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How to Deal with Your Fear
Finding victory over fear as the world falls apart
“Do not fear” is one of the most frequent commands in the Bible. I have said many times that God does not want us to live in fear. He did not create us to fear. He created us to live in peace. He gave us Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace.
However, the devil wants us to live in fear.
I am leading a tour of Israel this fall, and one of the things that is so hard to convey—unless you experience it yourself—is how meaningful it is to visit places in Israel right out of the pages of Scripture. One of those places is the Garden of Gethsemane, a grove of olive trees at the foot of the Mount of Olives. We will be visiting it on our tour!
When we go there, we will be in the same place Jesus was the night before His death on the cross:
Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. 40 When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” 43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45 When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. 46 Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
47 And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him.—Luke 22:39-47
Verse 44 says Jesus was “in agony.” The Greek word in this passage is agonia, which means “great fear or distress.” In that moment, Jesus felt more fear than any human being has ever experienced. The passage says that Jesus’ sweat became “like great drops of blood.” The medical term for this condition is hematohidrosis, which is a rare condition in which small blood vessels leading to the sweat glands rupture under conditions of intense stress. Jesus experienced real fear at this moment—but He also defeated it.
We Can Have Victory Over Fear
Why did Jesus experience fear in the garden, and why did He experience fear at all? First, Jesus is both fully God and fully man. As a human, Jesus identifies with us:
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.—Hebrews 4:14–5:2
Jesus has compassion on us because He has experienced everything we have experienced. He was tempted in every way that we are, yet He was without sin.
What tempted Him in the Garden of Gethsemane? When Jesus entered the garden, He instructed His disciples to “keep watch and pray” so they wouldn’t give in to temptation (Matthew 26:41). Jesus was hinting about what would soon happen. He was showing extra concern for them in anticipation of an especially stressful and traumatic event.
Three times in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told the Father that He really didn’t want to go through with what was about to happen. In the end, He said to the Father, “nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Here are three important truths from this moment:
1. Jesus Acted Above His Fears
Fear will always be present to some extent, but Jesus is our High Priest who understands every circumstance we face. Our loving Father promises to give us victory through the Holy Spirit. Jesus knows exactly how we feel. He experienced fear in the garden to identify with us so that we could identify with Him. We should follow His example and act above our fears.
2. Jesus Knew What Was Coming
He was fully aware of what He was about to experience on the cross. He died the most painful and grisly death imaginable, and knew every single detail of what was coming.
At Gethsemane, Jesus asked God to remove Him from the situation. Immediately, an angel came and strengthened Him—after Jesus yielded to the will of His Father. Luke says Jesus then prayed even more earnestly. Only then did He sweat blood. His stress was at its highest level. Jesus knew everything He would suffer, yet He did it for our sake.
3. Jesus Was Under Attack
Third, Jesus felt fear because Satan, the real spirit of fear, launched a full-scale attack against Him. Fear is not something—it is someone. You must understand this about the nature of the devil: he is an opportunist who will assault you when you are at your weakest and most vulnerable. When you are hurting, he presses in and tries to do his worst.
Jesus was weak and troubled in the Garden of Gethsemane, so Satan thought it was an opportune time to come at Jesus with a spirit of fear. But Paul wrote that “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
The devil can’t control your thoughts, but he can certainly influence them. On the other hand, God will never use fear to control your life.
The Fear of Death
Not all fear is bad. The Bible refers to the fear of the Lord, which means a deep reverence for God. This is a positive emotion rather than a negative one. However, most fear is not of God. Ultimately, all fear is the fear of death.
Consider what the writer of Hebrews said:
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.—Hebrews 2:14-15
You may think you have a fear of snakes, but you really have a fear of dying from a snake bite! If you think about it, then you will realize all fears come from the fear of death. We fear those things that can harm us, and the ultimate harm is death.
