How Do I Respond to Fear?

It’s always exciting when Disney movies hint at the truth. After putting the kids to bed one night last week, Sarah and I turned on Frozen 2. I had planned to turn off my brain, but it turns out Frozen 2 can be thought provoking during these times. At the emotional low point of the movie, Anna sings “The Next Right Thing,” encouraging herself just to take the next step. The point is that even when all hope is lost and you don’t know how things will get better, you can still do the next right thing.

That is a helpful way to think through our own present distress. So then, as we look for comfort in the chaos, what is the next thing that we ought to do? Or to say it another way, how do we respond to fear? Let me lay out four simple steps that we all can take.

First, we respond to fear with restraint. Perhaps it’s obvious, but by responding to fear, we are not dismissing it. As I wrote in the previous post, fear, in the short term, benefits us by opening our eyes to reality and driving us to Christ for safety in troubling times. I mentioned that fearlessness is foolhardiness. Thus, we respond to fear with restraint by giving it due attention.

But responding to fear with restraint also means that we don’t catastrophize. This is the opposite of dismissing fear. Catastrophizing is thinking that the worst possible scenario is going to play out. Such a response to fear is an unrestrained indulgence, and it will likely hinder you from doing the next thing. Instead, we need to respond to fear with restraint.

Second, we respond to fear with Scripture. A ship’s anchor is indispensable in helping it to stay where it needs to be. The Christian’s anchor is Scripture and the promises of God contained in the Bible. Writing about the certainty of God’s promises founded on his unchangeability, Hebrews says, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain” (Heb 6:19). To the extent that we know Scripture and can apply it, we have readily at hand an anchor to cast when we are looking to do the next thing.

Third, we respond to fear with prayer. Peter encourages us to cast “our anxieties on [God], because he cares for you” (1 Pet 5:7). Because we have a sympathetic high priest, Hebrews says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). As we look to do the next thing, we seek counsel from the maker of heaven and earth.

Finally, we respond to fear with fellowship. You individually are not the body of Christ; rather, you are a part of Christ’s body. You have fellow believers who will bear your burdens and who need your love. So write a letter to a dear saint, pick up the phone, or join a videoconference. Engage with the body of Christ as the next step to respond to fear.

As we think about our response to fear, what our next step is, it needs to be restrained, Scriptural, and prayerful. It needs to have an eye toward fellowship with God and fellow believers. To sum it all up, let me quote from something a bit older than Frozen 2:

Many a questioning, many a fear, Many a doubt, hath its quieting here. Moment by moment, let down from Heaven, Time, opportunity, and guidance are given. Fear not tomorrows, child of the King, Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing