Faith, Trust

Throwback Thursday ~ Fear Not: 9 Biblical Ways to Trade Worry for Trust

Originally published April 24, 2015fear not

Did you have any fears as a child? Monsters? The dark? Dogs? When I was a little girl, I had this record of the story of Peter and the Wolf, and I was afraid of wolves at night (Look at the picture and listen to him growl. Can you blame me?). I just knew they were skulking around my bed in the dark, black as midnight, drooling rabidly, ready to shred me to ribbons should I stick so much as one toe out from under the covers. It was terrifying.

As adults, we look back on those childhood fears with some degree of smugness or embarrassment and think about how silly it was to be scared of something that was never a threat in the first place. But even if we don’t like to admit it, fear is something we grown ups still struggle with, at least from time to time. Finances, health, and our children’s futures may replace wolves, darkness, and the boogeyman, but fear is still fear, whether you’re four or forty.

And God is well aware of that fact.

In my Bible, the phrases “fear not,” “do not be afraid,” and other similar expressions appear over 75 times. Fear is a normal, God-given reaction that can be healthy and keep you safe in the event of a real threat. Fear is a blessing when it motivates you to jump out of the path of a speeding truck or stay away from a rattlesnake, but just like everything else affected by the Fall, fear can often be misdirected and thwart our growth in Christ.

Most of our fears as adults have nothing to do with tangible, imminent, life or limb danger. Usually, we are fearful of “what if’s.”

“What if I get a bad report from the doctor?”

“What if I get fired?”

“What if my teenage daughter gets pregnant?”

In other words, we worry about what might happen.

It’s really easy to sing “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” on Sunday, but much harder to actually do the work of trusting Him on Monday. Worry almost seems woven into the fiber of our DNA. In fact, worry has been such a common theme in the human experience that Jesus took time to address it during his Sermon on the Mount:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:25-34

Clearly, it is not God’s will for us to worry. No matter how strangling our fear may feel, God wants us to trust Him in everything, from the most dire situation to the most mundane. But how?

Make sure the object of your trust is the right one.

A popular false teaching from the Word of Faith (prosperity gospel) camp these days is that it’s never God’s will for you to be sick, poor, or experience tragedy. If you just have enough faith, and decree and declare enough, you can yank whatever outcome you want right out of the hands of God. Do you know why that’s not true?

Arguably the mightiest men of faith in history, eleven of the twelve disciples were martyred. So was Paul. David, whom God said was “a man after His own heart” suffered tragedy after tragedy. Jesus Himself prayed in Gethsemane that God would keep Him from having to go to the cross, and God said no.

Like these godly men, as Christians, we do not place our faith in positive outcomes. We place our faith in Christ, and His sufficiency for us in all things, regardless of the outcome. Make sure you’re trusting Christ, not what you want Him to give you.

Get off the guilt train.

Sometimes we can fall into Satan’s trap of believing that if we’re really saved or really trusting the Lord or really have faith, we’ll never fear anything. Then, when those worries creep in, we start feeling guilty. We’re not supposed to have those feelings.

Have you ever read the story of Gideon? Gideon was one scared dude, and he had good reason to be. But even though he was scared and fumbling, he believed and obeyed the Lord. And the Lord commended him for being a man of great faith.

Trusting Christ doesn’t mean you’ll never be afraid of anything. Trusting Christ means you keep believing Him, keep loyal to Him, and keep obeying Him even when you are afraid.

Take reasonable precautions.

Trusting God doesn’t mean you should be careless. Eat healthy and exercise. Be frugal. Watch your children carefully. God gave us a whole book about using wisdom, and He gave us brains, so let’s use them.

You’re not in this by yourself.

God has promised never to leave you or forsake you. He has promised to give you the strength to deal with anything you come up against. He has promised you a way out of temptation. Trust that God is with you and will help you.

Rehearse your trust instead of your fear.

A lot of therapists will encourage you not to “repress” your fears but, rather, talk about them, write about them, examine them, etc. In other words, rehearse them (which only leads to more fear, because fear feeds off itself). But the Bible never says to do that. It says, “do not fear” and “trust in the Lord.” Period. No analysis required.

Those worries may start creeping in, but you don’t have to set the table and turn down the bed for them. Push them right out of your mind, slam the door behind them, and say (out loud is helpful), “No. I’m not going to worry. I’m going to trust the Lord.” You’ll still feel worried at first, but “fake it ’til you make it.”1 Your feelings will eventually follow.