The fear of death is a deception Satan uses to keep people in bondage. But the good news is if you are a believer, you will never die. As a believer, you will never experience a moment of death. Unless Jesus takes you in the Rapture, your body will die, but one day God will reunite it with your spirit. The instant your eyes close on earth, they will open in heaven. The moment you go numb here, your senses will come alive there. When you take your last breath here, you take your first breath there.
When the devil tries to put the fear of death in you, understand that it is just a demonic spirit trying to give you a negative view of the future so you will make fear-based decisions.
Good Fear vs Bad Fear
On the other hand, faith comes from the Spirit of God. It tells you about a positive future, so you will make faith-filled decisions that God will honor. Faith gives you hope, and hope does not let you down (see Romans 5:5).
God wants you to be able to discern between types of fear (see 1 John 4:1). Demonic, paralyzing fear exists, but humans also experience good fear. For instance, what if you are crossing the street and look up and see a car coming straight toward you? That fear will trigger your adrenal system and give you the power to react immediately to that threat. You’ll jump out of the way. Or the driver will see you and they themselves will react suddenly out of fear. Once you are both safe, the fear passes.
When fear is good, it is circumstantial. It ends as quickly as it begins.
Bad fear does not end. It will constantly torment you and cause you to think something terrible is always ready to happen. Good fear protects you, but bad fear paralyzes you. It makes you unable to respond in a useful way.
Good fear is constructive, and it will lead you to do the right thing. Bad fear confuses your judgment and gives you a fatalistic attitude.
Good fear will empower you to do seemingly impossible acts in difficult situations. Adrenaline will make you able to perform almost superhuman deeds. On the other hand, bad fear enslaves you. You are God’s child, but your soul’s enemy wants to do everything possible to make you a slave to fear.
The Opposite of Fear
Persistent fear is born of the devil, but lasting peace—the opposite of fear—comes from God. Isaiah 48:22 says there is no peace for the wicked. That is why the devil has no peace. If you rebel against God, then you will never be able to have peace, even if you try.
When God is present, there is peace; when the devil is present, there is fear. Fear does not mean you are demon-possessed, but it does mean that the devil is trying to influence you to do the wrong thing.
Fear is expecting the devil to move; faith is expecting God to move. You can fix your eyes on the devil or on God.
Do you want to overcome fear in your life? Then do what Jesus did. Jesus felt fear in the Garden of Gethsemane, but He was open and honest with His Father. The devil wants you to keep secrets, but God wants the truth from you. Jesus said, “Father, I feel the fear. I don’t want to do this.” The truth will actually make you free.
When you are honest with God, the Holy Spirit can help you deal with your fears. Are you fearful about the ways our society is changing? Submit your fears to God. Are you worried about the future? Submit your fears to God. Are you concerned your loved ones may not know Jesus? Share Jesus with them, but also submit your fears to God.
Submit your fears to Him because even if your fears are not right, they are still very real—and Jesus knows this. Allow the Spirit to help you to act above those fears. When Jesus prayed to His Father, He acted above His fears and submitted His will to the Father’s. An angel came to strengthen Jesus, and God will come to minister to you as well.
Focus on God’s presence and love. Remember, the Lord is omnipresent; the devil is not. Satan is just a created being, but the universe cannot contain our God.
Jesus rejoiced because of God’s presence. On the way to the cross, Satan was telling Jesus that He had disappointed His Father and that He was a huge failure, However, Jesus knew His Father would not leave Him in the place of death. In the same way, God is always be present with you. When you open your eyes to the spiritual realm, fear will disappear.
The author of Hebrews wrote that angels are ministering spirits sent to render aid to God’s people. An angel ministered to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Do you realize there are angels all around you? You cannot see these spirits with your physical eyes, but as a believer, you can have spiritual eyes to walk by faith and not by sight.
When you walk by faith with the Lord before you, you cannot be moved. Choose the attitude of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then you will know the truth—and the truth will set you free.