How Not to Be Afraid

You’ve probably heard me say that I like storms. If you haven’t heard me say that, we probably just met. I like storms. The sound of rain. How the clouds open up and the deluge moves toward me.

From the time I was little I liked to watch storms from our carport. I would sit outside the front door and smell the storm. I would watch as it moved across the cornfields and listen as the rain began pounding all around me. It was immersive and beautiful. If I was safe at home, game over!

Storms. Are. Awesome.

Of course, this is predicated on being safe and sound. It’s a little more disconcerting to be in a car driving.

Tornado Warning

Back in 2006 my wife and I were caught in a major thunderstorm driving home from church one evening. We knew  there were tornadoes in our area, but we couldn’t see anything around us to know how close. We knew a family from our church lived near where we were driving, so we pulled off to take shelter with them. The problem was they weren’t in their trailer. They were in the basement of the home they were building. So we did what we thought was best and stayed in their trailer.

Go ahead and laugh. We’re safe now. But man was that stupid! Trailers are tornado bait. Why we thought hanging out in a trailer was a good idea when a tornado was near I don’t know. But I do know that we were quoting Mark 4:39 (Jesus calming the storm) and 2 Timothy 1:17 (God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear). In case you couldn’t tell, we survived, and we learned what not to do in a tornado.

Isn’t it odd though? Storms can make me feel different depending on where I am as I experience them. When I’m safe in my home, storms are beautiful and awe-inspiring. When I’m out in them, storms terrify me.

So when storms come your way, where do you want to be sitting? Do you want to be out in it with a devil-may-care indifference or ignorance to the danger? Or do you want to be safe at home watching from your front porch? Either way storms will come. Your only choice is where you want to be.

Two Important Words

Earlier this year I had a post The Two Most Life-Changing Words EVER. In this post I highlighted the words “but now” as a way of emphasizing the past life of sin in light of God’s grace. However, there are two other words that are used more frequently in scripture, “fear not”. Throughout scripture, these two words are used 365 times (one for everyday of the year) when God is trying to get his people to calm the heck down.

Angels appear—Fear not!

Enemies come—Fear not!

Times are uncertain—Fear not!

Time and again God has to remind his people not to be afraid. Why do we need so much reminding? Is it because God is getting older and forgets he already told us? Nope. It’s the same reason I have to remind my kids to be kind to one another. We have short memories.

The Christmas Season

This is the time of year when we like to focus on the Christmas season and all its pleasantness. We reflect on Jesus coming as a baby and the announcement of the angels to the shepherds. We focus on snow-covered lawns and twinkling lights. Choirs, carols, and candy. We forget how terrifying it must have been to see an angelic army in the sky. As they wielded flaming swords and sang with the noise of rushing water the shepherds heard,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among people with whom he is pleased.

Their announcement was heralding two things: glory to God and peace to God’s people.

But peace isn’t just for Christmas. I need peace all year. In the midst of my everyday struggles I need peace. Lately I’ve been waking in the middle of the night, mind racing with thoughts ranging from worry about my job to anxiety about my kids. I need peace every single day.

So how do I get it? And even more importantly how do I give it once I have it? The disciples provide some guidance.

Disciples and Peace

Of all the distressing  circumstances the disciples faced, the trial and crucifixion of Jesus had to be the greatest. They were inside Jesus’s circle and guilty by association. They were in the crosshairs of the same powers that would try and convict Jesus of trumped up charges.

So the night before he was crucified, he spent time encouraging them. They didn’t know what they would soon be facing, but Jesus knew. And he wanted them to be at peace. In John 14 we read:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me you would be glad that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.

Jesus was highlighting that when the Holy Spirit is present, we have the peace of God.

Fruit of the Spirit

I started a series a few weeks ago on the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Last time we talked about what it means for our families to experience joy. This week I want to cover a few things I’ve learned about peace and how it applies to our families.

