What happens when Christians stop living scared

Heidi Charalambous

I was sitting under a thatch umbrella, legs toasting in the spring sun when my husband leaned over and asked if I wanted to go for a swim. 

My first reaction was to say no, and not for any good reason. Swimming in the surf wouldn’t have been dangerous. I simply had become so good at controlling my environment that I shied away from anything unexpected.

That’s when it hit me: I'm on a beautiful beach in a beautiful country with a beautiful man. He's able-bodied and walking — two things that were not true for a long season of our lives. So why not swim? 

That day on the beach, I began to wonder how many swims I've missed because “no” was my automatic response. The more I thought about it, the more I started to realize how often fear prompts me to say no, when as a child of God, I have every reason to say yes. 

The Antidote for Fear

John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, wrote, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

Too often, we think fear equals bad. If I’m scared, I should stop. But if we pause and consider why we’re afraid, the fear that stops us can point to ways God wants to shape us. 

When we push through our fears, we discover new aspects of God’s character. As a result, we love Him more. We trust Him more. Confidence increases, and fear decreases. That’s what John wants for us when he talks about being made perfect in love. 

We begin to think differently and choose differently because we’re no longer making decisions out of fear of what could happen. We get in the water instead of staying on the beach.  

But it all starts with a yes. A decision to say, “Yes, God, I’ll trust your promise rather than give into my fear.” 

Four Times Fear Stops Us From Saying Yes

1. When you have a chance to try something new 

When was the last time you did something new, not knowing if you’d be good at it? So long ago you can’t remember? Yep, me too. 

Life is short. The Bible describes our time on earth as a vapor (James 4:13-17, Psalm 144:4). We should be wise with our time, but we should also make the most of the time. If an opportunity comes your way, consider: Is it sinful? Will it hurt others? If the only reason you’re saying no is because you’re afraid to fail, you might be facing an opportunity to be made perfect in love. 

Intimacy with God grows as we trust Him with the unknown. Every time we say yes to trying something new, we’re really saying, “Yes, God, I trust you. I trust you to love keep loving me even if I fall flat on my face. I trust you to see this bold move and do something great with it.” 

Every time we say yes to trying something new, we’re really saying, 'Yes, God, I trust you.'

Often we forget that when opportunities come our way, we are responsible for the effort and God is responsible for the results. Paul explained this concept with a gardening metaphor, reminding the church that “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:7-9). 

2. When you’re scared of saying the wrong thing or looking silly 

Fearing what other people think stops us from trying a new serving team, asking a neighbor to church, or reaching out to someone in need. It’s the voice that says, “What if they think I’m weird?” or, “Do you really know them well enough to say that?”

When we know what God thinks about us, it’s easier to not care what other people think about us (Hebrews 13:6, Psalm 56:11, Psalm 118:6). God loves you. He is not ashamed of you or embarrassed by you. He cares so deeply, He put it all on the line to have a relationship with you

For some, boldness comes easy. But for the rest of us, it’s helpful to remember God loves us and has gifted us. We discover those spiritual gifts when we’re brave enough to put ourselves out there. 

3. When the plan changes and you lose control 

Control is like a vivid dream. You know it’s not real, but it sure does feel that way sometimes. Give me a problem, and I’ll give you a plan to conquer it. I like calendars and lists, and I’ve been known to pack an overnight bag for day trips “just in case.” 

But as hard as I try to control my environment, the truth is only one person controls anything. Jesus “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). 

God literally holds the whole world in His hands, and you know what catches His eye? We do. 

We don’t have to fear being out of control because the person who is always in control cares deeply for us. He crowned us with glory and honor, and provides what we need when we need it (Psalm 8 and Psalm 104). So when fear of the unknown creeps in, we push back like the psalmists — by remembering who is holding everything together. 

4. When you have to trust someone else or let them get to know you 

The scariest part of letting someone into our lives is giving them access to our hearts. What if they use what they learned against us? What if they laugh at us or think we’re dumb?

The only way to overcome the fear of being known is to experience being fully known and fully loved. This is what happens in a relationship with God. 

1 John 4:19 says we can love others — i.e. we can be vulnerable, authentic, and honest — because God has first loved us. Like a kid who hears “Good job” from his dad, we walk a little taller, laugh a little harder, and speak bolder when we know our heavenly dad is on our side. 

When our trust is in the Lord, we can face the danger of letting others in. Like David, one of Israel’s great kings, we take heart knowing, “in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11). 

Saying yes is a risky proposition, but the best gifts in life come on the other side of a brave yes. That day at the beach, we swam and splashed. And yes, the water was cold. But as we jumped waves, the undercurrent slowly inched us toward a cove we might not have discovered otherwise. 

There are some things we should say no to, like temptation, injustice, harming ourselves or others, but how much of God's faithfulness do we miss out on because we're too scared or too comfortable? 

Jesus came to rescue us, “so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live” (Luke‬ ‭1:74-75, NLT). All we have to do is say yes when He calls. 

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