You can’t escape fear. You will experience it at some point in your life. It is an undeniable part of the human existence because we live in an imperfect world. We all have our own ways of dealing with it. Some try to avoid it while others try to ignore it. Either way, our natural instinct usually isn’t to face it.
I speak from personal experience. Instead of facing my fear, I let it become a companion of mine. I thought I was protecting myself when all the while it was holding me hostage. I let fear push people away, keep me from being genuine with others, and make me ineffective in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, I believe in Jesus, I follow Him, and I still struggled with overwhelming, crushing, and paralyzing fear.
The truth is that I still wrestle with it from time to time, but it doesn’t have the same power over me that it once had. God showed me four choices I can make to overcome my fear. He did it through the unlikely story of King Jehoshaphat found in 2 Chronicles 20.
1. Choose Surrender
Let me set the scene for you. We enter after Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, has torn down the idols in the land and personally led the charge to turn his people back to God. He receives news that a vast army has declared war on Judah. Not only that, they are already closing in on him and his people.
What do you think was Jehoshaphat’s initial response to his circumstance? Was it courage? No, it was fear. 2 Chronicles 20:3 says, “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid…” But it doesn’t end there. It says, “…and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.”
While fear is often our first response to our circumstances, it doesn’t have to be our last. Jehoshaphat chose to turn to God in the midst of his fear instead of surrendering to fear itself. We have the same choice. We can surrender to it or to God. What I have discovered is that we find freedom from fear in our surrender to God because His perfect love casts out fear.
2. Choose Community
What happened next? It says that the people of Judah came together to seek the Lord. What I find incredibly compelling about this part of the story is that the people of Judah did not seek God individually, but corporately. Our natural tendency is to try to muster up enough courage to face our fears alone. That rarely succeeds because it isn’t how God designed us. There is power in acknowledging our fear and facing it within a community of believers.
3. Choose Worship
After they gathered together, Jehoshaphat prayed boldly, acknowledging the very nature of God. He reminded his people of the promises God had made to them in the past. Then he asked for God’s rescue. The Spirit of God came upon Jahaziel to answer Jehoshaphat. He said, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15). He then gave Jehoshaphat instructions for his armies, all the while telling him that they will see God’s deliverance. After this, Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah fell on their faces and worshipped God. The next morning, Jehoshaphat appointed people to sing and praise God while they marched into battle.
After you surrender to God and seek Him with a community of people, you must worship Him and continue to worship Him in the midst of your fear. Our perspective begins to shift when we declare who God is and His promises to us. We stop focusing on our fear, and we start believing God has the power to overcome it. Everything pales in comparison to our heavenly Father. We must choose to worship Him and believe in the victory He has given us despite our circumstances.
4. Choose Obedience
God told Jehoshaphat and the army of Judah to march into battle. He told them, "take your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you” (2 Chronicles 20:17). He didn’t tell them how His deliverance would come. He just asked them to be obedient.
God asks us to face our fears in specific ways. He tells us to confess, to confront, to stop, and to go. In order to experience freedom from fear, we have to be obedient to what God is calling us to do. We have to stand firm when we feel like running away. It is only then we will see deliverance from our fear.
The story ends with the armies of Judah discovering their enemies already defeated. They didn’t even have to fight the battle. God had already given them victory.
I have to say that there is no magical formula I can give you to release you from the bondage of fear. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a battle that is fought moment by moment and is won choice by choice. The truth you must remember is that we already have the victory. Christ won it on the cross.