessary, let Him carry you. Focus on God, and watch the fear begin to fade.
Focus on today
Second, focus on today.
Yes, we must plan for tomorrow, and we need to be ready if known problems become real threats, but the reality is that we live in the present, that is, today. Worries about the past, or fears about the future, do nothing but empty today of its God-given joy and peace. If we are to overcome our fears and live as God wants us to live, then we must focus on today.
In the end, fear is all about focus. This is why fear so often attacks in the darkness of the night or the darkness of the soul when we feel alone and helpless. Fear wants you to focus on yourself and your future in this world. God, on the other hand, wants you to focus on Him and your future in His arms. Pray, praise Him, worship Him, thank Him, and trust Him. In the end, everything will be okay – because God will not fail you or forsake you.
-- Dr. John Morris