Four Ways to Overcome Fear of the Unknown

In my previous post, I showed how fear does three things to us:

  1. Fear keeps us stuck where we’re at.
  2. Fear makes us want to go back.
  3. Fear keeps us from going where God wants us to go.

Fear keeps us from doing what God wants us to do and being who God wants us to be.

When we stay where we’re at because it’s comfortable or go back to a previous way of life because the present is uncomfortable, we’re letting fear rule over us instead of our Heavenly Ruler. If God is asking us to step forward into the unknown – where we don’t have control and don’t know the outcome – He is asking us to trust Him. Trust that His ways are good. Trust that He will provide. Trust that He holds the future.

Fear is more than just an emotion. It is rebellion against God. It is saying to God, “I don’t trust that you know what’s best for me, so I’m going to do my own thing.” Not going is not trusting.

Fear is NOT a God-given feeling.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)

Sure, there is healthy fear. Like fear of fire, for instance. Fire burns. You should be afraid to jump into a fire. That’s a healthy God-given fear (unless, of course, God is leading you into the fire). But some people live their lives in fear of getting burned – by a relationship, an employer, a church, etc. That – and any fear that causes us to run from instead of step into – is not of God.

So, when fear of the unknown overcomes me, I have to stop and ask myself:

Why am I afraid?

Not what am I afraid of? But why am I afraid of this?

Is it because there is a genuine threat of physical pain or death? Or is it because I’m letting fear take the place of faith?

There’s a difference between being pushed out of an airplane without a parachute and having an experienced skydiver ask you to trust him as he straps you in (and yes, following Jesus does feel like jumping out of an airplane sometimes). One is rational (the former, in case you were wondering) and the other may seem rational, but given the knowledge, experience, and record of the skydiving coach is completely unsubstantiated. Given God’s knowledge, experience, and record, we need not fear if He asks us to jump into the unknown because we can trust His Word, His ways, and His will.

Four ways to overcome fear of the unknown

The Israelites refused to trust God and enter into the Promised Land He had for them (see previous post). They rebelled against God, trusting that their knowledge of the past was better than His knowledge of the future. As a result, they wandered around the wilderness for 40 years until all the haters had died off. It’s a textbook case of what not to do.

If fear is distrusting and rebelling against God, then the opposite of fear is to trust and obey.

1. Remember what God has said and done

“But I said to you, ‘Don’t be shocked or afraid of them! The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.’” (Deuteronomy 1:29–31)

When we are afraid, we need to remember what God has said in His Word.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

We need to remember what God has done.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. (Psalm 126:3)

The God who created everything in existence, parted the sea, raised the dead, saved your marriage, found you a job, healed your hurt, and saved your soul, can certainly bring you safely into tomorrow.

2. See what God is doing

“But even after all he did, you refused to trust the Lord your God, who goes before you looking for the best places to camp, guiding you with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. (Deuteronomy 1:32–33)

Not only has God done all of these things. He is still doing them! He is still looking out for us. Still guiding us. He is still with us, even when we’re doubting Him. Open your eyes and see!

3. Follow where God is leading 

“’Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’ “But you all came to me and said, ‘First, let’s send out scouts to explore the land for us. They will advise us on the best route to take and which towns we should enter.’” (Deuteronomy 1:21–22)

It’s a good idea to carefully think out, discuss, plan, and consider options before making a critical decision. It seemed like a good idea here, even to Moses. But we can succumb to “paralysis of analysis” and never do anything! That’s when the fear sets in.

If you stand at the edge of a high dive contemplating whether or not to jump… the longer you stand there, the more afraid you are likely to become and the less likely you are to jump.

It’s a good idea to explore your options when buying a house or considering a job offer. But it’s a bad idea when God says “Go!” or “Follow me!”

The longer you wait, the more fearful you will become, and the less likely you are to obey.

4. Know that God is with us

“And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. 9 Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” (Numbers 14:8–9)

One of my children has frequent nightmares. It is not uncommon for her to come into our bedroom and wake us up several times a night. We have taught her to pray when she is afraid, but that often doesn’t quell her fears as much as either of us would hope. So I have taught her a simple rhyme to recite whenever she feels afraid:

I have nothing to fear because God is near.

It’s okay if you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, next month, or next year. None of us do. But God does. And no matter what tomorrow brings, God promises to walk us through it. We have nothing to fear because God is always near.

Ask yourself: Why am I afraid?

And now: What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?

The answer is usually trust and obey.

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