How to turn to God when you feel afraid

Published on October 17, 2020

Our son was still fifteen driving with a learner’s permit, when he nearly hit his first deer. We were driving home from a wedding in Ohio and just yards from the entrance to our neighborhood, appeared a deer in the middle of the road.

The deer looked as surprised as we did. Looking each other in the eyes, the deer froze in place. Thankfully, we did not. Our son swerved left, missing the deer by inches.  The phrase “deer in the headlights” has taken on all new meaning in our family! And we can certainly identify with freezing in the face of fear.

“Freezing” is not an unusual response to fear. It is quite natural, actually. After all, we live in a big world that is filled with a lot of danger. It’s no wonder we feel paralyzed by our pain and frozen in our fear.

When we face pain and suffering, we have all sorts of choices we could make. Choices to run. Hide. Choices to find comfort or relief in someone, or something else, besides Jesus. But one thing we shouldn’t do, is nothing. So how do we respond to fear? How do we turn to God and not away from Him when we are afraid?

In Psalm 56:3, the psalmist writes, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Here are a few practical steps to take the next time you find yourself staring danger in the face. Each of these steps are meant to help us not only turn to God, but also, put our trust in God.

  1. Identify the fear

Notice the psalmist says, “When I am afraid.” Not if. Fear is inevitable. Most of us face fear each day. But one thing to keep in mind is fear is rarely from God. And so, we ought to always pay attention to when we are feeling afraid and why.

Fear loves to live in the shadows. And so, one of the important first steps to take is to identify what we are specifically afraid of. Below is a common list of fears. Take a minute and write down which one you are struggling with the most. Put a name to your fear.

 

A List of Common Fears We All Face

Fear of Death:

Fear of the Future:

Fear of Finances:

Fear of People:

 

  1. Identify the lie

Once we have identified our fear, it’s critical to trace the lie underneath our fear. This is another way of turning to God when we are afraid. We are trying to get underneath or behind what is making us afraid.

What are we not believing about God’s Word?

Is there a promise I am doubting?

Is there some kind of deficit in my relationship with God the Father?

Is this a spiritual attack meant to lead me toward doubt and despair?

Am I trying to be God?

When the Apostle Paul was writing to young Timothy, he reminded him not to be afraid. He says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” And Jesus reminds us that the devil is the “father of lies” (John 8:44).

There is usually a lie behind our fear. For example, the lie that God is not going to be present and powerful. The lie that we are not loved. The lie that God has left us or abandoned us. The lie that we have to create our own security.  The lie that God doesn’t know what He is doing. And the list goes on!

God wants to free us from being enslaved by fear. And so, we not only need to identify the fear and identify the lie behind it, we also need to identify the truth. This is what sets us free and enables us to walk confidently, no matter what the outcome is.

 

  1. Identify the truth

One simple way to identify the truth is to take the lies we have named, and replace them with the truth of God’s Word. Much of the Christian life is choosing to walk by faith and not by feeling. And yet, God has promised us to give us His peace (Philippians 4:6-7). He does increasingly give us the joy of sharing in His life, the abundant life Jesus talks about in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

But this is a battle. It requires staying awake spiritually and persevering in difficult seasons. It requires clinging to God’s Word. Holding on to His promises. And turning away from fear when it rears its ugly head. When we do, the outcome is deeper intimacy with God our Father. Greater trust. More peace. And less fear. This is what Jesus wants for us.

Below is a simple way to identify lies that may be causing you fear and the opportunity to replace those lies, with the truth.

What fear is telling me:

I am alone

What God is telling me:

I am with you (Hebrews 13:5)

 

Now, it’s your turn. Take some time identifying the fears and lies you are facing and prayerfully replace them with God’s truth.

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Patrick and Ruth Schwenk

Patrick Schwenk is a husband, father, and pastor. Ruth Schwenk is a wife, stay-at-home mom, blogger and coauthor of Hoodwinked: Ten Myths Moms Believe & Why We All Need to Knock it Off (with Karen Ehman). The Schwenks have been married 16 years and have four children. They are also the creators of For the Family and The Better Mom.

Read more about Patrick and Ruth

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