In a prior post, we gave some thought to what fear is, and especially the different objects of fear. Specifically, we thought through the fear of uncertainty and the unknown. But now we need to give attention to how we fear. How do we respond to fear?
In short, we fear with our whole selves. That means that our response to fear includes mental, emotional, and physical aspects. Let’s take some time to think through these aspects before addressing briefly God’s holistic help.
When we are afraid, we tend to discover just how creative our imaginations are. Our minds fill in the unknown, often with the worst-case scenario. You’ve probably watched enough medical dramas on TV to think you know what could happen. As a result, fear can in some cases paralyze our thinking, such that our mind races but nothing productive comes of it.
Just as our minds are affected by fear, so too are our emotions. The unknown can lie heavy on our hearts like a thick blanket. We can find ourselves with less patience, more anger, and anxieties about what is to come. Depending on your personality, you may be affected either to the point of apathy or frenzy.
Finally, fear engages our bodies as well. The mental and emotional stress of the unknown is related to a physiological response. As stress hormones increase, you may find it more difficult to sleep. As you sleep less, your body doesn’t have a chance to recover and you start to wear down. Maybe your appetite is suppressed as your body takes a defensive posture.
These are just sketches of our response to fear, especially fear of the unknown. Nevertheless, the point is that you need to address fear from the perspective of mind, heart, and body. While they are all interrelated, we can’t ignore one part of our selves and expect to have a balanced response. With that in mind, let me offer some words of Scripture to address our whole selves as we address our responses to fear.
With respect to the mind, your fear of the unknown is addressed by the fact that you actually do know what is to come. God reveals to us through Scripture everything that is to come. Though the path may seem murky, it has a sure end point: “And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son’” (Rev 21:6-7).
God also addresses our emotions. Though we may be tempted to apathy or frenzy, God has sympathy in our troubled state because Jesus Christ has experienced our weakness (Heb 4:15). Since we have the Spirit of Christ, we have our sympathetic high priest with us always.
As for our bodies, we are reminded time and time again in Scripture that God is the one who made our bodies. He knitted you together in your mother’s womb (Ps 139:13); he is the one who made man’s mouth (Exod 4:11), planted the ear, and formed the eye (Ps 94:9). Since he has formed you, he certainly has the power to calm your physiological response to fear.
Dear brothers and sisters, take care of your whole selves as you address fear in these times. Remember that the same God who created your mind, heart, and body also sustains you.