How God Responds When We’re Afraid

Several years ago, I asked my dad what I was like as a kid. It might sound like an odd question, but having reached a point in my life where I was realizing my views of myself as a child didn’t always match reality, I was curious about his perspective.

Seaside church

His answer was blunt and to the point.

“You were always very fearful,” he said.

Though his response made me sad, it wasn’t exactly surprising, given my childhood propensity for worrying. Thankfully, though my fretting ways followed me well into my 20s, the stranglehold worry once had on me is largely a thing of the past. But, as I shared several weeks ago, fear still infiltrates my heart and mind from time to time—in frustrating and even debilitating ways.

Here’s the thing about this troublesome foe. While in certain instances fear is good and helpful, it’s also part of the messed-up wiring we all have due to the fallen nature of man. God knows this, which might be why “fear not” is one of the most oft-stated instructions in the Bible.

But have you ever noticed that it’s not a command that comes with impending punishment if it’s not followed? Instead, it’s the reassuring statement of a loving heavenly Father, who also happens to be the sovereign God of the universe.

When He tells us not to be afraid, we can rest assured that we have no need to be afraid.

And yet so often we are—for reasons far and wide, real and imagined, logical and irrational.

One of my favorite biblical personalities is Joshua, Moses’ assistant and eventual successor. One thing that has always intrigued me about his story is how often God reminded him not to be afraid (see Deuteronomy 31 and Joshua 1).

When I think about this, I can’t help but wonder why. Yes, the Israelites faced seemingly insurmountable challenges as they prepared to enter and conquer the Promised Land. Yes, Joshua was about to fill some enormous shoes.

But why was he, of all people, so afraid?

He had been with Moses for 40 years in the wilderness, after all. He’d witnessed the deliverance from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of water and manna. He’d gone up the mountain with Moses and experienced the glory of the Lord (see Exodus 24:13).

You’d think all that would be enough to bolster someone’s courage, wouldn’t you?

Did God ever tell Moses not to be afraid? I don’t think so—not in so many words. Moses had his faults—a temper, for one—but fear didn’t appear to be a struggle for him. But Joshua was different.

Maybe it had something to do with his personality. He was a great warrior, a strong leader, a person who wasn’t afraid to stand alone. But perhaps Joshua also was the contemplative sort, someone who needed more divine encouragement than his confident mentor.

According to Exodus 33, all the people were invited to visit the tent of meeting and “consult with the Lord,” but only Moses and Joshua actually did this. The fact that Joshua “would not leave the inside of the tent” even after Moses left suggests that he valued his time in God’s presence and recognized the true source of his strength.

Certainly, his life demonstrates what I wrote about here—that fear and faith can coexist in the same person (no matter what the clichés say).

Only God knows why Joshua apparently struggled with fear. And I love this about God.

He didn’t berate Joshua for being scared, question his faith or interrogate him about how he could possibly be afraid after all he’d witnessed and experienced with Moses. He simply repeated truth that Joshua needed to know and told him not to be afraid.

That was all.

I’m a tiny bit like Joshua, I think. I love spending time in the tent of meeting. I gain great strength and comfort from praising God. And, as I’ve already mentioned, I also struggle with feelings of fear at times.

But regardless of the source—an actual threat, imbalanced body chemicals, a lack of sleep, my own misperceptions, irrational thinking—these feelings are not the boss of me.

When fear becomes a problem is when it leads me to do something I shouldn’t do, or to not do something I should. When I hesitate to take the new medicine because I’m afraid of how I will react to it. When I fail to speak to someone because I don’t know how she will receive my words. When I don’t volunteer for something because I’ve never done it before, or because I think someone else can do it better. When I stay home from a conference that might encourage me spiritually because I don’t think I’ll know anyone.

Fear turns to faith when, despite my feelings, I take the medicine. I open my mouth to speak. I fill out that volunteer form. I put a smile on my face and walk into that crowded room.

No matter what fear—real or imagined—assails, God’s loving promise for Joshua is also true for us today: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:8).

Lois Flowers

P.S. Linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Crystal Storms at Intentional Tuesday, Lyli Dunbar at #ThoughtProvokingThursday, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart and Aimee Imbeau at Grace & Truth.

28 Responses to How God Responds When We’re Afraid

  1. Lois, I like how you pointed out that while feelings of fear may be present, they don’t have to control us! So true! I’m glad to be your neighbor today. Blessings!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      If only there were a super easy way to just let those feelings know who’s boss once and for all, right? 🙂 I suppose that’s another reason why the choice to trust God is both crucial AND ongoing. Thanks for stopping by today, Donna.