Replace fearful thoughts with biblical thoughts.

After you’ve pushed those fearful thoughts out of your mind, consciously redirect your focus to trusting the Lord. Spend a few minutes in prayer asking God to help you trust Him. Put on some biblical worship music that focuses on the goodness of God, and sing along. Be thankful- start listing all the ways God is good and has blessed you. Recite and meditate on Scripture about trusting God. Some of my favorites are:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:6-7

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

Get your mind off it.

Watch a good movie. Have coffee with a friend. Better yet, serve someone who needs your help. Share the gospel with someone who’s lost. Get your mind off the worries and on to something better.

Get physical.

Go running or do some physical labor around the house or something like that. Either you’ll get some endorphins going and you’ll start feeling better or the shin splints and backache will completely erase any memory of whatever you were afraid of.

Repent and get a fresh start.

Sometimes (often, if you’re like me), you’re going to blow it. You’re going to give in to fear and let it control you instead of trusting God. You’re going to act on your fears and disobey God instead of trusting and obeying Him in spite of your fears. When that happens, don’t run away from the Lord. Run to Him. Repent and be forgiven. That’s what His mercy and grace are all about.

Worries are a normal part of life in a fallen world, but, in Christ, we are not to be enslaved by them. We have a Savior who is sovereign over all things. He clothes the grass with lilies. He feeds the wild birds. And He cares oh so much more for you. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and fear not.

How do you deal with worry in a godly way?

1If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase “fake it til you make it,” in this context, it simply means that we should obey Scripture (in this case the Scriptures that tell us to trust God) regardless of how we feel about it and trust God to eventually line our feelings up with His Word.

Additional Resources:

Do not let your hearts be troubled at A Word Fitly Spoken


The Christian Introvert: Putting Off Social Anxiety, Putting On Serving Others

A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them this, but I’m kind of an introvert. On Sundays, after Sunday School, church, then Sunday dinner with my extended family, I usually go home and get straight in the bed for some quiet time and a nap, often with muscles aching from stress. I love my church, my family, and spending time with people, but for some reason, social interaction can be a bit draining for me after several hours.

And interacting with people I don’t know very well? Don’t get me started on all the different levels of anxiety that, for me, go hand-in-hand with introversion. My gut-level reaction to walking into a room full of strangers is to turn around and run as far away as possible.

But all of this sort of thinking is very self-centered. When I entertain those anxious thoughts and feelings, I’m focusing on me. My fear of man. My worries about what others will think of me. My discomfort and desire to be somewhere else. Me. Me. Me.

So how do we handle introversion and/or social anxiety in a godly way? Ephesians 4:21-24 gets right to the point:

assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

We’re to put off our old, corrupt self, renew our minds, and put on the new, godly self.

First, we “put off”, or stop giving in, to those feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of anxiety:

“There are plenty of people talking to that person who’s visiting our church this morning. She doesn’t need to meet me. I’ll pass.”

“I need to go to that meeting, but I really don’t want to, so I’m going to stay home.”

“Nobody at this fellowship would be interested in talking to me, so I’ll hang out in the kitchen and ‘help’.”

Next, we “renew our minds” with what Scripture says about how we’re to regard ourselves and how we’re to regard others.

Giving in to me-centered fears and anxieties is the exact opposite of God’s instruction to Christians. We are to be about the business of putting others first. Dying to self. Serving others. Encouraging others. Loving and focusing on others with the intensity of the love and focus we lavish on ourselves. Philippians 2:3-4 puts it this way:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests,
but also to the interests of others.

Notice that, while the world’s solution to introversion would be that you need to improve your self-esteem, and think better – and more – about yourself…

…that’s not the Bible’s solution. The Bible instructs us to be humble, stop the navel-gazing, take the focus off ourselves, and put the focus on loving and serving others.

Putting off and renewing our minds is where a lot of us stop when we’re dealing with sinful thoughts and behaviors. But if you’ve ever stopped there, you’ve probably gotten stuck and frustrated in the sanctification issue you’re dealing with. That’s because a vacuum demands to be filled. When you take something away, you have to replace it with something else, or you’re just going to go back to your old ways again.

That’s where putting on “the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” comes in. What, exactly, does that mean? Let’s break it down a little bit.

🆕Since we’re new creatures in Christ, we don’t wallow in the old self, we put on the new self. Whereas our old nature was about pleasing ourselves, our new nature desires to please, obey, and imitate Christ.

