Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

7 Signs You're Being Controlled by the Spirit of Fear

  • Leah Lively Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2020 7 May
7 Signs You're Being Controlled by the Spirit of Fear

Today, many people in the world are facing a greater fear than they have ever felt in their lifetime. Crises of all kinds, and abundant misinformation, is taking our sanity on a never-ending roller coaster ride. Our world has never felt less peace-filled and more fear-filled.

Fear is not a new concept in our world. From the beginning of Scripture and throughout its pages, fear is present and acted upon. While fear may always be a part of our lives, how we respond to our fear is what matters the most. It is easy to become controlled by a spirit of fear. God has a calling for your life and a spirit of fear will hold you back from fulfilling that calling. Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”     

Let’s take a look at what the spirit of fear means and seven signs you are being controlled by the spirit of fear:

Photo Credit: ©Pexels Andrea Piacquadio

  • spirit of  fear meaning

    What is the Spirit of Fear?

    2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind."  The apostle Paul wrote these words to Timothy. Paul knew that Timothy struggled with a timid personality and needed encouragement to be bold for the Gospel. "Fear" was also originally intended to mean cowardice or timidity. Paul was exhorting Timothy to not let the spirit of fear keep Him from preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The spirit of fear can cause us to shrink in the face of opposition, persecution, and struggles. The Spirit of God wants us to move forward into God's will with confidence! 

    As believers, we can recognize the ways the spirit of fear controls us and how we can break free from the bondage. Let's take a look at 7 specific symptoms of being controlled by the spirit of fear.

  • 1. Fear Becomes a Prison  

    1. Fear Becomes a Prison  

    Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.Genesis 3:8 CSB 

    God created Adam and Eve to have a relationship with them. They freely walked and talked with God throughout their days. Adam and Eve did not need to hide from God as they had yet to experience sin. Fear did not enter the world until Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and bite into the forbidden fruit.

    Once they sinned and disobeyed God, their sin created a prison of fear as they covered their bodies and physically hid from Him. They feared his response to their sin. They feared their new awareness of sin.

    They became imprisoned by fear, unable to experience the freedom of their relationship with God.  

    When fear takes over, we want to hide from everyone, especially God. Our fear keeps us in bondage. Whether we are fearful of the future, becoming ill, or experience job loss—fear can control us to the point of turning away and hiding from God. Through prayer and worship in God’s presence, you can shift your eyes to the One who helps you move out of the shadows of fear into the light of freedom.

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  • 2. Fear Makes You Lose Your Focus

    2. Fear Makes You Lose Your Focus

    And Noah did everything the Lord commanded him.  – Genesis 7:5 CSB

    The story of Noah relates closely to the COVID-19 pandemic. His family was in forced social isolation for 40 days. That's not even the most fear-inducing element of the story. While his family was in quarantine on a massive boat, God destroyed everything outside of the walls except for the animals Noah was also living with.

    There would be rain for 40 days, which had never happened on the earth before this point. Rain was a foreign concept to the people of that time as water had only come from the ground, not the sky.

    Despite all the unknown circumstances, the word fear is never mentioned.

    God didn't even tell Noah “Don’t be afraid” as he does other people of the Bible. We do know that Noah found favor with the Lord, walked with God, did everything the Lord commanded, and was righteous before God. While Noah most likely was afraid (as any human would be), he didn't allow it to be his focus. Noah’s focus remained on God so that he could be obedient to God’s call on his life.

    Sometimes the enemy uses fear to remove our focus on what God may be calling us to do during a difficult season.

    Instead of focusing on fear, serve those around you. Collect food for a local food pantry to distribute to school children who are unable to get their normal meals at school. Send cards to a senior living facility or a gift card to a needy family. Focus on loving others instead of your fear. It's an act of obedience to God.

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  • young troubled woman using laptop at home

    3. Fear Makes You Listen to Outside Influences

    No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses.  I will not leave you or abandon you.  – Joshua 1:5 CSB

    In the Bible, God tells Joshua to be brave, strong, and not be afraid more than any other character in the Bible. Joshua had plenty of reasons to be afraid. Their great leader, Moses, had died and it was now Joshua’s job to lead the Israelites into battle with many nations who were larger and stronger.

    The Israelites complained about leaving slavery in Egypt and how difficult it would be to conquer these nations. The strength of other nations was intimidating. Joshua had a major task in front of him, but God reassured him that He would be with Joshua.

    Had Joshua listened to outside influences and allow his fear to control him, he would not have reached the promised land, fulfilling God’s plan for His people.

    The voices of the world are loud. Whenever you choose a path opposite of the majority opinion, outside influences will try to speak truth into your life. Going against the crowd can be fearful if you are not confident in your leader.

    Joshua trusted God’s leadership in his life. God had taken them from slavery, safely through the Red Sea, and provided nourishment in the wilderness. Joshua trusted that God would help them conquer their enemies.

    The path of following God is never easy, but fear can cause you to turn your ear to those who are not on the same path.

    Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio

  • jumping across mountaintop crevice turning cant into can overcoming fear

    4. Fear Creates Obstacles

    Lord God, what can you give me since I am childless?  – Genesis 15:2 CSB

    The first time God’s commandment of, “Do not be afraid” is recorded in the Bible is when he was talking to Abram. Abram obeyed God by leaving his home and traveling to an unknown land.

