What does the Bible say about fear? Is fear a sin? What does God say about sin? Maybe you’ve asked yourself one of these questions recently, after all there’s no shortage of things to be fearful of in our world.
I want to look at fear in the Bible and see how we should respond to fear. We are going to look at the most common Bible verses about fear and then look at what they teach us.
Let’s dive in!
Bible Verses About Fear In The Bible
There’s far too many Bible verses about fear in the Bible to look at each individually in a single blog post. So instead we are going to look at some of the highlights so that we can understand what the Bible is communicating to us today. Then we will look at what these verses teach us.
Here’s the highlights about fear in the Bible:
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
This is only a small sampling of what the Bible says about fear, but I think these verses give us a good overview of the topic.
If you want a full list of Bible verses about fear check out: Bible Verses About Fear In The Bible
What Does The Bible Say About Fear?
The above verses will give you a good summary of what the Bible says about fear. So, now let’s break it down a little further to see what they all mean. It’s helpful to know the answer to the question, “what does the Bible say about fear?” But we still need to know what that looks like in our life. Here are a few of the major ideas and themes of fear in the Bible.
1. There’s Different Kinds Of Fear In The Bible
The first thing we should note is that there are different kinds of fear in the Bible. The first fear is the kind that we think of, the fear of the what ifs in life. This is the spirit of fear that many walk around with, continually fearful of what could happen. The Bible continually talks about the damage this kind of fear can do.
We will talk more about this kind of fear as we continue on. But there’s a second kind of fear that is actually beneficial, and that’s the fear of the Lord.
All throughout the Bible we are told that we should fear God, and if we do there’s all sorts of benefits. Fearing God leads to life, it brings wisdom, it provides refuge, and it shows our reverence to God. This kind of fear is healthy.
Fearing God is to love God and submit to him even in things we do not understand. It’s giving him authority over our lives. It’s placing God above everyone and everything else. It’s the fear of the Lord where wisdom is found. Fearing God is not a negative thing, rather it is a positive force in our life.
I’ve written an entire blog post on what it means to fear God, so I’m not going to go any further in this one. Instead we will focus on the negative side of fear.
If you want to read more about why we should fear God check out: What Does It Mean To Fear God? (and 5 surprising benefits)
2. There Will Be Things We Are Afraid Of
The reality is in this life there will be things we are afraid of. It’s natural and in most cases, we can’t control it. How we respond to fear is more important than what we feel.
If you feel afraid, that is OKAY. We are all afraid of something sometimes. Whatever you are facing, or will face, it’s okay to feel afraid.
The Bible often acknowledges the fear we have. Whenever an angel appears the first words out of their mouth are Do not be afraid. That’s not a condemnation. Rather an acknowledgement of what they are currently feeling and letting them know nothing bad is going to happen.
The Bible does say regularly, fear not. But that command is based more on our actions and not our feelings. Feeling afraid is okay, letting fear run our lives is not okay.
3. Fear Should Not Control Our Lives
Paul emphatically tells Timothy that God has not given him a spirit of fear, rather of power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). Paul is not telling Timothy it’s wrong to be afraid, rather to not act out of fear.
Too often we let fear control our lives and set the tone for our faith. It rules us. We let fear keep us from experiencing life, from loving others, and even approaching God. The fear of what if has ruined many of us and left us paralyzed.
God doesn’t want that for us. He came to bring us life and life to the fullest. And fear keeps us from living the life he intends for us to live. That’s why God is constantly telling his people to not be afraid.
You don’t need to live in fear, think in fear, or react in fear. God has given you a spirit of power, love, and self-control. We can fear not because God is bigger than whatever it is we are fearful of.
That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to fear. The reality is the things we fear are worthy of being feared. But the God we serve is bigger. Peace isn’t found in the absence of the storm. Peace is found in the company of God, even in the midst of a storm.
Fear doesn’t have to control our lives, dictate our actions, and dominate our thoughts because God is in control, and he will lead his people through the storms of life.
4. We Should Place Our Faith Over Our Fear
The message we continually see about fear in the Bible is to place our faith over our fear. It’s not that there aren’t things in our life that aren’t worthy of our fear. Rather there’s a God who is bigger and cares for his children. Therefore we should fear not and instead choose faith.
This is a decision each follower of Jesus will have to make. Will you choose faith over fear? Will you trust God even when it doesn’t make sense? Is your faith bigger than your fear?
