Can Christians be afraid?

Like any good social media user, I recently sat as a fly on the wall of an internet debate regarding how God treats fear.  I “listened” as people passionately argued that fear is simply something we shouldn’t do.  The conversation began because a popular Christian author suggested that it is okay to be afraid, going on to say that God will be with us in our emotions.  The thread continued for quite some time, working to solidify the idea that as believers we simply aren’t supposed to be afraid, and when you are, you are out of line with scripture.  

I am sensitive to shame in the Christian culture so it didn’t take long before I began to get discouraged by the dialogue. 

Isaiah 41:10 was the scripture chosen in the debate to paint the picture that fear is not a tolerable emotion to God.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand.”

I find it interesting that we can read this and conclude that what God means is that in his strength and help all of our fear will vanish. And perhaps more importantly, that to be afraid is to be “wrong.”  Certainly in the way God that can cease a storm, he can cease fear but I don’t believe that be the full picture.

When I read Psalm 91:4, I am comforted by a different image. 

“He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.”

I like to imagine a majestic eagle, like the one Isaiah talks about in 40:31; the type of wings that left us up with a surge of hope and strength. In Psalm 91, I imagine those same large wings covering over me in the midst of my fear. I am brought low, maybe even cowering, and yet the Lord promises in this image that he will be WITH me. I don’t find shame hear.  I do not hear a God who scolds me in my fear, but rather one that says when things are scary and overwhelming you will not be overcome if you trust in me because I will cover you.

I hear compassion.  A God who knows that fear is hard and he knows that we will need him to comfort us when we are afraid.

Psalm 23 describes the one who “walks through the valley of the shadow of death” with a God who is “WITH him.” 

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).”

We will walk through countless days of fear in our lifetime, not just fear but a vast collection of emotions, and every day we will have an opportunity to be comforted by God while we trudge through the valleys of our lives. What I believe to be more true is that while on these daily walks, we will learn to trust his faithfulness more and more in the refuge of his wings or by the comfort of his power, as he proves his promises to be true and perhaps our fear will grow less and less; most likely dependent on how deeply and often we are able to rest and surrender to him. I’m not sure this delicate dance will end until we take our last breath and see our perfect savior face to face.

Catharine Griffin was born and raised in Covington, Georgia. She earned an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2012. She enjoys mentoring and discipling college women and is currently doing so at East Texas Baptist University. She is passionate about hearing people's stories and helping people see their potential in Christ and serves this calling out as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate. She has also been coordinating ministry to women for several years in various churches and longs to equip women to serve the church with biblically sound teaching. She is a mother to three boys, wife to a Baptist Student Minister, and enjoys teaching, writing, cooking and all things outside.

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