    As Abram settled in the area, he faced difficulties with the Pharaoh of Egypt, his nephew Lot, and the king of Sodom. Each time, God brought him through with abundant blessings. While Abram could have felt fear in all of this, God only addresses his fear when Abram questions the fulfillment of a covenant God made with him.

    God promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. This seemed impossible since Abram and his wife were without any children and were well past child-bearing years. Abram’s fear created an obstacle to believing God’s promise.

    God’s promises throughout the Bible are abundant. Are you allowing your fear to create an obstacle to believing God’s promises for you? He promises never to leave or abandon you (Hebrews 13:5 CSB). God says He knows the plans He has for you, plans for your well-being not for disaster (Jeremiah 29:11 CSB).

    Do not allow whatever fear you are experiencing to create an obstacle to believing God. He is greater than any fear you will face.

    Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Dilok Klaisataporn      

  • 5. Fear Can Keep You From Facing the Battle  

    5. Fear Can Keep You From Facing the Battle  

    You do not have to fight this battle. Position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.  He is with you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Tomorrow, go out and face them, for the Lord is with you.  – 2 Chronicles 20:17 CSB

    King Jehoshaphat of Judah was one of the few kings who followed God as King David did. When he was afraid of war with enemies of Judah that were too many in number to conquer, he “resolved to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3). He called everyone to fasting and prayer, then before the people, he cried out to God: “We do not know what to do, but we will look to you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

    Jehoshaphat admitted their weakness and committed to looking to God for victory. Despite his fear, he was ready to stand and face the battle before him.   

    Our world is full of battles. Global pandemics, broken relationships, and chronic illnesses can seem too great a foe to conquer. Just like Jehoshaphat, you must admit your weakness, position yourself before God, and face the war. God will do the fighting, look to Him to guide you into the next step to take in the battle before you. 

    Ask God to help you stand and face your war, trusting Him to fight to victory.

    Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes

  • 6. Fear Causes Doubt

    6. Fear Causes Doubt

    You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.Luke 1:20 CSB 

    Zechariah, the priest, and his wife Elizabeth had been praying for a child. The angel Gabriel visited Zechariah to let him know that Elizabeth would be having a son. The visit from an angel of God was not convincing enough for Zechariah for him to believe him. Zechariah asks, “How can I know this?” (Luke 1:18).

    This fear of the unknown caused Zechariah to be stricken mute for the entire duration of the pregnancy. He could not share this news with anyone, especially his wife.  

    Your fear can create doubt making you believe your circumstances will never change or God is not sovereign (all-knowing and in full control).

    As a priest, Zechariah goes to the temple to care for it and oversee sacrifices made to the Lord. He was immersed in the presence of God daily yet doubted God’s messenger. Fear causes you to doubt God’s Word in the Bible and doubt the wisdom of your pastor’s Sunday message. Doubt hinders you from believing God is who He says He is.

    Zechariah’s son was John the Baptist who prepared the people for the coming Messiah. Some of John’s followers became Jesus’ disciples. If you find your fear causing doubt, ask God for more faith.

    Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Bartek Szewczyk        

  • 7. Fear Makes You Forget God’s Truth  

    7. Fear Makes You Forget God’s Truth  

    The angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said.”Matthew 28:5-6

    After Jesus Christ was arrested, the disciples scattered and hid in fear for their own lives. Only the women and John remained at the foot of the cross. On the third day after He was laid in the tomb, the women continued their service to their rabbi by preparing to anoint his body. The women were afraid when the earth shook, and an angel appeared. The angel reminded the women that Jesus has risen, just as he said.

    In the time leading up to his death, Jesus told his followers multiple times that he would rise on the third day. The disciples’ fear caused them to stay hidden instead of walking to the tomb with the women.

    Jesus had prepared them all for this moment, yet their fear made them forget his words.  

    God’s truth can be forgotten when you allow your fear to cloud His words. Challenges of life can create fear and makes you not remember the truth He has spoken into your life. The moments when God said “yes” make you wonder if you really heard Him correctly when a situation becomes difficult and fear takes over. The gift of God’s peace is tested when circumstances fill you with fear.

    Throughout your lifetime, you will continue to experience fear. Despite this guarantee, you cannot allow it to take over.

    Through God’s Word and prayer, you can turn your eyes to Him. He can help you step into His presence and not hide from Him. Through focusing on God and not fear you can step out in obedience as you love and serve those around you. While fear can keep you from remembering God’s promises, trust that He will fulfill the promises He has for you. God will fight whatever battle is ahead of you. Stand before Him, acknowledging your weakness, and face the battle.

    Fear may cause you to question or forget God’s words and His faithfulness in your past. Remember the ways He has cared for you and focus on the truth of His Word.

    Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Halfpoint

    Leah Lively is a wife and mother of four living in central Virginia. Through writing and speaking opportunities, she is passionate about encouraging others in learning more about the Bible and maturing in their faith. Leah writes on her blog at leahlivelyblog.com and just released her second Bible study, 30 Days in Acts – A Journey: Igniting the Flame of the Early Church. Connect with Leah on Facebook and Instagram (@leahlivelyblog).