It’s not that we will never be afraid. We will. But, at the end of the day what will win out? Will we take that step despite our fear? Or will we succumb to our fear and never dare go where God is leading.
The Bible shares story after story of people stepping out in faith. It highlights those that follow God when things just don’t make sense. We don’t know their inner thoughts in most of the stories, but you have to imagine they felt fear. Anyone would be fearful about being thrown in a lion’s den, burned alive, nailed to a cross, chained in jail, or exiled to another country. But they didn’t let their fear overcome their faith.
Rather than focusing on our fears we should focus on the one who is bigger. If we do that fear won’t run our lives.
Is Fear A Sin?
We will look at how to overcome fear Biblically in just a moment, but first I want to answer a question I see asked all the time: Is fear a sin?
By itself fear isn’t a sin. There’s a lot of things to be afraid of that are valid. Simply being afraid is not a sin.
Where fear crosses over into sin is when we listen to, and follow, our fear and not God. The Bible is clear that we are to obey God, and sometimes our fears can override our obedience.
What the Bible teaches is that we shouldn’t let fear dictate our faith. Fear can become a sin when we choose to listen to what we are fearful of rather than what God says. So, fear by itself is not a sin; letting our fear control what we do or don’t do is.
How To Overcome Fear Biblically
I want to shift gears from looking at what the Bible says about fear and start to look at some practical steps we can take to overcome fear with faith. At some point, we will all face fear, so having a few tools can help you handle it when that fear arises.
Whatever you feed will grow.
Meaning if you continue to feed your fears they will grow and become increasingly bigger and more daunting. And that’s exactly what most of us do. When we are fearful of something we keep thinking about it, Googling it, watching the news, joining in the gossip, and keeping it at the forefront of our mind. And it gets bigger and bigger and bigger.
What we feed will grow.
That’s why it’s important that when fear builds we pray.
Turn off the tv, close social media, stop listening to the news, get rid of whatever is making that fear grow, and pray.
Not that all those other things aren’t important. They have their place. But when we let them run rampant it can lead us to greater and deeper levels of fear and anxiety. So tune them out so that you can tune in to God.
When we pray we are focusing on the one who is bigger than our fears. We are feeding our relationship with God. When we do that our faith will grow and our fears will shrink.
When fear grows, pray.
2. Consciously Choose Faith
Philip Yancey says, “Faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”
Sometimes, we have to consciously choose faith. It might not make sense, but faith means that we are going to trust God anyway. It means that we are choosing to believe that though it doesn’t make sense from our perspective right now, one day we will see what God is doing.
Sometimes when we are gripped with fear we just have to choose to have faith. We just have to choose to trust that even though things don’t make sense to us we are going to trust God and take a step.
This is much easier said than done. It means that we are going to have to take a very difficult step of faith in the midst of fear. But that’s faith, believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.
So, make the decision to choose faith.
3. Continually Remind Yourself Of God’s Truth
When fear sets in we tend to focus solely on what’s making us fearful. We forget what God has done and make decisions based off what is right in front of us. Which is why people rarely make good decisions in fear.
When fear is setting in, pause for a minute. Put things in perspective. Think about the larger picture of your life. Oftentimes our fears blow our perspective way out of proportion. When our fears become exaggerated we need to pause and put them back in perspective.
We don’t just need to put our fears into perspective, we need to put God into his rightful place. Your fears might be big, but God is bigger.
If fear is overwhelming you, it is probably an indication that you’ve removed God as the guiding force in your life.
You need to continually remind yourself of God’s truth, of what he’s done for you. When fear is setting in, stop and remind yourself what the Bible says is true. We are forgetful people and we need regular reminders.
4. Turn To The Psalms
Whatever you are going through the book of Psalms is a great place to turn. It beautifully captures the joys, struggles, and difficulties of life. And I think this is the perfect book to turn to when life is overwhelming. It’s a breath of fresh air and can refresh our weary souls.
The Psalms can eloquently express what you are feeling while at the same time instill truth, hope, and the promises of God back into your life. This is a great book to turn to when you are fearful.
Sometimes you can just flip through Psalms and read a few. But if you are looking for a good place to start to help with fear I would recommend Psalm 23, 34, 55, and 56.
I’ve written on a few of those Psalms, you can find them here:
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