  2. Bethany says:

    Thank you so much for this, Lois. I know what you’re describing here so well. Thankful I also hear this response from Him, too : )

  3. Lisa notes says:

    I’ve always tended towards being fearful too. I’m a bit better now that I’m older, but it can still creep up on me. So I love, love this truth you share: “No matter what fear—real or imagined—assails, God’s loving promise for Joshua is also true for us today: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:8).”

    Thanks, Lois.

  4. June says:

    Excellent post, Lois. I think experiences can also teach us fear. I know that is true for me. I was never a fearful person until a particular something happened that changed my life completely. Since then I’ve battled fear at times. I know it’s wrong, and I have a strong faith and trust in God, and yet . . . Thankfully, God is faithful to my pleas to increase my faith. Thank you for this reminder that our struggles, whether with fear or something else, should lead us to seek His presence. Have a blessed week – I hope the girls feet have all healed well!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      June, I think you are absolutely on to something about experiences teaching us fear. It’s so hard when circumstances that are beyond our control affect us like that, isn’t it? I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’m glad our faithful Father “knows how we are formed and remembers that we are dust,” as Psalm 103 points out. Thank you for sharing these insights today, my friend.

  5. Hi Lois,
    Visiting from Coffee for your Heart today. I love how you explore Joshua’s personality! He is such an interesting and faithful character in the Bible with some of the most encouraging words said to him by God himself. I also admire how you meet your fear and move forward in God’s promises!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m still working on it, Valerie, and some days definitely go better than others! Aren’t you glad that when we waver, God does not? Thanks for your kind words today!

  6. Linda Stoll says:

    Like you, fear comes to call in my life. Yet God is always inviting us to something, even in the midst of anxiety, worry, hand-wringing.

    One of the most encouraging Scriptures to me is Matthew 28 where the women are ‘afraid, yet filled with joy.’

    The joy, the fruit of the Spirit remains. Praise God. Our emotions can not take His presence away. How that soothes my soul and keeps me looking heavenward.

    Thanks for taking us there today, Lois …

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Linda, thank you for sharing the example of the women in Matthew 28. I’ve never thought about how it’s possible to be afraid and filled with joy at the same time, but now that you’ve mentioned it, I can point to times in my life when I have maybe felt a bit of that myself (though nowhere near what those ladies must have experienced). “Our emotions cannot take His presence away.” What a glorious comfort!

  7. Joanne Viola says:

    Wonderful post. I am so grateful that God does not condemn me when I am fearful but rather gives me more of Himself to combat the fear. Thank you for encouraging me this morning!

  8. This perspective on Joshua, yes! And on our Lord’s reassurance! Yes, and amen. My heart needed these truths this week. And Joshua really has become one of my favorite people in the Word, just for how relatable his journey with Jehovah was.
    And gosh, but I love this… “These feelings are not the boss of me.” I spoke it out loud as I reread it. Christ alone, is the boss of me 😉 On that I’m sure and don’t have to be afraid. Thankful for you, as always, Lois. Hugs! #IntentionalTuesday

    • Lois Flowers says:

      “Relatable” is a great word to describe Joshua’s walk with God, Christine. There aren’t many mighty warrior types that I feel like I can relate to, but he is definitely one! I’m glad you like my little mantra about feelings … I tell myself that quite frequently. 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement today, my friend!

  9. Love meditating on the fact that we don’t have to be afraid because He is with us. So much of my fear stems from stepping out into uncharted waters all by my lonesome. But I’m not alone – and I don’t walk anywhere that He hasn’t gone before. Thanks for your sweet encouragement today, friend.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m the same way, Tiffany. I guess that’s why Deuteronomy 31:8 is such a big one for me .. the Lord himself goes before us and will be with us! It doesn’t get any better than that, does it? 🙂

  10. So many reminders of this in the Old Testament — God patiently reminds His people of His abiding presence, over and over again. He’s so long-suffering toward us!

  11. Trudy says:

    I love this, Lois. I think I have the “fearing” nature, too, and sometimes I let it be the boss of me. I love how you say that God speaks “Fear not” as a reassurance, not as a command with impending punishment. He understands us so well and is so patient with us. I always LOVE that verse in Deuteronomy. Thank you for this encouragement today! Blessings and hugs!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Isn’t it wonderful that we have a heavenly Father who knows us so perfectly and loves us so completely? Thanks for your encouraging words today, Trudy. 🙂

  12. Debbie @ Bible Fun For Kids says:

    I loved this! We fear so many things. Worry about so many things. God tells us not to. Thanks for sharing it!

  13. Carly says:

    Great post! I love how you point out that the command “Do not be afraid” is one that is meant as reassurance that there is no need to be afraid rather than to threaten us with punishment if we are afraid. Also the difference in Moses and Joshua and the things they struggled with. I am definitely more like Joshua and despite the fact that I’ve seen God’s power and provision I tend to fear, but I love that God doesn’t condemn us but just continually reassures us that we don’t need to be afraid and that he is with us.

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