🆕To understand what it means to be created after the likeness of God, think about what God is like. Does God fearfully hide Himself away from people? Does He avoid interacting with us? Quite the opposite! God “put Himself out there” to the extent that He became flesh and dwelt among us. He tells us we are welcome to confidently approach His throne and talk to Him non-stop

🆕To walk in true righteousness and holiness is to imitate Christ. It’s to put shoes on being “created after the likeness of God”. How can I walk in the same way in which He walked in this situation? How can I best obey Christ’s commands? How can I die to self in order to live to Him?

Putting on the new self is proactively looking for ways to carry out the “do’s” of the Bible in place of the “don’ts”. To act instead of react. To seek opportunities to do the opposite of what the old self would do.

What are some practical ways to die to self, and to love, focus on, encourage, and serve others as an introvert?

Go. The first step, and sometimes the hardest one, is just showing up. Obviously, you don’t have to go to every social event, meeting, or activity in existence. You know the ones you need to go to. Make yourself go. Simply seeing your smiling face in the room might be an encouragement to someone else who struggles with social anxiety. And your presence sends the message to the host that you care enough about her and the activity to attend. That means a lot to people.

Smile and say hello. Small talk. Ugh. If you’re an introvert, it’s probably near the top of your list of anxiety-producers. Do it anyway. If it’s extremely difficult for you, before you arrive, set a goal of a minimum number of people to greet, shake hands with, and exchange a few pleasantries with. Can’t think of anything clever to say? “It’s nice to see you,” or a simple, genuine compliment like, “You look great,” or “I love those earrings,” makes people feel valued and worthwhile.

Help out. As long as you’re not using helping out as a way to hide out or avoid people, channeling that nervous energy into an activity can work wonders to get your mind off yourself and your fear, give you a topic of conversation with others who are helping (“Wow, I didn’t know our church had this many folding chairs!” “I think we need more cups at the beverage table.”), and tangibly serve people.

Listen. When I was working on my master’s degree in family counseling, I learned an extremely important skill. Listening – really listening. In a counseling situation, you can’t let your mind just drift off. You have to be laser focused on what the client is saying, paying attention to every word. Occasionally, you encapsulate in your own words what she has said and reflect it back to her, or ask an open-ended question that will lead her to expand on a particular aspect of what she has been telling you.

For therapists, this is called “active listening” or “reflective listening”. In Christianity, I would call it “compassionate listening” instead, because this same kind of listening is a way to show Christlike compassion and concern for others. You’re not listening because you’re getting paid for it, you’re listening because you care. The more I compassionately listen to others, the more I realize how much of a need for it there is.

We live in a noisy, fast-paced, sound bite, 280 character world. People have a need to be heard. Angry people ultimately scream, not about an issue, but out of a need for someone to take the time to listen. Lonely people need to know someone cares about them.

There aren’t many people in the world who take the time to sit down with someone, show an interest in what she’s saying, and let her take the time to express herself completely. When you do that for someone, you are serving her by giving her a rare and precious gift. Maybe one that she’s never received before. When you sacrifice your time to pay attention to someone, she might be doing most of the talking, but she’s hearing something important, too. She’s hearing, “I love and care about you,” “You matter to me because you matter to Christ,” “You are valuable in God’s eyes and in mine.” How can we withhold that kind of kindness and compassion from someone just to give in to our fears and make ourselves more comfortable?

Pray and check in. As you’re compassionately listening to someone, make a mental note of something you could pray for her about. Make that part of your prayer time until you see her again. The next time you cross paths (or if it’s going to be a long time, call or text her after a few days), let her know you’ve been praying for her and ask her how that situation is going (and listen compassionately as she tells you!). Think about how much it would mean to you for a sister in Christ to listen to you, remember what you said, take the time to pray about it, and then ask you how things were going. That’s how much it would mean to her.

It can be easy to give in to social anxiety and introversion, avoiding people and situations that make us uncomfortable. But Christ doesn’t call us to do only the things that are easy. He set the example for us of doing what’s godly even when it’s difficult. Obeying Christ when it’s hard helps us to grow in spiritual maturity, and gives us opportunities to serve others. And isn’t that really what following Him is all about?

Additional Resources:

Just Stop It: How to Repent of ____ A Multi-part “Put off/Renew/Put on” series by Clint Archer at The Cripplegate

Do you tend toward introversion or social anxiety?
What are some practical ways you’ve found for “putting off”
those things and “putting on” serving others instead?