My sister-in-law’s bucket list got shorter over the Christmas holidays. She went skydiving in Hawaii. Of course, she didn’t jump out of the plane on her own. She was harnessed to an experienced skydiver who had jumped out of an airplane hundreds of times. And although she felt slightly afraid, especially when he told her to hang her feet outside the plane’s door at 14,000 feet, she said it wasn’t as frightening as she’d thought it would be. During the entire descent, Butters, the guy she was harnessed to, reassured her, instructed her, and even joked with her. She wasn’t afraid in this scary situation because she trusted the one she was harnessed to.
You’ve probably been afraid or struggled with fear at some time in your life. The list of what we fear is endless: fear of losing a child or a parent, fear of being alone or rejected, fear of losing your money, and even fear of death. Not surprisingly, even sincere followers of Christ wrestle with fear. Several times Jesus told his followers, “Do not fear.” But how can we trust Jesus when we’re spiraling downward from faith into fear? How can we not be afraid?
Fear is defined as a sense of danger or evil whether the threat is real or imagined.
As a mom of six children, I can relate to this definition of fear. When my kids were young, I regularly struggled with fear. Fear kept me busy trying to control every potential bad thing that might happen to them. Of course, sometimes bad things did happen to my kids: they got sick, broke bones, and flunked tests. One thing I learned about fear is that fear is a bully. It tries to intimidate us, often attacking us where we’re most vulnerable.
I’ve also learned that fighting fear is not passive, but active. And we must start the fight against fear before we’re even afraid. So the first and foremost way to fight being afraid is to remember Jesus.
Remembering Jesus in the Gospel
We live in a broken and anxious world. But in his sovereignty and goodness, God sent his Son, Jesus, to be our sin bearer. Jesus left Heaven and came down to earth to provide a way for us to have a relationship with God. He came to bridge the gap between us and God. A friend of mine calls this “the biggest job demotion in the world”! Because of Jesus, we are God’s beloved children. We belong to him. And from the beginning of his ministry here on earth, Jesus declared the good news of his saving grace to all who listened, to everyone who put their faith and trust in his work on the cross.
The gospel clearly tells us who Jesus is. But we are a forgetful bunch. We often can’t remember what we had for lunch yesterday. The disciples were no different. In Mark 8, we read that shortly after Jesus had fed four thousand people, he and his disciples sailed across the lake. The disciples were worried because they’d brought only one loaf of bread with them. There were at least 13 adults in the boat so one loaf of bread obviously wouldn’t feed them all. But Jesus jogged their memories.
“Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?’” (Mark 8:17-19).
In essence, he said, “Hey guys, remember what I just did? Remember who I am? I’m the one who just fed 4,000 people from a few loaves of bread. I’ll take care of you.” Just like the disciples, we sometimes need to nudge our memories to remember Jesus. We fight fear best when we remember Jesus in the gospel.
Remembering Jesus’ Character
From his three short years of ministry on earth we learn a lot about Jesus’ character. We see his passion for God’s justice and his compassion toward those who struggled with disbelief. He was tenderhearted toward the sick and the outcast. He spoke the truth in a loving way. Jesus was approachable. Tax collectors who were considered undesirables in society enjoyed his company. Jesus was bold when he preached, but he wasn’t harsh toward his hearers. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the same “yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus is still patient, kind, and compassionate. He sympathizes with our weaknesses. He walked this earth and was tempted just like us.
Though pain and hardship are the reality of this broken world, Jesus is an anchor for our soul. When we’re afraid, we can remember Jesus. He showed his love for us by becoming our Savior and our sin bearer. He’s powerful. He overcame death and he’s always ready to help us in our fight against all our fears.
Remembering Jesus’ Promises
D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones said that much of the unhappiness in our lives comes from listening to ourselves rather than talking to ourselves. Talking to yourself means telling yourself the truth, the truth about God and about yourself. As Christians, we can believe and trust all Jesus’ promises found in the Bible.
As we read and study Scripture, God speaks to us. He tells us about his grace, his peace, and his constant presence in our life. And we can ask God to give us courage, to replace our fears with faith in Jesus.
Here are five promises to remember when you’re afraid:
- “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
- “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (v. 18).
- “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them” (v. 21).
- “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
- “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
When the winds of fear swirl about, it’s easy to panic. Fear always whispers the worst-case scenario. But the gospel reminds us of Jesus’ love for us and his ability to help us when we’re afraid. Even in the scariest situations, we don’t need to be afraid because Jesus is the one we’re harnessed to for all eternity and we can trust him.
Jennifer Hinders is a part-time freelance writer. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband and their dog, Sam.