Peace through the Spirit

First, peace comes through the Holy Spirit. This should be evident from Galatians 5:22, but it bears repeating. The gift of true peace comes through a relationship with God the Holy Spirit. It is only as we cultivate a closeness with our Helper, Advocate, Counselor that we discover what true peace is.

True peace isn’t ignoring the problem hoping it will go away. That’s detachment.

True peace is putting our faith in God to be with us in our circumstances. @twelve2nds Click To Tweet

True peace is putting our faith in God to be with us in our circumstances. When we acknowledge our fears and concerns, God the Holy Spirit shows up and our branches produce fruit. You’d think that fear would poison our tree, but it’s the dead and decaying stuff that makes the most fertile soil. God takes that fear and grows peace and courage. He insults the enemy’s attempts to derail us by making his canon of fear backfire in an explosion of peace. God’s peace is a devastating weapon of our protection.

How is your relationship with the Holy Spirit? Are you deliberate about speaking to God the Holy Spirit just like you do Jesus or the Father? If not, I encourage you to open up to this often-neglected member of the Trinity.

Peace Guards Us

Second, God’s peace guards our hearts and minds. Paul is encouraging the church in Philippi to live holy lives, and near the end of his letter he says,

And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

I love this verse, because it reminds me that I can’t even fathom the extent of the peace God has for me. Much like joy, the peace that followers of Christ experience is in spite of our circumstances. We aren’t promised a life that is free from hardship. It’s exactly the opposite. We’re promised difficulties. But along with those difficulties, Jesus leaves us with his peace that is beyond our comprehension.

Maybe you’ve experienced this peace. When you received terrible news from the doctor, you received it with peace and faced it with trust in God’s love. Maybe you’ve even reflected on it and are amazed you reacted that way. That’s the mark of the Holy Spirit, that in retrospect we have no idea where such radical hope came from in that moment. But God shows up and goes beyond our understanding.

Bring It Home

Is your home a place of peace or turmoil? Some of the struggles our families face are outside our control. But peace is always within our grasp. It is a gift God freely gives his people to protect them from the devastating effects of fear. To grow peace in our families, we must submit our fears to God and allow his Holy Spirit to guard our hearts and minds.

The place we need to end up is the safe front porch. Only when we’re safe at home in the presence of God does the fear of the storm pass us by.

Only when we’re safe at home in the presence of God does the fear of the storm pass us by. @twelve2nds Click To Tweet

How peaceful are you in general? Have you been deliberate about growing peace in your family? Please comment below with your thoughts, and if you haven’t already, subscribe to continue getting encouraging posts and updates on my books! Thanks for reading.

38 thoughts on “How Not to Be Afraid

  1. My husband and I have been in full-time ministry for over 30 years and have shown hospitality to people from all over the world, both believers and unbelievers. The one thing we’ve heard over and over again is, “I feel such peace when I’m in your home.” When I think of heaven, I think of every burden being lifted and peace like we’ve never felt before. I know and have experienced burdens lifted here on earth, but nothing we experienced here can compare to the peace and joy on that glorious day. Great post. Thanks for sharing it. I’m so glad you survived the trailer during a tornado! 🤦‍♀️😊🙌

    1. That’s so cool, Anneliese. I hope to be able to say the same thing. I want people to experience the peace of God when they come over. What a great legacy you and your family are leaving.

  2. Chip- I enjoyed this post! I struggle with fear and God gave us so many reasons why we don’t need to fear! Thank you for this post!

  3. I will always see trailers now as “tornado bait.” Ha ha! That line made me chuckle. Well written, Chip. I love the peace you emphasize, especially in this season. Heaven knows we all could use a little more of that!

    1. I can’t take credit for that line. It’s from my sister-in-law. It made me laugh when I heard it.
      Yes, we could always use a lot more peace in this world. I want to be a peace-maker. Thanks for reading, Lisa!

