Responding Biblically To People Living By Fear, Not Faith

When someone is weak, we need to offer strength. Not anger. Not mockery. Not even explanations. Lift them up, don’t tear them down.

It’s a weird time, right now.

People who usually get along – in politics, families and churches – are finding more disagreement than ever before, over subjects that weren’t even on our radar a couple years ago.

One of the most disappointing trends I see is when one group of Christians mocks another group of Christians by telling them “you’re living in fear, but I’m living by faith!”

In my experience, people who feel the need to say they’re living by faith, not fear, generally aren’t. While those who are accused of being fearful may simply be exercising appropriate caution.

But even for those who are filled with fear, the scriptures don’t tell us to ridicule them. We’re called to help ease their fear. To lift them up, not tear them down.

The scriptures don't tell us to ridicule those with lesser faith. We're called to help ease their fear. To lift them up, not tear them down. Click To Tweet

This was one of the promises the prophets gave about Jesus, who we’re supposed to emulate.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. (Isaiah 42:3)

So what should we do instead? Here are a handful of do’s and don’ts for responding to (possibly) fearful fellow believers.

Don’t Mock

If the people you think are living by fear really are filled with fear, they won’t overcome it by being mocked.

What a contrast this attitude is to what God tells us to do.

Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. (Isaiah 54:4)

Don’t Brag

“You’re living in fear! I’m living by faith!” is not a Christ-like attitude.

When Jesus saw people who were in fear, he didn’t chide them, he comforted them.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

Don’t Downplay

Fear is debilitating. Downplaying someone’s fear by telling them it doesn’t matter, or that they can overcome it if they just have more faith isn’t kind, helpful or true.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Don’t Explain

People in pain don’t need explanations, they need God’s presence and our silence.

You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.” (Lamentations 3:57)
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. (1 Chronicles 28:20)

DO

Listen

“I’m afraid” or even “I’m not afraid, I just look at this differently than you do” should be a reason to open our ears and close our mouths, not vice versa. Lean in, don’t push them away.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

Learn

If you’re ever tempted to say “I’ll never understand people who…” maybe that’s a sign to pause in humility and learn something, not lash out.

If you’re ever tempted to say “I’ll never understand people who…” maybe that’s a sign to pause in humility and learn something, not lash out. Click To Tweet

If someone is insisting they’re not fearful, even though their behavior seems fearful to you, maybe there’s something you’re missing that you could learn from. It’s arrogant to think we know more about other people’s thoughts and feelings than they do.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)

Speak Peace

Anger is not the answer for fear. Peace is.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Strengthen

When someone is weak, we need to offer strength. Not anger. Not mockery. Not even explanations.

Lift them up, don’t tear them down.

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

Remind them of God’s Presence

God doesn’t leave us when we’re fearful, he comes to us in kindness and hope. Reminding people of that by being an example of God’s peaceful presence is a powerful blessing.

God doesn’t leave us when we’re fearful, he comes to us in kindness and hope. Reminding people of that by being an example of God's peaceful presence is a powerful blessing. Click To Tweet
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

Support

One of my favorite passages of scripture is how Job’s friends behaved when they first showed up and saw his unspeakable suffering. “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Job 2:13)

The power of sitting in quiet comfort.

Sometimes our silent presence speaks more than words ever could. (As evidenced by what happened when Job’s friends stopped comforting and started talking.)

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1)

Pray

Even when we don’t understand why someone may be afraid (whether real or imagined by us), God does. So ask him for wisdom.

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:31-32)

Comfort

“Fear not” or “don’t be afraid” has been called the most-repeated command in the Bible. Even if it doesn’t appear 365 times, as you may have heard (more like 58), it’s an important reminder and constant comfort.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Encourage

If someone is fearful, we need to be careful when to speak, what to say and how to say it. When it is time to speak, a simple word of encouragement and consolation can go a long way.

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. (Psalm 94:19)

Recognize Your Own Fear

In my experience, most chest-thumpers are making noise to drown out the fear they can’t even admit to themselves.

Most chest-thumpers are making noise to drown out the fear they can’t even admit to themselves. Click To Tweet

And people who criticize others for living in fear are often projecting their own feelings of inadequacy on others.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)

Love

Above all, our motivation should be love.

More important than being “right”. More helpful than downplaying their feelings. More Christ-like than criticizing their choices.

Love conquers all.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children. (Psalm 103:17)
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)

(Photo by Annie Spratt | Unsplash)

Got questions or comments? Use the comment section, below.

Want to reprint this article? Click here for permission. (This protects me from copyright theft.)

Share or Print this!

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email
Share on print
Print

I'd love to hear from you!