The COVID-19 pandemic is eliciting a lot of different emotions and reactions for many people, and one of the most common is fear. Fear of catching the virus, fear of dying or having a family member die, fear of losing a job, fear of being able to pay bills, and fear of what the future will look like.
A common response I’ve seen from Christians who find themselves facing very real fears lately is the idea that as Christans, we shouldn’t be scared. Beyond that, there are people who believe that if they are scared, then that means they don’t have enough faith and that they are in sin. After all, the Bible tells us multiple times to not fear, so wouldn’t it be disobedience if we do fear?
While the Bible does encourage us many times to not fear, it doesn’t mean that being scared is a sin. Fear is an emotion that is given to us by God. In its most primal form, it’s meant to protect us from danger and give us the energy and motivation to get out of harm’s way or avoid a catastrophe. Much like anger, the presence of fear itself is not sin, but it can lead to sinful behavior if we are not careful.
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life. Ephesians 4:26-27 MSG
Fear is not a pleasurable emotion, and if given the choice, most of us would choose to avoid it. But fear is not something we can instantly turn off, thus it often creates an internal struggle. So when we find ourselves fearful, how can we respond in a way that honors God and doesn’t give Satan a foothold in our lives?
Here are 5 ways how.
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1. Take Your Fear to God
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:30
When we start to sense fear rising up in our soul, the most important thing to do is to take that fear to God in prayer. You can be brutally honest with Him about what you are scared of and how it’s making you feel because He already knows! He wants you to come to Him and talk to Him so He can comfort and help you in your fear.
In Matthew 14, Peter experienced fear when he was walking on water and began to sink, so he quickly called out to Jesus to help him. Jesus immediately held out His hand for Peter and kept him from drowning.
Peter’s first reaction was to ask Jesus for help because despite being scared in the moment, he knew Jesus was trustworthy. When you are scared, God is there to extend His hand to help you avoid drowning in fear.
If you feel like being afraid is a sin, or if you’ve been taught that it’s wrong, it can be tempting to try to avoid going to God for fear of Him being mad at you. This then creates a fear cycle.
Avoiding being honest with God about your fear cuts you off from the very comfort and healing that you need to get through that fear. So no matter how dark your soul feels or how intense your fear is, you will find safety and comfort and healing when you go to God.
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2. Explore Where Your Fear Is Coming From
Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Lamentations 3:40
Depending on their past experiences and personalities, some people may have a greater natural propensity to fear than others. If you have experienced abuse or rejection as a child, or maybe you have a more timid personality, these factors may cause you to experience fear more often and/more strongly than others who have not gone through similar experiences.
God knows your experiences and triggers, and wants to help you heal from them, but it’s important to seek out and pray about where your fears are coming from.
In their incredibly helpful book about emotions called “Emotions Matter”, Tristan and Jonathan Collins say “One of the most important aspects of handling fear with wisdom is looking into our fear. It’s there for a reason, and investigating it doesn’t make us cowards.”
COVID-19 may have you so fearful because you are still grieving the recent loss of a loved one, or maybe you are considered high-risk for the virus, or maybe you’ve gone through a tough financial time in the past and you fear that this situation will take you right back there.
Whatever fears you may be facing, there are reasons behind it and the more we can tap into those reasons, the better chance we have of getting to the root of them and moving forward in a healthy way.
The more we know why we are afraid, the more we can meditate on how God provides for those fears.
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3. Focus on God’s Antidotes to Fear
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
If you constantly berate yourself for being scared, and keep thinking about how you shouldn’t be fearful, your focus then becomes on the fear itself instead of what will help you through that fear. There are many verses in the Bible that encourage you not to fear, and in almost all of them, God offers us a solution and shows us what to focus on instead of fear.
These verses bring out things that will help us in our battle with fear, like trusting in God, knowing that God is always with you, reminding us that love is stronger than fear, etc.
Here are a few examples of scriptures like this. Pay attention to the truths in these verses that counteract fear.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3-4
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15
Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared. Proverbs 3:25-26
When you find yourself facing that fear giant, I encourage you to meditate on these and other similar Scriptures and the truths that God gives to counteract fear.
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4. Recognize the Blessings God Can Bring from Your Fear
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you take your fear to God and experience His comfort, it draws you closer to God and deepens your relationship with Him. You know those times when your kids start to experience their first taste of independence and they start rejecting your help and wanting to do everything themselves?
No matter how independent they may feel in those seasons, when they get hurt or scared, their first response will likely be running to you to be held and comforted. And as a parent, you are more than willing to comfort them in those moments.
Fear does the same thing to us adults- it brings us to a place where we can run to God and be comforted and encouraged by Him, no matter how independent we may try to be. He knows we are humans and that we will encounter fear and sadness, and that’s part of why He sent us His Holy Spirit to be our comforter.
Being comforted by God during this pandemic will strengthen your relationship with Him and deepen your faith and you will see the results of that for a long time after this is over.
Not only that, but you will have an increased ability to comfort others with God’s comfort, not only during this season, but for years to come.
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5. Find Encouragement in Biblical Examples
The reason the Bible is so full of verses that talk about fear, is because so many people in the Bible experienced it! Some of our most revered heroes of faith were scared to follow the path God had for them, but He lovingly encouraged each one of them and gave them grace. When we read about these heroes, we can find encouragement and grace that we are not the only ones to face a battle with fear.
Abraham feared that he would remain childless and that his servant would become his heir. (Genesis 15:2-3)
Sarah was afraid when God confronted her laughing at His promise to give her a child. (Genesis 18:15)
Isaac was afraid that king Abimelech was going to kill him for his beautiful wife. (Genesis 26:7)
Jacob was afraid of his father-in-law (Genesis 31:31) and his brother Esau (Genesis 32:11). He was also afraid to send his son Benjamin to Egypt with his brothers to get food from Egypt (Genesis 42:4) and also to go there himself (Genesis 46:3).
Moses was afraid of backlash after he killed an Egyptian (Exodus 2:14), he was afraid to look at God (Exodus 3:6), and he was afraid to be the one to go to Pharaoh and ask him to let the Israelites go (Exodus 3 & 4).
Gideon was scared when God called him to save the Israelites from the oppressive Midianites. (Judges 6:23, 6:27)
Elijah was afraid for his life at the hands of Jezebel. (1 Kings 19:3)
When you find yourself scared of what is going on and what the future might hold, remember that your ultimate comfort will be found in God’s love and protection.
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. Psalm 57:1
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Cortni Marrazzo lives in Spokane, WA with her husband Jason and their two elementary-age sons, one of which has special needs. She has a Degree in Biblical Discipleship and has a passion for the local church and encouraging and inspiring people toward God’s Word. You can contact her at Cortni.Marrazzo@gmail.com or follow her Facebook page.