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How Fear Cripples Faith

Photo of Jared EllisJared Ellis | Bio

Jared Ellis

Jared is the preaching minister at Fellowship Regional Church in Iola, KS, with a satellite campus in Caney, KS. He is also the host of a long-form interview podcast show called The Homilist, which explores the various aspects of preaching. 

Fear cripples faith when it isn’t dealt with. Fear’s greatest strength is its ability to amplify negative possibilities within the mind. Conjuring up potential problems, fear casts a shadow of doubt over exciting opportunities.

Those who are shackled by fear must realize that the presence of chains suggests slavery.

Take Saul, king of Israel, yet slave of fear. Saul was given every opportunity for greatness, yet his every decision seemed driven by fear. His size didn’t matter (“a head taller than anyone else,” according to 1 Samuel 9:2). His strength didn’t matter. His title didn’t set him free from it, nor did his accomplishments break him free.

Those who are a slave to fear are prepared with a multitude of excuses.

They blame others. They exaggerate their other virtues, such as patience and wisdom. They stand, knees knocking, boldly blasting away at others, attempting to defend their inaction.

There is an easily definable pattern when it comes to fear: Fear experiences the unfamiliar and assumes finality.

When a new idea or situation is introduced, fear becomes the loudest voice in our heads. Because we have never experienced whatever it might be, fear suggests that we lack knowledge pertaining to the new stimuli, and because we lack knowledge, we must be unprepared and therefore unable to adapt, conform, accept, resist, or complete whatever stands before us. The unfamiliar is closely connected to fear. It takes very little time for fear to take hold of the steering wheel and begin to jerk it erratically.

But what if we could slow down that process and take a look at other options before letting fear dictate our demise?

The only way to become brave or courageous is just like every other virtue—through practice. You must practice bravery and courage.

Insert your own hypothetical. Whom or what do you fear? The loss of a job? The loss of a spouse? New ventures and unspoken dreams? Success? Failure?

What do these things all have in common? They all come with unfamiliarity about the future. It’s as if a new and deadly dangerous world just opened up and you are not prepared for what might inhabit the darkness.

This paralysis at the unfamiliar points us to an internal weakness that somewhere along the way was misconstrued to be strength.

Here is what I mean: You are probably very competent in some aspect of your life. Perhaps your job? Your analytical mind? Your bank account? Your knowledge? Whatever it may be, you’re good at it. How did you get good at it? Did it come easy, or did it require effort? My guess is that it came easy, or at the very least, it came easier than other things. You found something you were good at, something you enjoyed, and you focused on it.

Here is the weakness you’ll find in these familiar aspects of your life: you found some aspect of life that was easier than others. And rather than wondering if you might possibly be good at other things, you grabbed what was easy and milked it for everything you could get from it. The truth is, you don’t even know what else you’re good at because you took up residency in a natural strength and never considered moving.

You decided that the world was too big, that what you knew was all you could know, and that you were lucky to get what you’ve got. You never gave yourself a chance to grow in another area.

In doing so, you basically dictated to an omniscient God that the only thing He could ever get out of you was what you found to be easy.

Fear is unfamiliar, and unfamiliar because you were lazy. Not lazy in the sense of not doing anything, but rather in the sense that your imagination was stifled by laziness.

If you desire a good marriage, defined as a man and woman who agree to put each other first in everything, then my guess is that this laziness of imagination has shown up to threaten your relationship with your spouse.

Marriage requires difficult conversations. We must declare our needs to each other, our desires for the future, and sometimes even our regrets from the past. People with lazy imaginations cannot have good marriages. It takes a brave venturing into the emotional world to have a relationship with somebody else.

When we focus on God, we are no longer paralyzed by the unfamiliar. Rather, through God’s eyes we see a world of opportunity.

If you can imagine monsters lingering in the shadows of the unfamiliar, then you can also picture a God who pierces the darkness with the light of His Word. He illuminates not only you, but the new world He is calling you to.

But maybe you find the idea of hope to be too heavy. Perhaps your heart has been broken over and over. You’ve watched too many people fall from the faith. Your words and actions have seemed to make little difference in the lives of others. What’s the use? you ask yourself. Hope is nothing more than a way of saying “future failure.”

You need to be reminded that God has given us a courageous spirit, not a lazy imagination.

Have you gone to sleep to the voice of God? Like the boy Samuel, is His servant still listening (1 Samuel 3:10)? Or, like the old priest Eli, have you become someone who can teach the truth, but just can’t remember how to live it (1 Samuel 3:11-14)? Have you shrugged off the commands of God in order to honor your all-knowing fear?

Have you let present circumstances and lowly positions blind you to the incredible possibilities that lie ahead?

Fear is not a cue to freeze.

Fear is a trigger for action.

The only way to become brave or courageous is just like every other virtue—through practice.