  4. Until the angels came, just the sounds of an occasional sheep and some chatter among the shepherds surrounded the shepherds. They could see so many more stars than we can see. They stood guard against predators. Their peace might have been interrupted by the occasional violence needed to protect the sheep. And the angel’s first words are Fear not! His peace among noise and as predators lurk. His peace. Nice post! God bless!

  5. Wow, can I relate to your story Chris. I live in Oklahoma so know how scary tornadoes can be when they are near. But Jesus does help us overcome our fears when we trust Him in all our circumstances.

    1. Thanks, Yvonne. I think fear is rooted in a distrust of God. When I put my faith in him, I’m acknowledging that it is he who brings the peace. All other peace that I’ve experienced is temporary. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Hey Chip, enjoyed this post and the analogy you make to storms and fear with God’s peace. And, yes, the trailer thing is one for the books! Haha!

    God knew we would need all the reminders about not to fear. Sometimes we have a shorter memory than the Israelites. Psalm 106 describes all of God’s works, miracles, protection, and provision, then “but they soon forgot.” So, yes Lord, remind us in your Word and in as many daily reminders that we need, there’s no need to fear because You are with us, the Storm-Calmer and the Peace-Giver.

    This…”True peace is putting our faith in God to be with us in our circumstances.” Amen!

    1. You’re so right! The Israelites are a case study in forgetfulness. I think the book of Judges is so sad for that reason.
      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

  7. This is so good, Chip. I was reading John 14 earlier today for a different reason but because of that, this hit me especially hard. I find that I’m naturally an anxious person and God has dealt with me extensively on that. It’s almost a moment by moment decision to rest in his care. I’m that person who is always thinking of the worst case scenario or getting caught up in what if arguments in my head. I love how you compared it to actual storms because like you, I love storms. It’s those little shifts in understanding that make a huge difference. What if I can start focusing on it as something of beauty? An opportunity for God to amaze? Great things to think about here.

    1. Thanks, Stephanie! I totally relate. I’m an anxious person. I tend to do well with everyday stresses, but when crisis comes I go into full control mode. It’s not the most peaceful. I want to be better about turning my fears over and resting in God’s presence. That’s how I truly get God’s peace. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  8. I love thinking about how the peace of God guards my heart. It gives me the visual of a protective shield surrounding me, filling me with peace and blocking out any attacks. Thanks for this reminder! Also, I’m a lover of storms too!

  9. Hi Chip. Last week I set a date (end of year) to officially step down from a position at work that put me in a legally liable role without support from my organization to carry it through. I’d been in this role the past 3 years waiting for said support. This week I had 2 discussions with superiors about it and thankfully I am on to transition planning. I’m so thankful for God’s peace and protection throughout these years and amidst the decision-making process, and for His mercy and grace during the discussions with my superiors. I’m glad I chose to weather this storm in the comfort of my home (in the arms of God). I remember your post on “but now,” and “fear not” is a great follow up. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Stephen. I appreciate you sharing that. I’m so glad you were able to find peace in spite of your circumstances. That had to be quite a trial for you. God is so faithful. I just wish I were more consistent. He’s come through before, and there’s no reason why he won’t do it again. Thanks for your thoughts!

  10. I like storms, too. When I was a kid, I loved to play in the rain. We lived in a house that was positioned at the bottom of steep hill. When it rained hard, my friends and I would take our snow sleds, walk up to the top of the hill and ride the waves down the hill. It was amazing! But then one year we were at the beach and a storm hit. Our beach house literally swayed back and forth in the wind. That was down right scary. It does depend on where you are when the storm hits. I love your explanation of peace. And I agree with you, with the Holy Spirit, our turmoil is easier to face. He gives me the perspective needed to see that all is not lost, He helps me see eternity.

  11. God has been calling me to focus on the peace or lack there of in our home. I appreciate your wise advice:

    “To grow peace in our families, we must submit our fears to God and allow his Holy Spirit to guard our hearts and minds.”

