Why Fear is So Destructive – But Can Be Overcome

Why Fear is So Destructive – But Can Be Overcome

Fear.  We all have it – to some degree.  It is part of being human.  We have needs that when threatened, cause us to have an emotional response that is hard to control.  The power of fear can linger in the background in the form of anxiety or can tackle us head on and destroy our ability to function.

The phrase “do not fear” is used 365 times in Scripture.  This tells us something about God’s desire to see us set free from the power of fear.  It also means that it is possible to stop being afraid.  There is hope.

Living in fear is highly destructive.  When fear grips our heart or when we live in constant anxiety our bodies shut down.  Our blood pressure rises, sleep is elusive, and we have a hard time focusing.  Fear also impacts our relationships because we are on edge.  We overdo our strengths and unintentionally drive others away.  Even our relationship with God is hindered when we are stressed in fear.  We try as hard as we can to avoid the potential pain or loss rather than trust Him.  “Fear Not!” can seem so impossible for many.

Understanding your own fears and what causes them can help you become an overcomer.  Calling your fears out by name and identifying the culprit (triggers) is a positive step towards calm and peace.  We are all unique, but we do have common needs that are threatened in our fallen world.

Fear is connected to what is most important to us.  When what is important to us is threatened in some way, we may experience fear and anxiety.  The three things most important to us (passions of the soul) are acceptance, significance, and security.  God created us with these needs, and he designed us to have those needs met by Him.  This gives us a clue on how to be an overcomer.  But let us first explore how fear is connected to these passions and needs.

Let’s say everyone is invited to a party, but you were left out.  How does that make you feel?  Might that trigger some fear in you that you might have offended someone?  Or perhaps that someone is mad at you?  Our desire to be accepted is a powerful motivator.

You lose your job.  It was a job you really enjoyed, and you felt fulfilled by your accomplishments, but now it is gone.  Failure is a word you dread in your vocabulary.  You find yourself wondering about your purpose in life.  Not having a goals and current achievements makes you feel kind of empty.  Why?  Perhaps your significance is being challenged.

You need to make a decision about getting a new car, but it is unclear what is the best way to move forward.  You research and explore the options in hopes of making the right decision.  Money is tight and a wrong decision could cost you.  Security is a strong motivator to behavior.  When security is challenged, we can be tempted to fear.  Others may see us as obsessed with the issue.

Fear intensifies when these passions are threatened.  Low level anxiety moves into fear and can lead to panic.  Knowing what passions are threatened and your level of fear can help you to understand yourself and how to address it.

Fear causes us each to react differently.  My soul need is strong for significance.  Even when I give my personal testimony of conversion, I talk about purpose and meaning in life.  Jesus Christ met me in that need, and I found it fulfilled in being a worshipper of the true and living God.  Yet I find myself drifting and striving for meaning and purpose in other things.  When this happens, I realize that I am not fully sanctified yet!  When fear creeps in my desire for significance causes me to overdo my strengths that often offend other people.  I want to take risks that seem like gambling to my wife.  My persuasion becomes argumentative.  I can come across arrogant.

For others, fear impacts them very differently.  For instance, if you feared rejection from friends as in the example above, you might try to harder to build relationships and even smother people.  You might even self-sacrifice in hopes of winning their approval.  Our responses to fear are an attempt at regaining the soul need that one feels is lacking.

The good news (Gospel!) is that we are not without hope.  Jesus Christ came to redeem us from this brokenness and pain.  He accepts us just as we are.  He gives us eternal significance that can not be lost.  He is our security and he is most sovereign and omnipotent.  The solution to fear is to turn to Jesus Christ and confess our failure to trust Him for these needs in our lives.  We don’t need substitutes (idols) but we can look to Him for all our needs.  The fire of fear can be extinguished when you remove the fuel.  Fire cannot burn without fuel.  God has promised to meet all our needs according to the riches of Christ Jesus our Lord.

When we learn to identify what our soul is craving (acceptance, significance, security) we can lean into what God has already done and promised to do for us.  Doing this requires repentance – naming the idols of the heart that we “must” have and renewing our trust in the One who is our Savior.  This is not a one-time event, but a pattern of daily reflection and cleansing (1 John 1:9).

Lives that are driven by fear will be characterized by control, anger, and shame in an attempt to avoid the pain that might come when our needs are not met.  The way of Christ gives us hope!

Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.