We often fear things that are beyond our knowledge or control. In Scripture, God told His people, dozens of times, “Do not be afraid” (Gen. 15:1; Deut. 3:22; Josh. 10:8). But it’s important that this admonition was almost always followed by an encouraging reminder of His strength and comfort. This command was never followed by “If you fear, you are sinning.” God created us with a wide range of emotions, and He is not surprised when we become emotional. D. L. Moody experienced paralyzing fear when the ship on which he was traveling began taking on water. He later recalled, “I had thought myself superior to the fear of death, but on the sinking ship it was different . . . as my thoughts went out to my loved ones at home, and as I realized that perhaps the next hour would separate me forever from all these, I confess it almost broke me. It was the darkest hour of my life. I could not endure it.” Moody returned to his cabin and prayed for peace and deliverance. Later, a passing vessel came to the ship’s aid, and all on board were rescued.
Fear can sometimes be useful. It can keep us from walking to the edge of a cliff, from driving across water-covered roads, from walking down a dark alley at night, and other choices that would risk our safety. However, if fear keeps us from leaving our homes or paralyzes us, something different is at work (Ps. 46:2). Feeling afraid is different from being ruled by fear. Being ruled by fear means that something other than the power of God is leading us. We can put our fear in perspective when we realize that God is with us (Isa. 41:10). There are times when we may pass through fear, but our Father never tells us to stop and make camp there.