“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? If we’d simply remember that God is watching us, then we’d be completely fearless, right? If we just remembered this Scripture, perhaps all our fear and anxiety would vanish without a trace. Perhaps, if we knew some secret technique or repeated some positive affirmation, we could forget all our worries and live an ideal, paradisiacal life. Right?
While that is a lovely thought, it unfortunately isn’t real life. Fear always tends to seep in through narrow tunnels and little cracks and find ways to infiltrate the mind. Some of us have a tendency to be easily frightened, while others keep all their fear on the inside rather than the outside. But if you ask anyone if they’ve felt fear in their life, I can practically guarantee you that they will say yes. After all, who hasn’t? Furthermore, if you ask anyone, it’s very likely they will tell you that they don’t like to be afraid. Fear, you see, is not a pleasant emotion. It’s not like happiness, relief, or amusement; we don’t wish to stay afraid. We want to stop fearing as quickly as we can. It is uncomfortable – not anywhere in the radius of our normal comfort zone – to be afraid. We oftentimes think that it can even make us appear weak or vulnerable, so we sometimes refuse to show our fear.
But what if I told you fear isn’t as bad as you might think it is? What if I told you that the important thing about being courageous is not concealing your fear, but instead using it to your advantage?
Let’s first discover why so many people are afraid of, well, being afraid, and how we can learn from our fear as opposed to being owned by it.
According to Psychology Today, “Fear is experienced in your mind, but it triggers a strong physical reaction in your body. As soon as you recognize fear, your amygdala (small organ in the middle of your brain) goes to work. It alerts your nervous system, which sets your body’s fear response into motion. Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released. Your blood pressure and heart rate increase. You start breathing faster. Even your blood flow changes — blood actually flows away from your heart and into your limbs, making it easier for you to start throwing punches, or run for your life. Your body is preparing for fight-or-flight.”
They continue, “As some parts of your brain are revving up, others are shutting down. When the amygdala senses fear, the cerebral cortex (area of the brain that harnesses reasoning and judgment) becomes impaired — so now it’s difficult to make good decisions or think clearly. As a result, you might scream and throw your hands up when approached by an actor in a haunted house, unable to rationalize that the threat is not real.”
So, it’s pretty obvious: we do not want to be scared. Save haunted houses, horror flicks, and entertaining monster stories, fear is unpleasant.
We often don’t like showing fear because it makes us look vulnerable, and we do not like showing vulnerability. As retired senior special agent for the Department of Homeland Security Dan Robb said in a Quora answer on showing fear, “…on the most basic level, a predator seeking a meal generally looks for the prey offering the least resistance. Fear results from a perception of vulnerability and a lack of viable defense…[which] equates to defeat.”
Another responder to the question, Tyler G., explained a reason for some of his childhood fear: “As a kid, I would never admit when I feared something. My pride was too big, and I wouldn’t admit being scared because of [e.g.] the neighbor’s dog. It would make me vulnerable and I would feel like the other person would use it against me, seeing [how scared I was.]”
But we know that there’s more to it than that. Fear is not an emotion solely for the purpose of making us feel vulnerable or making us feel negatively. No indeed – fear, just like all other emotions that God put in our minds and hearts, has a purpose.
Scientifically speaking, it is helpful in ways we may not have thought of.
Northwestern Medicine Clinical Psychologist Zachary Sikora, PsyD says in an article, “Fear is a natural and biological condition that we all experience. It’s important that we experience fear because it keeps us safe.”
KidsHealth.org echoes that statement as it says, “Fear helps protect us. It makes us alert to danger and prepares us to deal with it. Feeling afraid is very natural — and helpful — in some situations. Fear can be like a warning, a signal that cautions us to be careful.”
Now, I’m about to tell you something that might surprise you at first. I am of the opinion that fearlessness is rather overrated. Now, hold up – I didn’t say bravery was overrated. There is a difference between the two, and I believe that while bravery is often needed, fearlessness is a rather unrealistic concept.
As you now know, fear plays a major part in our lives, and it is important to learn from it rather than try to avoid it. I’m reminded of one of the books in my favorite classic literary series, Sherlock Holmes, which is The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In this book, one of the main characters is Sir Henry Baskerville, an heir to inheriting the Baskerville Hall after the strange and mysterious death of his uncle, Sir Charles Baskerville. Sir Charles was reportedly killed by a haunting, sinister demon hound that supposedly haunted the whole Baskerville family, killing each and every inheritor. One could easily tell that when Sir Henry knew he was next in line to inherit the house and money, he was very afraid. He was afraid for his life, as anyone would be if they think they’re being haunted by a cursed dog.
But his response to the case, unlike that of most of Holmes’ clients (which would usually include hyperventilating, panicking, and temporarily losing control as they shared their fears about the case), was very valiant: When Holmes suggested Sir Henry should return to Baskerville Hall in England, get his inheritance, and reunite with his family members, he agreed and still put himself in possible danger to be able to be with his family. Furthermore, when Holmes told him the only way to get to the bottom of the case was to use Sir Henry as bait, the man almost panicked – but instead of refusing, he consented, knowing it was the only way to bring closure to a decade-long familial mystery.
Immediately, I realized that there’s a lot we can learn from Sir Baskerville. One thing we can learn is that he was afraid – he was not some over-valiant, steel-willed metal machine with no emotions. He did, in fact, fear for his life. But the thing that made him, in my opinion, the most memorable “client” in any of the Sherlock Holmes stories was that he did not let his fear dictate or overpower his rational reasoning. Instead, he still chose to do the right thing, and trusted in the superior expertise of the intelligent detective that he would be safe.
How can we apply this to our lives? It is indeed hard to separate our emotions from our rational thinking – but one thing we can do is take after Baskerville’s example in trusting a higher power, knowing that we are safe. Baskerville trusted Holmes because he, a detective with many years of experience, assured him that he would be safe. In that same way, we trust God because He assures us that we will be safe. Yes, He does assure us! Countless Scriptures remind us of this.
1 Isaiah 41:10 says, “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 right hand.”
The famous quote of Jeremiah 29:11 is extremely assuring as God literally tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
And one of the ones that stood out to me the most was 2 Timothy 1:7, stating that we were not designed to constantly worry and fear. Fear is natural, of course, but this Scripture beautifully states the fact that fear is not necessary: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
And just like Will Smith said in the movie After Earth, “Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. Do not misunderstand me – danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”
So when we start to find ourselves doubting, fearing, and worrying, remember two things. 1. Fear is natural as long as we don’t excessively worry; and 2. It makes things a little easier on us when we remember that God is up there, weaving the strings and writing the words in the grand plot of our lives, on Whose wonderful counsel we can depend.
– Arianna Fox, 14-Year-Old Girlpreneur, Bestselling Triple Author, Keynote Speaker, Voiceover Talent, Actress, and Teen Influencer
@afoxauthor on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok (Arianna Fox on LinkedIn and YouTube)