    The peace in our home begins with my own heart. And the heart of my husband. And the shepherding of our kids hearts. Thank you for this encouragement.

    1. I totally relate, Elaine. Our home is usually a place of peace, but sometimes things get heavy. It’s my job as a parent and husband to set the tone. It starts with me submitting to God. Thanks for commenting!

  12. Wonderful message, Chip! Your real life example with storms and tornadoes provided the perfect backdrop for this topic. As you say, the storms will come, but where we are, will determine how we respond to them. Such truth! This…”The gift of true peace comes through a relationship with God the Holy Spirit. It is only as we cultivate a closeness with our Helper, Advocate, Counselor that we discover what true peace is.” This teaching is so important. We cannot drum up the fruits of the spirit. We just don’t have it in us. We can only grow them by remaining attached to the True Vine. Thank you for this uplifting and soul-anchoring post!

    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Melissa! I appreciate it very much.
      This has been a huge lesson in my life, one I’m still learning. Submitting my cares to the God the Holy Spirit has been a wonderful new perspective. I grew up with very little idea who the Holy Spirit is. It’s really breathed new life in me to learn who he is.

  13. Wonderful post as usual! My favorite part: “True peace is putting our faith in God to be with us in our circumstances.” Seems so simple, but it isn’t always. He surely is faithful and this is easier when we remember that as we look back over our time with Him.

    1. Thanks, Nicole! You’re right, it’s a simple truth, but it’s so difficult to live out. I think the best way to look back to see God intervening is to journal. It really helps to see God coming through because I forget how faithful he’s been to me.

  14. Thanks for this, Chip. There are so many causes for fear in our world. Today, we know about all the terror immediately through the courtesy of the news media. We worry about things before they even happen, because we know they “might” happen. We’re probably safer than the typical Galilean under the reign of Herod, and yet we probably are more afraid. That’s just my guess.

    I like your storm analogy, because I grew up in Tornado Alley – Wakita, Oklahoma, the town where they filmed Twister. Fear of tornadoes is bred into me. Tornado nightmares tortured my childhood. Life has brought its own tornados, terrifying trauma and circumstances from life flights to assaults to surgeries. In every circumstance, the Lord has been near, drawing me toward him to learn to trust, to step out, and to be fearless. I’m in the school of courage, and basic training will probably take a lifetime.

    Like you, I love the “but nows” and the “fear nots.” The speak so clearly to our broken human state. It’s an awful mess, but now God… It’s downright terrifying, but we are to fear not. The best fact of our lives is that God is with us and that he came to save and to empower us. Emmanuel.

    Thanks for this uplifting post today, brother! God bless! Stay on the porch. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the excellent thoughts, Melinda. You’re always so encouraging. I can only imagine what growing up in Wakita was like. Central Illinois was dangerous enough, let alone being in the heart of tornado alley. That must have been difficult.
      It’s a tough lesson to remember that God is with us, but thankfully, Jesus gave us a great gift in the Holy Spirit. We have a constant source of help and comfort in times of trouble. That’s an encouraging thought.

  15. I love storms too! I miss them. We don’t get many here in the Los Angeles area. For some reason they are oddly comforting to me – probably like you said… when I’m in a safe place – not so much driving in a tornado warning!

    My peace comes & goes – certainly too much. I guess I’m like Peter who steps out of the boat, but also quickly sinks. I let my circumstances and lack of faith get in the way of my peace.

    I often lean on that verse in Phillipians – “the peace that transcends understanding” in those times…. going to the “front porch” as you said of God’s peace & presence.

    1. I get it, Christina. My peace ebbs and flows with my circumstances. I’m a case study in wishy washy faith or at least circumstantial faith. How did I get there? Hasn’t God been faithful before? Why do I doubt he’ll move this mountain? It’s amazing how short I fall. Thankfully he’s gracious.

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