Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

How to Deal with Fear During Dark Times

How to Deal with Fear During Dark Times

My husband Dan tells me that denial is not just a river in Egypt. Corny joke. Absolute truth.

There is a lot of denial when it comes to fear. Some people teach that you should embrace your fears, welcoming them as old friends. Some people teach that you should deny your concerns, which almost feels like pretending they do not exist. Still, others teach that you should overcome every fear, regardless of their source or size. Here is what I know. The word “afraid” is mentioned in the Bible 220 times. The word “fear” is talked about in the Bible 330 times. That is 550 total mentions related to fear. God does not waste words or space. If He mentions fear 550 times, He knows it is a big deal for us, and He wants to help us learn how to deal with anxiety.

Let’s look at a way familiar passage for three expectations on dealing with fear. Psalm 23 is one of the most loved and quoted passages of scripture in the Bible. Check out verse 4 in the New King James Version.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

And here is the same verse in the New Living Translation.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, For you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (NLT)

Expect times of darkness. Notice that both translations say “when you walk through dark times,” not “if you walk through dark times." Trouble is normal. Death comes for all of us. Times of darkness and times of light happen. If we do not expect disruption, death, and dark times, we will live in fear continually. Expect them! 

Jesus said it this way; Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33). James said it this way, When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy, for you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4) In the Psalms, David says it this way that God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:10) Paul points us to this truth, Keep from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. (1 Thessalonians 3:3)

Did you catch that? We are destined for trouble. Trouble is normal. Trials are normal. Darkness is normal. A crisis is typical. Tough times are expected. We should expect life to have dark times. Jesus says, Your Father in heaven gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. (Matthew 5:45)

Life has bad times and good times and times of crisis and calm times. Trouble is part of life, as are times of blessing. Life has times of rain and times of sunshine. Life has times of darkness and times of light. Expect times of darkness. Expect Jesus to be with you in the dark times. The bad news is that we all have dark times. The good news is that Jesus is always with us. Even in the tough times. Especially in the tough times.

Back to Psalm 23:4. It tells us, “I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” Let’s be careful with what this verse says and does not say. It does tell us that we will have tough times. It does not say we won’t have scary times. It does not say we won’t have times when evil touches our lives. 

It does say that we do not have to be afraid because Jesus is with us! I have followed Jesus long enough to go through some scary times. I walked through abuse as a child. I have lived with the shadow of cancer over me - since most of the women in my family history have fought with cancer. I have struggled with back pain for 35 years. I have battled depression most of my life. Following Jesus does not exempt me from tough and scary times. Following Jesus exempts me from being alone in the challenging and scary times. He is with me in the valleys. He is with you in the valleys. The problem is that we have been taught to suck it up and push harder in the tough times. The motto has been, “You can do it.” That is not true. The truth is, “We can do it because Jesus is with me. I am not alone.” Jesus is with you. You are not alone. Together we can do it. Together we can walk through the dark valleys of life because we are not alone.

If you manage to push through your dark, challenging times on your own, God will send you more dark, difficult times to teach you to depend on Him. Why is that? Because God is more committed to my character than He is to my comfort. The Father’s ultimate goal for all His children is to become like Jesus. Spiritual growth happens in the valley. We learn to seek God in the dark times. We learn to trust God in the tough times.

The bad news is that we should expect dark times. The good news is that Jesus will be with us in the dark times. That is why we do not have to be afraid! How do we learn to deal with fear? We expect tough, dark, scary times. We expect Jesus to be with us in the dark and scary times. Expect Jesus to comfort and protect you in the dark times. Jesus is committed to our character development. He is committed to helping us become more like Him. But he is also committed to our comfort and protection.

Back to Psalms 23:4. Notice the last part of the verse. “Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

Does Jesus allow dark times, trouble, trials, crises, and storms to come our way? He does - without a doubt. Scripture makes that clear. But here is the truth that helps me be unafraid. Nothing is coming my way that Jesus and I cannot handle together. Have you ever thought about all the darkness and trouble and crisis Jesus went through? He had constant critics in the Pharisees. His own family struggled to accept Him and His teachings. He discipled Judas for three years - knowing Judas would sell him out. Jesus discipled Peter for three years - knowing Peter would deny Him three times. He went all the way to the cross and endured the shame of public execution by crucifixion. How did He do it?

He knew His Father would get Him through those times. He knew He was not alone and did not have to be afraid. On the contrary, Jesus was comforted by knowing he was obedient to God the Father.

“Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8)

“We look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

How did Jesus endure the dark times in His life without fear?

  • He expected dark times.
  • He expected God to be with Him in those dark times.
  • He expected God to comfort Him in every tough time.

We all have dark and frightening times. That is normal. We all wrestle with fear. That is normal. The antidote to fear is trust.

  • Expect dark, tough times and trust God in them.
  • Expect dark, tough times and trust God to be with you in them.
  • Expect dark, tough times and trust God to be with you and comfort you in them. 

Photo credit: © Unsplash/Sasha Freemind

Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.