Strategies for Overcoming Fear and Anxiety in an Anxious World

The Bible discusses two types of fear: healthy, God-honoring fear and irrational, cowardly fear. The first type of fear is the fear of the Lord. For instance, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10), it leads to life and peace (Pro. 19:23), and is a powerful emotion for our good (2 Tim. 1:7).

This type of fear is not anxiety-producing. How do I know that? The Bible says perfect love drives out fear (1 Jn. 4:18) and God is defined as a loving Father who cares about us. Instead, biblical fear is a reverential awe of God that He is the most powerful being in the universe and we ought to respect and obey His authority in our lives.

Jay Adams says that just like a healthy fear of heights keeps us from dangerous situations, so the fear of the Lord protects us from being punished for our sins through repentance and faith.[1]

The second type of fear is irrational and cowardly. These are the types of fears that are anxiety-producing and lead to dominate one’s thoughts in a destructive way. This fear is synonymous with worry. The Greek word for worry means: “to divide, part, rip, or tear apart.”[2] The description is exactly what happens when we worry. It tears us apart emotionally and can even cause physical problems such as ulcers in the stomach or cardiovascular diseases. Biblical fear does not cause this type of distress. Yes, we are to fear God, but we know that He loves us unconditionally and desires for us to be free from guilt and excessive worry.

What would be a sinful example of worry? Let’s imagine a person who believes they might die in a plane crash and therefore refuses to fly. Consequently, they don’t ever visit their family far away because it imposes too much of a risk from their perspective. This irrational fear has no justification since one is more likely to die in a car accident than a plane.

More importantly, it hinders them from building a relationship with their family and has allowed an unhealthy fear to dominate their life circumstances. Jesus told us not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation, through prayer and supplication, present our requests to God (Phil. 4:6). In this situation, the irrational fear is real, but as Christians, we must put our trust in God that He will protect us in any circumstance, even when we travel 36,000 feet in the air.

There are several biblical strategies to help overcome fear and anxiety. First, there are over 95 Bible verses that speak on this topic. It would be important for someone struggling with this problem to research what the Bible says about it and how to apply it to their lives. One strategy might be to memorize some of these verses. I would suggest Philippians 4:6-7. Two, it’s important to find out the main source for why you are worrying. For example, do you worry because of self-preservation? Fear of man? Idolatry? Pride? Past sin? Investigating the heart of the matter would be an important strategy during the counseling sessions.

Finally, I would suggest having a conversation with a general physician. In my opinion, most people who worry often have developed bad habits. Maybe they struggle with sleep, drink too much coffee, fail to exercise on a daily basis, etc. By meeting with a Physician, they can be held more accountable to practice good habits through physical health, which may positively affect their mood and anxiety issues over time.

[1] Jay Adams, What Do You Do When Fear Overcomes You? (P&R Pubishing, 1975), p.1

[2] Jay Adams, What Do you Do When You Worry All The Time? (P&R Publishing, 1975), p.2

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