A Look at Nehemiah: How Do You Respond to Fear?

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about fear a lot. I believe we are currently living in a fear culture. With constant rumors of wars flying around, market instability an ever-lurking possibility, and violence happening randomly all around us, fear and stress are understandable. It’s so easy to watch the news or look around us and be absolutely filled with fear. The good news is that God didn’t give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7), so we don’t have to live like the rest of the world. But how do we react when fear lurks all around?

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.” Nehemiah 6:15-16 (ESV)

When we are afraid, we lash out in strange ways that differ based on our personalities. Some of us seek to control more, others work more, and some others stick their heads in the sand and pretend that nothing is wrong. Lately, I’ve seen many people pointing fingers at others, deflecting blame as best they can—a reaction born out of fear.

How do you respond when you’re afraid?

I would love to say that, in a moment of fear, I immediately go to the Lord, but most of the time I don’t. Instead, when I’m afraid, I try to take control. When things get rough, I tend to work harder, thinking that if I just expend the extra energy and effort I will be able to right whatever is wrong.

But that’s not how we should respond.

One thing I’m learning is that we can’t begin to change how we behave until we identify the incorrect belief at the root of the behavior. Sometimes I work because I find comfort in work and things that I can’t control scare me—work can be an alternative for trusting. Or I find myself regressing to the thought that my identity is found in what I do, not who I am.

Whatever the underlying lie is, I first need to be able to identify it before I can replace it with truth.

How do you respond when others are afraid?

Even though the wall was done, Nehemiah’s ongoing feud with his enemies wasn’t over, they just kept coming at him.

Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s letters came to them… Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.” Nehemiah 6:17, 19 (ESV)

Nehemiah didn’t let the words and intimidation of others bother him or stop him. He wasn’t about to give up when he knew just how many people were counting on him. The mission of God that was benefitting the people of God was too important to let some antagonists ruin.

Rarely, do I respond to the fear of others by recognizing that there’s a lie at the root of their behavior, instead I focus on the behavior I find unpleasant. Sometimes I let the fear of others rub off on me and other times I get annoyed and avoid them because I don’t want to deal with it. Sometimes I get angry at the fear of others, labeling it as irrational or dumb. Lord, help me!

I’m wondering how things would change if we, instead of running for the hills or camping out with the fear of another, we stood our ground and spoke truth. What if we lovingly took the time to remind people who they are and who their God is? What if we brought up the fact that they can be grounded in truth when they want to run and hide? And what if we took the time to sit with them for a moment, but didn’t feel like we needed to take that fear with us?

I’m not very good at doing these things, but my suspicion is that if we were to put some of these things into practice—identifying our own fears and working through them and loving others through their fears—that the world could look mightily different.

How do you deal with fear?

What do you do when others lash out due to fear?

To go Deeper: Read Belief Determines Behavior, What If I Make the Wrong Decision?

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